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Meet Our Graduates: The importance of lived experience and an open mind

Nov 30, 2017 |

Name: Jenn Lee
Program: Master of Public Health

Why did you take this program? What sparked your interest in it?

It just seemed like a natural fit. I’ve always been interested in health, and I like the idea of focusing on prevention rather than cures. I’m passionate about equity and wanted to work toward reducing disparities in health, which is in line with public health. I also enjoy learning, and the course-based format of the MPH program at UBC enabled me to take a wide range of courses.

What was the most valuable part of your program? What one skill, lesson, way of thinking, etc have you found the most valuable and why?

My practicum at the BC Centre for Disease Control with the harm reduction program was an incredible experience. I got to work on a variety of meaningful projects, and it was great to see others making use of what I had created. The practicum also helped me realize my interest in knowledge translation and data visualization, marrying my love for graphic design with making research accessible to the public.

“Lived experience is a form of expertise that is just as or more important than letters behind a name.”
MPH graduate Jennifer Lee

Through both the practicum and courses, the MPH program has really helped me to understand the importance of working with the people that health initiatives are targeted towards. There’s often a disconnect between what we think people need and what they actually need. Without actively listening to the people most affected, well-intended initiatives can be ineffective or even downright harmful — potentially stigmatizing or neocolonial in nature. Lived experience is a form of expertise that is just as or more important than letters behind a name. We need to remember to approach issues with an open mind and an open heart.

What have you enjoyed most about your time at SPPH?

I loved having the opportunity to learn from so many different people with such diverse backgrounds. Public health is broad and multidisciplinary, which allows for so many different perspectives and approaches. I enjoyed having so many guest lecturers come in to speak, and it was especially interesting when there was disagreement in the field on a particular topic.

The other students, too, bring so much to the table. I’ve had so many interesting discussions both in and outside of class. I’ve met some really wonderful people during my time here, and I’ll never cease to be amazed by the dedication, brilliance, and compassion that characterize so many of my peers.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently doing research with the Centre for Family Medicine, based in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario — I fell in love with Vancouver, though, so I’m actually working remotely. I work with the Mobility Clinic and the Memory Clinic, which are interdisciplinary clinics based in primary care. I’m also currently working on a couple side projects for the harm reduction team at the BC Centre of Disease Control, similar to some of the things I did during my practicum.

What is your advice to incoming SPPH students?

First and foremost, take care of yourself. If you need to take some time off, do it, and don’t feel badly about it. I had to go on medical leave more than once due to mental illness. It wasn’t ideal, but it was necessary, and I made it through in the end! Take your time; the school’s not going anywhere.

What are you looking forward to the most after graduation?

I’m looking forward to putting the skills and knowledge I’ve gained to good use!

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