Alumni & Friends - Ways to get involved and give back

Alumni

If you are an alumni and would like to be featured on our DHS (formerly ICHS) alumni page, or know an alumni that could be featured, please contact sean.ramrattan@utoronto.ca to discuss. 

We are seeking former program students that have gone on to do interesting things with their Health Studies programs and degrees after convocation! 

Picture of Muhanad Ali casually standing on a platform, smiling.
  • Muhanad Ali

  • Biography

    What program were you in? the degree you obtained?

    I graduated with Honours Bachelor’s of Science (HBSc) in Population Health (major), International Development Studies (major), and Anthropology (minor).

    How did you align your interests with the courses available?

    Initially, I was enrolled in the Psychology program but quickly knew that this program was not the right fit for me. After seeking guidance from supportive faculty and trusted academic advisors. I discovered that I had a passion for public health, including a desire to critically think, write, and analyze public health challenges in hopes of addressing racial health inequities. As such, and with the help of faculty and academic advisors, I pursued courses that were aligned with my interests, passion, and lived experiences in both population health and critical social science programs (i.e. international development and anthropology).

    What sparked your interest in the profession you are currently in?

    What sparked my interest in standard development is the opportunity to develop evidence-informed health standards. What does that mean for those who provide care and those who receive them? For those providing care, standards ensures that the health and wellbeing of healthcare workers are protected, and helps to identify best practices to strengthen health systems in order to provide high-quality of care. For those receiving care, standards ensures that all are engaged and are active participant in their care (i.e. healthcare decision-making), including access to high-quality, safe, and equitable health services. What I really appreciate about this experience is the diverse stakeholders I engage with, spanning from national/international experts, policy makers, and researchers to patients and family partners; all committed and passionate about the work they do. Moreover, is the opportunity to develop standards that are people-centred, by incorporating people-centred care principles and health equity lens that leads to better access to equitable and high-quality health services.

    Lastly, because of my interests and passion in conducting research, I’m also a qualitative researcher and my area of focus has mainly been in cancer screening (breast, cervical, colorectal, and lung cancer); mental health and addictions; the social and structural determinants of health; health equity frameworks/lens; and qualitative research methodologies .

    How was the transition after obtaining your degree?

    I was grateful for the opportunity to pursue further education (Masters), to strengthen my theoretical knowledge in public health and policy, and the opportunity to gain practical experience in health research and policy during my graduate career. In terms of finding work, it was challenging. However, what really helped was networking with other like-minded people and hearing from their experiences, including what worked and what didn’t and taking those lessons with the goal of creating a strategy that worked for me.

    Any advice for current students?

    I’ll be honest, it was quite difficult to answer this question without acknowledging the tremendous challenges current students have and continue to face during this pandemic. Schooling in this era is an experience so distinct from what myself and other former students have had to endure. They’re each pursuing their degrees while doing everything they can to survive during an unprecedented time, and it’s truly a testament to their resilience in face of such adversity. On the other hand, I also recognize that such statements can come off as platitudes - harping on resiliency can sometimes overshadow the very real moments of sadness, grief, and struggle. As such, I hope each student finds the space to acknowledge/reflect on those moments, to mourn, and to remind themselves of their collective responsibility to care for each other. I hope each student seeks guidance and assistance from the people they trust, and that they celebrate all their victories, both big and small.

  • Samir Parmar

  • Biography

    What program were you in the degree you obtained?

    I graduated from UTSC in 2017 with an Honours Bachelor of Arts with High Distinction and completed a double major in Co-op Health Policy and English.

    How did you align your interests with the courses available?

    Entering university, I was enrolled in the Management program. I decided to leverage electives such as “Foundations in Health Studies” to further explore my options. I was intrigued by the course description and recognized that at the time Health Studies was growing and becoming more prominent in society. At the end of my first year, I knew that the Co-op Health Policy program would provide me with the best opportunity to further pursue my personal interests of advocacy and public health. While the Co-op program allowed me to gain practical hands-on experience, I utilized the offered courses in Health Studies to strengthen my understanding of complex health policy and management issues. I was also able to connect these courses to my English major. Enrolling in courses such as “Introduction to Health Humanities” allowed me to showcase health related issues via creative writing. Ultimately, the courses offered by the Department of Health and Society allowed me to develop and strengthen a practical skillset applicable in the real world and led to my career in Health Law.

    What sparked your interest in the profession you are currently in?

    My foundation and interest for a career in Health Law began in the classrooms and hallways of UTSC. As an undergraduate student I began recognizing the inequalities and lack of access community members had to certain health related services. The Co-op program enabled me to network and work alongside health professionals to advocate and conduct research on a variety of health and social issues in and around the GTA. Through these experiences, I grew to appreciate the need to better understand the legal impact of health policies, government decisions and how the intersectionality of factors such as race, socio-economic status and ethnicity created barriers to those accessing healthcare. I began to realize that a career in law would allow me to be a voice for those affected by the system and policies that were in place. I continue to use my education and skills developed during my time in the Co-op Health Policy program to this day to try and make a difference in my community.

    How was the transition after obtaining your degree?

    Though I had also been accepted into a Masters of Public Health program, I decided to forgo this to pursue my degree in Law. I say this to highlight the opportunities and versatility my degree offered as it kept many professional and academic doors open for me. I was able to take my degree and foundational experiences from UTSC and obtain an Articling position with Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre’s Legal Department. As an articling student, I was fortunate enough to work closely with a variety of internal and external stakeholders ranging from renowned researchers and physicians, policy makers and national/international institutions. Having previously worked with and volunteered with researchers at various healthcare institutions, my degree in Health Policy provided me with the requisite knowledge of both quantitative and qualitative research. This skillset, along with my in-depth knowledge of health policy and public health enabled me to succeed not only in law school but also as a lawyer entering the profession. 

    Any advice for current students?

    I encourage students entering university or thinking of what to do after graduation to not be afraid of exploring what many believe to be an unconventional path or degree. While it may seem that you are at a disadvantage when looking for employment or pursing a post-graduation degree, such degrees will allow you to differentiate yourself from others. I would also like to tell students to not be discouraged by the lows of being a student. In a world driven by success stories on social media, we often find ourselves diminishing our accomplishments and to an extent, our worth. Do not let social media take away from your accomplishments and your journey. I strongly believe that hard work and dedication can take you a long way. Believe in yourself and what you bring to the table. These pieces of advice have really brought my journey full circle. I was once a student sitting in those exact seats and taking the same classes as they currently are. I hope that my advice will inspire and encourage students to see the value of a degree in Health Studies and the potential of how far it can take you.