Meet our students

The Department of Community Health Sciences helps transform students into public health leaders. Our graduates excel in research , practice and policy, and are equipped to address some of today’s most important public health challenges. Below, you can meet some of our outstanding students and learn more about the impact they’re having at home and abroad.

Bria M.

Bria M. | Class of 2019, Master of Science, Health Services Research Specialization | Current PhD Student 

“It is fulfilling because giving people the opportunity to tell their stories and learn from their experiences is important.” 

What made you choose a path and career in community health? 
“During my undergraduate degree I researched the molecular underpinnings of apathy in Parkinson’s disease, and wanted to scale up to interacting with persons living with the disease. The best way to do this was through a program in public health, where I had access to a variety of professors and doctors that work daily with persons with Parkinson’s. It is fulfilling because giving people the opportunity to tell their stories and learn from their experiences is important. I think older adults are often underappreciated, and as scientists we can learn so much by asking them to tell us about their experiences with the diseases we are researching.” 

Why did you choose to attend the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Calgary? 
“I completed a summer internship in 2015 with a CHS student and during this time was introduced to the wide range of research you could pursue within the program. The variety of specializations ranging from biostatistics to health services research was appealing to me because it meant I would be in a program with a variety of different students with different research interests, which always keeps the learning environment interesting.” 

What was it like when you first started? 
“All students start with block week, which is basically five days of introduction to the program, people, and some more general public health content. This was a great opportunity to meet my cohort. Faculty are also present during block week and they even attend the social events. I found this really helpful because you had the chance to chat with faculty in a more casual setting before you start classes. This made the first day of the semester much less intimidating! Block week really set the overall tone of collaboration and support - both in the learning environment and overall student attitude.” 

Looking back, what made the experience unique? 
“I enjoyed the variety of students at different points in their career, all with unique perspectives on the healthcare system that largely contributed to meaningful discussions both inside and outside the classroom.” 

What are your thoughts on the CHS academic experience and research environment? 
“The CHS academic experience provides the unique opportunity to complete a number of courses ranging from biostatistics to epidemiology and qualitative research methods. This enhanced my academic experience by providing me with a variety of research environments and collaborators to work with - opening the door to more collaborative projects.” 

What was your extracurricular involvement? 
“I was involved with the Student Executive team for three years (two years during my MSc, and one year during my PhD). It was a great opportunity to get to know my fellow students, plan events and interact with faculty and staff to get them involved in student lead initiatives.” 

Did any specific faculty or classes help shape your future interests and educational path? 
“I have been working with my supervisors and thesis committee since 2015, when I did an undergraduate internship all the way through to my PhD. They are an amazing group of physicians and researchers that support me at every step in my career development. I left every meeting feeling recharged and encouraged to continue working through the mess that can be completing a thesis based graduate degree.” 

In what ways did Community Health Sciences prepare you for your professional career? 
“It is my goal to become a clinician researcher, and my time here has prepared me to critically think about how to execute quality research with real life outcomes that are focused on the needs of those most directly affected by the research topic. Community Health Sciences has also provided me with the training to know what methods to employ, and how to critically appraise those methods so that I understand the strengths and weaknesses of my own research, and the research within my field.” 

How did studying in Calgary affect your opportunities for professional development? 
“Going to school in Calgary helped shape my academic networks. Through the Calgary Movement Disorder Clinic, I was able to build strong connections with doctors and persons with Parkinson’s disease (as well as their caregivers). Researching with key stakeholder is an 
important part of any public health research, and the relationships I have built over time continue to develop and grow into meaningful projects with real life outcomes.” 

Looking back, what advice would you give your past self - or to future students starting the program? 
“Use your course work as a means to generate content for your thesis. CHS is a very course intensive program, and using the courses to your advantage will help a lot as your progress from the coursework into thesis work and research.” 

Looking ahead, what are your future goals? 
“I recently was accepted into the Leaders in Medicine program at the University of Calgary, where I will complete a joint PhD/MD. Overall, I aim to be a clinician researcher that works to improve the overall quality of care - and quality of life - for seniors living with neurodegenerative diseases.” 
 


Kimberly M.

Kimberly M. | Current PhD Candidate, Health Services Research specialization

“I fell in love with the research I was doing related to person-centred care measurement. I also had new research questions and a real desire to learn more and to be a stronger scientist.” 

What made you choose to study at the department of Community Health Sciences? 
“Prior to starting my PhD, I worked at the University of Calgary, initially as the Canadian Project Coordinator for the Healthy Child Uganda Project, in the Department of Strategic Partnerships and Community Engagement. I later worked as a Program Coordinator and Research Associate under Dr. Maria J. Santana (who is now my current Primary Supervisor) and Dr. Hude Quan at the Department of Community Health Sciences (CHS). 

During my time at Community Health Sciences, I fell in love with the research I was doing related to person-centred care measurement. I also had new research questions and a real desire to learn more and to be a stronger scientist. Conducting my training at the University of Calgary felt like a natural fit for me, as there were so many research opportunities. I could build the research I was already conducting into a doctoral thesis, and continue to foster the relationships I had built throughout the school - including with the Department of Strategic Partnerships and Community Engagement which would bring my research to an international level. 

Moreover, I have always felt very supported by the faculty and staff, and the department has become like a home for me. I really appreciate the collegial environment, and have had the opportunity to meet so many faculty, students, and staff who have enriched my university experience.” 

What was it like starting at the department? 
“Starting my program at CHS was really busy – with classes, scholarship applications, and getting back into student life. But I received a tremendous amount of support, particularly from my PhD committee and the Graduate Program Director. The learning environment and students I’ve met have been amazing!” 

Are you involved in any extracurricular activities? 
“I’ve been involved with the Graduate Leaders Circle, where I mentor students and help them as they prepare their scholarship applications. I’ve also been involved in many student panels, including the Department Head review and even a national student group for the Canadian Association for Health Services and Policy Research.” 

Did any specific classes help shape your future interests and educational path? 
“I really enjoyed MDCH 666 – Policy Issues in the Canadian Health Care System. As a discussion-based course, I had the opportunity to learn from my fellow students and develop a greater appreciation for the complexity around health policy. I also took a course in the Department of Sociology for one of my electives on Mixed Methods - this was an excellent course and one that has inspired me to develop greater expertise in conducting mixed methods research.” 

What was your favourite memory or experience from your time at CHS? 
“While candidacy is a really intense period, I was grateful to have friends within the department who were completing their candidacy exams around the same time. We were there for each other as we prepared for the exam!”


Sophie H.

Sophie H. | Class of 2019, Master of Science - Epidemiology Specialization | Current student - Cummings School of Medicine

“There was so much flexibility to explore my interests, and I feel like I received a fantastic and well-rounded graduate school experience.” 

What made you decide to pursue a career in Epidemiology? 
“I see epidemiology as being a broad overview of health. It allows you to apply hard skills such as analyzing data sets and using statistical methods, and you can really answer health research questions from a broad overview but also look at individual cases. I think that’s really interesting.” 

Why did you choose to attend the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Calgary? 
“I think Community Health Sciences is a really strong department. It offers excellent training, and a fantastic and supportive research environment. I think if you came into the department with any interest - no matter what area it was in or what kind of project it was - whether qualitative or quantitative - you could find support. You can always find someone who is in that area of research or is willing to take on your project. So I think there's a lot of variety in what you can choose. 

I also think one of the things that really makes the department stand out is that it has a very collegiate environment. Collaboration is so important in research, and I feel like everyone from our peers to our professors to the faculty were all extremely supportive. There was so much flexibility to explore my interests, and I feel like I received a fantastic and well-rounded graduate school experience.” 

Did you have any extracurricular involvement? 
“I was able to be involved with the Community Health Sciences Student Executive team, I was the co-chair during my last semester. I was also involved in student governance and with the Hunter Hub.” 

In what ways did your time here prepare you for your professional career? 
“You know, when I started the degree, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I always knew I was interested in medicine and research, but I never really knew what my path would be. I really enjoyed biostatistics and things like analyzing data sets, and I wouldn’t have known that until I started the program. I think that’s something that will carry with me throughout my career. My time there really helped me solidify my interest in research as well.” 

How did studying in Calgary affect your opportunities for professional development? 
“I think Calgary is in a really interesting period now. People are trying to grow entrepreneurship and innovation and really trying to cultivate that environment and culture. I think there are a lot of cool opportunities to get involved with that and I think it’s a really exciting time to be in this city.” 

Looking back, what advice would you give your past self - or to future students starting the program? 
“When I started my program, I didn’t know where it would bring me. So I would say - don’t rush it. Being a student is a fantastic experience. You have the rest of your life to focus on your career and what you want to do - so just enjoy the process! I think the more unconventional the path is, the more you gain from it. And I’m very glad that I completed my masters before starting medicine!” 

What are you currently up to? 
“I’m still a full-time student and am continuing the research I started while in my masters - determining predictors of cognitive decline specifically using neuropsychiatric symptoms.”