Officer Commanding – Operations and Support Services at the Canadian Forces Health Services Training Centre
MHA Alum, Class of 2016
When Heath Robson enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces, he had no idea where it would take him. In his case, it led him to a career in health care.
Heath was assigned to be a health-care manager for the armed forces in 2006, which has its own health-care system.
He says his role as a support services manager at a primary care clinic in New Brunswick opened his eyes to the world of community-based care.
“I got to see how soldiers could, with the right treatment in the right place, right time, get better and return to duty after sustaining injuries from tours in places such as Afghanistan.” he says.
To expand his knowledge base, Heath enrolled in UBC’s Masters of Health Administration program in 2014. Following graduation in 2016, Heath was able to immediately apply what he learned at the MHA by managing a large inter-provincial/territorial primary care network, focussing his efforts on reducing barriers to access and improving interdisciplinary team-based care.
He credits the MHA for expanding his horizons, teaching him about quality improvement and operational efficiency in the primary health care setting, and the importance of the social determinants of health on health states.
He says he chose the UBC MHA in particular because of its emphasis on quality improvement and health economics.
“I do have an economics degree, but thanks to the MHA I’m very passionate about health-care economics,” because health-care economics drive policy decisions and policy decisions drive health outcomes,” he says.
Heath is currently working towards a doctorate in health policy and research at the University of Alberta, with a focus on “upstream interventions” in primary care.
In particular, he is looking at the burgeoning field of social prescribing, which calls for non-medical interventions for patients dealing with challenges such as loneliness or isolation, which are relevant to soldiers who are often based in remote locations or bases far from their homes, and faced with assimilating into military culture.
Heath hopes to bring the concept of social prescribing to the Canadian Armed Forces, so members of the military can “find joy and purpose in their community by connecting to people and groups who share similar interests.”
“In doing things together over time, bonds tend to form and a sense of community develops, from which your social and overall wellness can directly improve,” he says.