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Saleema Dhalla

Saleema Dhalla | MSc Occupational and Environmental Health (OEH)

Who is Saleema?

I am the CEO of SafeCare BC, the health and safety association for care workers across the province. We work to reduce injuries and improve the health and well-being of long-term care and home support workers who work in BC. I lead an amazing team of people, and together we develop and provide training, education and resources so care workers can do their job safely.

What do you do and why do you do it? 

Everyone deserves the right to work in a healthy and safe workplace, and return home at the end uninjured. Our training and education and resources reach thousands of people, and the need for safety for healthcare workers is more important now than ever. I’ve always been passionate about health and safety, so being able to care for the healthcare workers who care for our loved ones serves a meaningful purpose to me.

Who or what inspires you? 

The people we serve lift and inspire me. Every day, healthcare workers care for their residents and clients, despite sometimes facing enormous challenges in providing care. To provide care in these settings takes resilience and passion and seeing how healthcare workers do this day in and day out motivates me to ensure their own safety is prioritized.

Also, the SafeCare BC team consists of a group of very committed and highly energetic individuals that support me as I lead the organization to its full potential. They inspire me to continue to learn, grow, and get better every day.

What are you most proud of about your time in the MSc Occupational and Environmental Health (OEH) program?

I’m most proud of completing the program and obtaining my Masters of Science, while coming from an Arts background. Without a scientific background, an initial challenge for me was learning foundational science concepts. OEH faculty and staff supported me through these challenges, and fellow classmates were generous with their time and knowledge in helping me learn the scientific concepts.

During the program, I completed a co-op placement at the Provincial Health Services Authority, where I was able to develop and implement education and training on reducing needle stick injuries for nurses. Looking back at that experience, I believe my Arts background, knowledge of OEH, and passion for health and safety allowed me to dive into that placement with energy and enthusiasm. I’m very proud of how I was able to contribute to the safety of nurses during that placement.

How have the skills you accumulated at the Occupational and Environmental Health Program (OEH) applied to your daily workflow?

The skills I developed and knowledge I obtained while at OEH have been used in some capacity or another every day of my career. Early on, I used the technical skills and knowledge to monitor worker safety and build programs to reduce risks.

As my professional journey has progressed and I am faced with big picture problems, I use my understanding of core concepts and technical information to help communicate ideas, solve problems, and guide decision making. Being able to translate technical ideas and scientific concepts into digestible information for different stakeholders is key. It makes sure everyone is oriented in the same direction and striving towards the same goal. The program helped me develop a skillset to do this.

How has your career trajectory been shaped by your experience in the Occupational and Environmental Health (OEH) program? 

The program provided me with a unique skillset and knowledge base that is not commonly found amongst those working in health and safety. Further, the diverse co-op placements prepared me for the different types of industries where health and safety plays a key role. After graduation, I’ve been blessed to work in different industries, and the skills and knowledge I’ve obtained in my professional journey are built upon the foundation created at OEH.

It has come full circle, as my co-op term working with nurses at Provincial Health Services Authority left a lasting and meaningful impression on me. I now lead an organization tasked with ensuring healthcare workers are kept healthy and safe while caring for others.

Would you like to share any projects that you’re currently working? 

We have quite a few exciting initiatives on the go at SafeCare BC. One of the initiatives that  really encompasses what health and safety is all about is our Safety Innovations Database. This is a forum where we encourage organizations to share their health and safety related programs and initiatives, so that others can learn from what they are doing and adopt similar programs. At the end of the day, its all about learning and getting better to create safer work environments, and it’s a great way to celebrate and recognize the innovation that our sector is promoting.

As the CEO of SafeCare BC, how do you define success?

Early in my career, I believed success meant achieving goals. Today, I define success differently. Success is consistently doing your best during the process to achieve your goal. As you make progress, you learn and develop new skills along the way, and when you look back, you’re able to see how you’ve changed. Sometimes you achieve your goal, other times you don’t. But each time, you know you have improved in some facet, and you’re ready for the next challenge.

I apply this not only to myself, but also to our organization. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a lot of uncertainty, and like everyone, we are still navigating challenges. But as we work towards each goal, we learn something new. As a result, we are better positioned to take on the next challenge, whatever that may be.

What is something you wish more people knew about your line of work?

It’s easy to think of doctors and nurses when we think of healthcare. But there are many other people who play an important role in making sure our loved ones receive healthcare and stay healthy. This includes healthcare aides, who play an important role in the healthcare system and provide frontline care to those who need it every single day.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in your field of study?

Talk to as many people in the field as you can. There are many diverse industries where OEH can be applied, and being able to get a sense of how OEH professionals fit into these industries will allow you to see the potential impact of your work.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in your field of study?

SPPH is an environment that often encourages people from multidisciplinary backgrounds to work collaboratively toward a common goal, so there is a role for everybody. Regardless of the background you might have, there are opportunities to enhance your existing skills and to pick up new ones. Since SPPH is so dynamic and encompasses a wide range of research, my best piece of advice is to reach out to some faculty members you might be interested in working with and to meet with them (in person or over Zoom) to determine personal and research compatibility. If you plan on writing a thesis, you’ll want to make sure you are interested in that topic first.

Where should people go to learn more about your work? 

Visit the SafeCare BC website, we are always adding new information and providing useful tools for healthcare workers: https://www.safecarebc.ca



To read more stories, please visit: https://www.spph.ubc.ca/student-profile-miniseries

Published on March 2022.

This interview was coordinated by Ariana Choi.