SPPH Celebrates Our Community on International Women’s Day

On International Women’s Day, we’d like to take a moment to celebrate the achievements of women, raise awareness about women’s equality, and call for accelerated gender parity.

At the School of Population and Public Health (SPPH), we are fortunate to be surrounded by brilliant women at all levels. In recognition of this important day, we invite you to meet some of the incredible women who are part of the backbone of the School, and our future leaders in the world of population and public health.

 


Suhail Marino
Director, Privacy and Operations, SPPH

Describe your work/research in one or two lines.

I provide leadership to the Partnership for Work, Health and Safety by negotiating and managing funding contracts, data sharing agreements, outlining privacy requirements, creating policies and being the primary point of contact with all our research partners and funders, especially WorkSafeBC on all our research activities. I am responsible for the planning and managing of our program of research and for qualitative projects, in leading the collection of new data.

 

Why did you choose population and public health for your career?

I like the idea that we can produce new knowledge that informs policy and improves the health, safety and well-being of Canadians, especially workers.

 

How have things changed for you because of the pandemic, especially around public awareness of the role of population and public health?

The global pandemic has brought to the forefront the importance of the occupational health work that we do. It has reminded me that it is about the collective and not the individual and living and working under all these new measures. It has emphasised to me how important it is to lead by example.

 

Who is the most inspiring woman in your life and why?

This is a hard question to answer, but it is a tie. Dr. Kay Teschke and Dr. Mieke Koehoorn are the two women who have been inspiring me for over 15 years. Both of these women have shown me the type of leader (manager) that I want to be: they are hard-working, decisive, great communicators, resilient, humble, empowering, compassionate, generous, have vision, and are not only high achievers but well-liked leaders in our field.

 

What message do you have for young women and girls?

Create room in your life for what is important to you and not others. Develop new skills and interests, as these will guide your journey. And no matter what we look like or where we come from, we all have the potential to be leaders!

 

Ashleigh Rich
PhD candidate, SPPH

Describe your work/research in one or two lines.

I am a social epidemiologist who works primarily in HIV and sexual and gender minority health with a focus on chronic illness, minority stress and stigma.

 

Why did you choose population and public health for your career?

The big draw of population and public health for me is the opportunity to inform real change for real people, at the population level.

 

How have things changed for you because of the pandemic, especially around public awareness of the role of population and public health?

Lots has changed due to the pandemic of course, one upside — people know what an epidemiologist is now!

 

Who is the most inspiring woman in your life and why?

In the context of my work, I’m inspired by women who have done really exciting research in sexual and gender minority health. Some of my greatest inspirations include Virginia Brooks, Lisa Bowleg, Nancy Krieger, Greta Bauer, and my soon-to-be post-doc fellowship supervisor Tonia Poteat.

 

What message do you have for young women and girls?

Thinking about advice for girls and young women interested in public health careers, I would say community is essential. Find professional and personal community that supports you, share that with other people coming up along the way, and think about how to engage broader communities impacted by your work.

 

Amanda Versteeg
Human Resources Manager, SPPH

Describe your work in one or two lines. 

I’m responsible for HR in the School, but I mainly focus on my portfolio which includes tenure-stream Faculty, Partner Faculty, and Postdoctoral Research Fellows. I also take on more complex HR issues for our staff and provide guidance to our HR Team as well as directly advise SPPH Faculty, Staff, and non-SPPH colleagues affiliated with the School.

 

Why did you choose population and public health for your career?

I grew up around physicians, had previous experience working in healthcare, and was familiar with some population-based research that a family friend had done in the 80s. When I discovered the legacy of impactful research work that the School had conducted and was doing at the time, I saw a wonderful opportunity to be a part of something special. One can practice Human Resources at just about any type of organization; however, I was keen to be part of the School for its far-reaching impact on the health and welfare of others.

 

How have things changed for you because of the pandemic, especially around public awareness of the role of population and public health?

Aspects of my work have definitely become more complicated due to COVID-19 and the related changing policies and protocols that we need to navigate (e.g. border closures, self-isolation policies etc.). There’s also been a lot more interest and awareness in population and public health. This has been exciting as I am proud of the work that has been done by our MHO’s, researchers, and front-line health workers in BC, and I feel that the pandemic has highlighted the importance of this type of work.

 

Who is the most inspiring woman in your life and why? 

That’s a tough question! Dr. Carol Herbert and Vicki Rothstein come to mind as they have always stood up for their convictions and their tenacity to make the world a better place. Dr. Herbert, who was most recently awarded the Order of Canada for her contributions to the fields of clinical and academic medicine, as a family physician, medical educator, researcher and administrator. Over her career, she had such prestigious positions including the Dean of the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University and the Department Head of the UBC Department of Family Practice. The other individual is Vicki Rothstein. She’s a Speech Language Pathologist by trade who developed a career in supporting teams in designing inclusive educational environments and experiences that provide a high quality, and meaningful education for people with disabilities. Both women pursued their careers before, during and after raising children. I grew up watching these women develop their careers, and they provided me with the knowledge and insight that women can achieve professional satisfaction and success.

 

What message do you have for young women and girls?

Be true to yourself. Don’t compare yourselves to others. Stand up for other women and those that don’t have the privileges that you do.

 

Sonja Senthanar
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, SPPH

Describe your work in one or two lines.

My research examines employment outcomes and work disability experience following a work injury/illness of immigrant and refugee populations in Canada, with a particular focus on gender differences and new forms of work such a precarious employment.

 

Why did you choose population and public health for your career?

I chose a career in population and public health because I’m interested in understanding the causes and consequences of work injury/illness among certain groups of workers and the challenges they may face in their rehabilitation to reduce these inequities, where they may exist.

 

How have things changed for you because of the pandemic, especially around public awareness of the role of population and public health?

I think society as a whole is more aware of the role of public health in really keeping us safe. My family and friends especially now understand that public health is the body responsible for surveilling illness and patterns of illness (in the case of my work, patterns in work injury and illness) and implementing interventions (e.g., social distancing measures) to reduce the spread of illness in the case of COVID-19, for example. So, I think in some ways the pandemic has had a positive impact on spotlighting public health researchers and regulators in the important work we do.

 

Who is the most inspiring woman in your life and why? 

My grandma! She is so resilient, smart and gives great advice for someone who grew up in a patriarchal country.

 

What message do you have for young women and girls?

My message to young women and girls is to stop comparing yourselves and your progress to that of others. What we see on social media is half the picture, everyone goes through their own struggles and reaching a milestone — whether it’s graduating university, getting that dream job — will be different for everyone. Continue to actively take the steps towards what you want, and it will pay off.

 

Jen Murray (she/her)
PhD Student, SPPH


Describe your work/research in one or two lines. 

Using community-based research methods, I am seeking to understand how to prevent an elevated rate of preterm birth in a First Nations community in British Columbia. I am a settler and ally in Indigenous health research.

 

Why did you choose population and public health for your career? 

Improving population and public health has been my passion since I learned about this field as an undergraduate student. I am especially driven to strengthen women’s health throughout my career.

 

How have things changed for you because of the pandemic, especially around public awareness of the role of population and public health?

The general public now has a better understanding of the importance of population and public health (and that young kids know about epidemiology!).

 

Who is the most inspiring woman in your life and why? 

My sisters! I have two amazing sisters and I can’t choose one. They are both achieving incredible things in their personal and professional lives. Their drive to achieve their dreams inspires me every day.

 

What message do you have for young women and girls? 

Find mentors and be a mentor. I am where I am today because of many generous mentors in my life. I hope to pass it on and mentor young women and girls throughout my career.

 


 

This article highlights just a few of the many women at SPPH who are making a difference.

Feeling inspired to read more? Check out the Faculty of Medicine’s profile featuring more of our students. Learn about bioethicst Dr. Anita Ho’s work on public health ethics around health data and privacy during the pandemic. Read more about social determinants of following public health advice with expertise from Drs. Brenda Poon, Raina Fumerton and Ingrid Tyler. Dr. Mieke Koehoorn, who specializes in work and health issues, weighs in on workplace policy challenges during COVID-19. Learn about how technology is bridging gaps in health care access with innovative work by Drs. Patti Janssen and Lianping Ti.

 

Finally, we’d like to send a special acknowledgement to all the incredible women from SPPH who are part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are on the front lines, leading the province, and are working tirelessly behind the scenes.