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From Nursing to Occupational Health: Stephanie Wu’s journey to public health excellence

Jul 11, 2024 |

Meet Stephanie Wu, a Master of Science student at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health, specializing in Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (OEH). With a background in nursing and biology, Stephanie’s interest in public health began during her undergraduate studies.

This year, Stephanie has been recognized with several prestigious awards for her exceptional achievements. She received the A.J. Riegert Prize in Occupational Hygiene for having the highest cumulative GPA among first-year MSc OEH students in the first two semesters of study. Stephanie also earned the CCOHS Dick Martin Scholarship, which included monetary awards for both her and the program. Additionally, she was awarded the AIHA BC Yukon local chapter Scholarship and the Suzanne H. Mullin Bursary. Most recently, Stephanie was honored with the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC’s 2024 Daneen Skilling Award, further highlighting her commitment to excellence in the field.

Read below to learn more about her background, public health aspirations, and her reasons for selecting UBC’s MSc OEH Program.


Tell us about your background.

Before entering this program, I completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Bachelor of Science with a Major in Biology at the University of British Columbia. My interest in addressing health concerns at the population level began when I took several undergraduate courses through the School of Population and Public Health. These courses introduced me to the concept of upstream interventions and highlighted the essential role of interdisciplinary approaches.

With the goal of preventing communicable and non-communicable diseases, I ended up pursuing a career in nursing. To my surprise, my clinical experiences in healthcare sparked my growing interest in occupational health, as I directly observed both the successes and lessons of various occupational health initiatives.

What inspired you to pursue a graduate degree in Occupational and Environmental Health at UBC?

Navigating the challenges of the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic ignited my interest in transitioning to a career in occupational health. My clinical experience revealed a significant gap between research-based information and practical application of these approaches. While patient safety receives considerable attention, I noticed a concerning lack of focus on employee safety until an adverse outcome occurs. I personally experienced and observed a rise in musculoskeletal injuries, hazardous drug exposure, adverse psychological health, and workplace violence due to the population’s increasing health burden.

Discovering the Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (OEH) program at UBC presented the perfect opportunity for me to transition into a new chapter of my professional journey. The skills I acquired from this program along with insights from my healthcare background enable me to effectively promote preventative measures and advocate for improvements in workers’ health and safety.

Why did you choose a practicum-based program and what have you learned from your practicum so far?

I was thrilled to discover that OEH is one of the few graduate programs that offer a practicum-based option because I have always been a hands-on and visual learner. I pursued the practicum path to gain exposure to various sectors and apply my theoretical knowledge to real-world settings. The practicum placements provided us with the opportunity to explore industries we might not have otherwise discovered and helped us envision our career paths after graduation. Through this process, I have joined the Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon Innovation to assist with the development of the Mining Silica Control Tool. During this experience, I gained valuable insights into different mining processes and their unique occupational hazards.

While my practicum has been full of new learnings, what impressed me the most was the collaborative spirit of occupational health. I saw employers and employees eagerly participating in strategies aimed at enhancing the health and well-being of the entire industry.

What are the three main things you appreciate about the MSc OEH program?

Having come from larger cohorts in my previous degrees, I’m impressed by how the smaller cohort fosters student success here in OEH. The program’s collaborative nature enables each of us to share our unique backgrounds and perspectives in occupational health topics, highlighting the industry’s interdisciplinary nature.

Moreover, the faculty in this program have been some of my most supportive mentors and have created a nurturing learning environment where I feel empowered to thrive. It is also heartening to see former alumni remain engaged with the program, which contributes to a strong sense of community that extends beyond our time here.

Lastly, I appreciate the practical focus of the program. Each of the courses have equipped me with skills essential for my future career and I have already seen significant growth during my practicum. I look forward to applying what I have learned to promote healthier workplaces and create a positive change in the safety culture of organizations.


Learn more about UBC’s MSc OEH Program