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Spotlight on Staff: Kristina Jenei

One of the School of Population and Public Health’s greatest assets is the people that support important research and facilitate the education of health leaders. In this new series, we will be featuring some of our incredible staff so you can get to know them better and learn about their impressive backgrounds.

Kristina Jenei, SPPH’s Research Coordinator for Prof. Peter Berman, has a background in nursing from Vancouver Community College and an MSc in Population and Public Health from SPPH. She was initially hired as an analyst for Professor Peter Berman’s Fenot project, but since the COVID-19 pandemic they’ve pivoted to a new project of understanding the upstream contextual factors that shape public health responses to the pandemic. When she’s not working, she enjoys running, travelling and experiencing new cultures. We talked about her interests, hobbies and experience this past year at SPPH.

What attracted you to work for SPPH?

The sheer excellence of the faculty, students and staff – hands down!


How would you describe your role? What is your favorite part? What is the most challenging part or something new you have had to learn?

I work as a Research Coordinator for the Director of SPPH, Prof. Peter Berman. I was initially hired as an analyst for his Fenot project back in May, but when COVID-19 hit, we pivoted to a new project of trying to understand the upstream contextual factors that shape public health responses to the pandemic. Right now, we are creating methods and frameworks to test in BC and Peru. My favorite part is the weekly team meetings. We have senior faculty with backgrounds in economics, political science, implementation science and infectious diseases. There is such a variety of perspectives and backgrounds – I have learned so much. The most challenging has been translating the rich theoretical aspects into practical research activities. But that’s research!


Do you have any advice for incoming students?

I would say to seek out diverse opportunities and get involved with the campus community. When you are at master’s level (and maybe arguably a PhD too), you are still relatively new to the research world. I know for myself, I didn’t know exactly where I would land in terms of interests. I was fortunate to be a part of many diverse projects. I also joined The Ubyssey (school newspaper) as a Science writer. I learned a lot of practical skills here that helped me in research. I got to interview many faculty members from UBC and learned a lot from different disciplines.


Who or what inspires you?

This changes all the time. But right now, I am very inspired by the female political and public health leadership during the pandemic – in Canada and abroad. Jacinda Ardern from New Zealand, Tsai ling-wen from Taiwan, Angela Merkel in Germany and of course SPPH’s very own Dr. Bonnie Henry in BC, and federally Dr. Theresa Tam.

I recently read a paper in the British Medical Journal about the gender gaps in COVID-19 decision making around the world. It examined COVID governance in 87 countries and found only 3.5% had gender parity while 85% were majority men. Therefore, I know what we are seeing is rare and, as a woman, I find a lot of inspiration from it.


What’s one thing on your bucket list?

To live overseas. I am actually ticking this one off in December when I move (temporarily) to New Zealand. My husband Nic is from there and we are going to be closer to his family and explore a new country.


What do you like to do for fun?

I run – but I would call this “Type 2 Fun” (the kind that is only fun once it is done). Running has been a way for me to travel the world. Most memorably, I spent three weeks in Iten, Kenya training with my friend. I was there as a recreational runner but I got to see the world’s best in their element. My favorite race experience was the Kneeknacker trail race here in Vancouver. It holds a special place in my heart. The course begins at Horseshoe Bay and runs the Baden Powell trail to Deep Cove (~48km).


What is the best book you have ever read?

I can’t pick one – too hard! I am a big fan of memoirs. I love learning about career paths of great people. Some recent ones I have loved are: Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power, Open by Andre Agassi, Becoming Superman by Michael J. Straczynkski, and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Right now I am reading Buried by Peter Hessler, about his time in Egypt during the Arab spring.