Master of Public Health

Sonya Pirani.

Experiencing policy in practice: Inspiration to create change

As a registered nurse, Sonya Pirani (MPH '20) noticed that decisions being made by policy makers did not always reflect the realities she experienced on the front line. These concerning discrepancies led Sonya to pursue the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at the University of Waterloo with the goal of making a career in health policy.

Throughout her nursing career, Sonya has worked in a number of areas, including acute neuroscience and neurology, neonatal intensive care and occupational health. Her experiences have shaped her understanding of the health-care system and sparked her desire to drive change through knowledge translation and policy development. Specifically, she aspires to take a leadership role in government to inform policy and practice around maternal and child health.

Sonya remained a full-time nurse while she was a student in the MPH program. The flexible online format and supportive nature of her professors were essential as she juggled work, family and school life. The cohort experience in the MPH gave her the opportunity to work with professionals from outside of her field, including kinesiologists, public health inspectors, dentists, business people and more. While an onerous undertaking, working and studying concurrently had some benefits. As an occupational health nurse, Sonya was able to draw on some of her MPH coursework while she and her organization navigated the challenges of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

For the MPH professional practicum, Sonya worked for PolicyWise, an organization dedicated to the development of effective social policy for the well-being of children and families. Sonya’s time with PolicyWise was exciting as she gained valuable exposure to the ins-and-outs of policy making. She also appreciated her new tight-knit work environment and PolicyWise’s productive and collaborative culture.

Sonya’s academic, personal and work experiences have inspired a new career pathway. As she prepares for her eventual move away from the front line, Sonya is eager to strengthen the connection between policy and practice to improve health systems and outcomes for patients and professionals.

University of Waterloo