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 and what degree did you obtain?

    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.

Rabina Jahan
  • Rabina Jahan

  • Biography

    What program were you in and what degree did you obtain?

    HBSc Health Studies – Honors double major in Population Health and Neuroscience

    How did you align your interests with the courses available?

    I went into neuroscience because I was passionate about mental health. I did a lot of mental health advocacy in High School, but when I started learning about mental health through a biomedical lens it didn’t resonate with me as much as when I took a health studies course and started learning about mental health from a social perspective. That made much more sense to me.

    I think a biomedical perspective to mental health is important, but it doesn’t address the root structural and systematic causes which impacts population health. Yes, there are individual and biological factors that impact mental health, but there are a lot of social factors such as poverty, income, built environment, violence, colonialism, capitalism and more that has shaped society and continues to shape society that can effect one’s or a population’s mental health. You can treat someone, but if you don’t change their environment or how they are treated by society, how likely are you to help them in the long run?

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

    I’m currently pursuing a Masters in Public Health at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. As part of my Masters I’ve done practicums as a data analyst at the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services looking at data regarding social assistance usage, homelessness, and violence against women. That was really interesting. I have another practicum coming up with the Public Health Agency of Canada, analyzing health inequities in Canada using a social determinants, intersectionality, and health equity lens.

    How was the transition after obtaining your degree?

    I was fortunate enough to land a position as a research assistance with CAMH on a multi-site randomized control trial aiming to improving the youth mental health system in Canada. A lot of academic and extra-curricular experiences in my UTSC undergrad really helped me land that position.

    Any advice for current students?

    I always say to first year students, take some electives you are interested in, because you never know what passion it will strike in you. I took International Development, Management and Health Studies, and Health Studies really stuck with me changing the course of what I wanted to pursue as a career.

    I also want to say you don’t have to be on a traditional or academic path. You don’t have to complete undergrad, then go to grad school and then go straight to a PhD, you can do undergrad while having multiple different jobs or taking a break afterwards or switching to a completely different major. Be confident in the unique path you are taking to get where you want to be.

  • 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.

Srimathanky Srikugan
  • Srimathanky Srikugan

  • Biography

    What program were you in and what degree did you obtain?

    I majored in Health Studies - Population Health stream and Human Biology. I obtained the Honours Bachelor of Science degree.

    How did you align your interests with the courses available?

    I chose to do a double major in Health Studies and Human Biology because I was passionate about learning about health through a social sciences and policy perspective, in addition to delving into understanding biological aspects of one’s health. The Health Studies program at UTSC has a plethora of fascinating and interesting courses to choose from. I envisioned some goals I would like to accomplish in the future, and accordingly chose courses of interest. For example, HLTB41H3 or Introduction to the Social Determinants of Health was one course that aligned with my interests as it allows students to pursue a journey in understanding the upstream factors affecting health and the importance of innovative and critical thinking that can tackle issues that arise from these factors. Passion for what I was learning was definitely the glue binding my interests with the courses available.

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

    The need for scholars, thinkers, and learners in the public health field who can contribute to the development and implementation of effective health solutions at an upstream, population, and community level was what sparked my interest in the profession. I found that the work in this field was satisfying as it allowed me to get involved in research and with opportunities that utilized my skills such as critical thinking and decision-making to understand the effective processes that contribute to strong structures that support the health of folks at the micro and macro levels. This meant that health was tied to understanding policy initiatives, social determinants such as socioeconomic status, and funding decisions. This motivates me to stay up to date with the current health leadership climate and to leisurely seek out information as it pertains to the fields of health studies.

    How was the transition after obtaining your degree?

    I actually took a gap year before pursuing a professional degree in nursing at UofT. A gap year helped with my transition as it helped clarify the potential directions I should pursue in tangent with my interests. How is it relevant to the public health field? When we look at the historical trajectory, we find that there have been many public health and epidemiological contributions from nurses that have played a large role in building the foundation for understanding public health. Nurses are not restricted to bed care, as they can occupy positions in relation to evaluating quality of care and informing community health practices. Additional factors that supported my transition was networking with folks who would be willing to share their career trajectory and experiences after completing their degree, taking advantage of opportunities during my time at university, and continuing my pursuit of passion projects. 

    Any advice for current students?

    This question is tricky because the advice I am providing is not catered to every student, as each one is pursuing their own journey and have their own set of strengths and experiences. It is therefore important for me to acknowledge that I cannot speak on behalf of all students. What I can do is provide general takeaways that one may find relatable. I would like students to acknowledge their resilience for adapting to the unprecedented and uncertain times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not an easy time but you should acknowledge how far you have come. Firstly, take your time and go at your own pace as to understanding your own interests and passions. Secondly, always be aware that you are not perfect, and so lessons are inevitable. Thirdly, make time for fun and self-care. I may sound cheesy here, but I certainly believe that with support, hope, hard work, and grace you can achieve your ambitions.