Navigating a Career in Health Systems and Policy – Summary of the Event

By: Emily Fong, Student Leadership Team Marketing and Communications Coordinator

The McMaster Health Forum Student Leadership Team recently hosted a speed-mentoring event providing students with a rare opportunity to network in small groups with senior leaders in the health care field. These mentors included Dr. Luc Boileau (Interim CEO, Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux), Dr. Fiona Clement (Director of Health Technology Assessment Unit, University of Calgary), and Dr. Cindy Forbes (President of the Canadian Medical Association). Students in groups of 3 or 4 spoke with each mentor for 8 minutes before rotating to the next desk to speak with the next mentor.

What I particularly enjoyed about this event was the opportunity to hear the unique career paths of the different speakers. Often, students are invited to events where they have the chance to hear about the specific research focus of the presenter. Although it is fascinating to hear about the research advances made in their respective field, questions such as “what inspired you to do the work you are doing today?” or “what steps in your education did you have to get to where you are now?” are left unanswered. During this event, however, students were given ample time to ask personal questions pertaining to mentor’s career and to direct the focus of the conversation.

Another aspect of the event that many students found valuable was hearing the advice the mentors shared from their own careers. One mentor described her own experience in advocacy, campaigning, and ways in which she balanced her love for clinical work with her passion in advocacy. Another shared her thoughts on what qualities were valuable working for in team settings within a health care unit. Many mentors also shared insights from experience working in different roles and health systems across Canada, providing students with a chance to compare how health policies are developed and implemented in these provicinal systems.

In addition, to sharing their advice and experience, many mentors also provided students with their perspectives of health systems governance and the impacts of recent changes to the salaries of Ontario’s physicians. Engaging discussions were quickly formed as students shared what they have learnt from media coverage of this issue, while mentors provided their own perspective from their involvement in different ministries and health systems.

Overall, the students who attended this event found it valuable. They left  inspired by the diverse paths that exist within the health care field and with a better appreciation of the intricacies and challenges of implementing changes in health policy.

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