Alexandra Piatkowski

Master of Public Health student
Alexandra Piatkowski

What has been your pathway since graduation?

After graduation, I completed my Master of Public Health (MPH) in Epidemiology at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. During this time, I completed practicum placements at Public Health Ontario and the eHealth Centre of Excellence (eCE). After graduating with my MPH, I began working at the eCE full-time as an evaluation specialist, which was a great experience.

I then moved on to work as an epidemiologist and project manager at the Health Commons Solutions Lab, a not-for-profit social innovation lab that works with community-based health and social service organizations to further their missions.

Next, I began working as a project manager at University Health Network – focused on improving the care, experiences, and outcomes of older adults visiting the emergency department. During this time, I obtained my Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification, which has really helped me lead projects in my work.

I am currently a senior public health consultant, Moxley Public Health, an independent consulting firm that works with hospitals, health departments, and other community-based nonprofit organizations to assess and improve community health. I have learned so much over the course of my educational and career journey, and am grateful for each step along the way that has led me to where I am today.

What has been a unique or interesting project you've been involved with?

In my previous role as program manager of Geriatric Emergency Medicine (GEM) at University Health Network (UHN), I worked to build a more connected, equitable health system where older adults receive the care and support they need, wherever and whenever they need it.

In collaboration with an amazing team, I led the development of UHN’s Senior Emergency Medicine Centre, which will include Canada’s first accredited emergency department dedicated to older adults, a research and education institute, and multi-sectoral partnerships.

I developed a proposal for this centre in collaboration with multidisciplinary stakeholders including senior leadership, clinicians, patients and caregivers, funders, and community partners, while continuously integrating feedback. This culminated in receiving a landmark $52 million donation for the centre which will transform older adult care at UHN and beyond.

How did your time in the School of Public Health Sciences (SPHS) help you get to where you are today?

From a very young age, I knew I was interested in health. I loved learning about health and disease, and some of my favorite TV shows included Mystery Diagnosis and Dr. G, Medical Examiner. I knew I wanted to pursue something health related for my post-secondary education, but I didn’t know exactly what.

When I began the Health Studies program at the University of Waterloo, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do within the health field. I thought I might want to go to medical school, but I quickly learned about how broad the health field was and all of the limitless possibilities within it.

Through the HLTH 101 course during my first semester, I learned about the social determinants of health, and something just clicked in my mind. Health Studies gave me the language to articulate my perspectives on health and opened my eyes to the world of public health while thinking about populations and communities as a whole. The courses I took throughout the program deepened my love of health and confirmed that I was in the right field.

Through the co-op program, I was able to work in a variety of different roles and sectors. Some of these opportunities included frontline work with people with disabilities at l’Arche Canada, project and medical administration at Trillium Health Partners, health product regulation at Health Canada, and researching and reporting on the cancer system at Cancer Care Ontario. These diverse experiences exposed me to many different areas of the health field and led me to pursue my Master of Public Health.

SPHS helped expose me to the world of public health and helped me realize that I was a big-picture thinker who wanted to focus on the population and systems level of health. I often think back to my time in the Health Studies program and still draw on the knowledge that I gained from my experiences today.

What advice would you give to students interested in your field?

Never stop learning.

There are always professional development opportunities to be found, and even more informal, self-directed learning pursuits. These are especially important to actively seek out after you have completed your 'formal' post-secondary education, because they won’t be presented to you as much. That being said, be sure to take advantage of continuing education through the University and any discounts that may be available to alumni.

Another piece of advice I would give is to subscribe to all the public health and healthcare newsletters you can find. These are full of professional development opportunities and job postings.

Get active on LinkedIn – including liking, commenting, sharing, and posting. It may seem intimidating at first, but once you start doing it, it begins to feel more natural and I’ve found the public health community on there to be quite tight-knit and supportive.

Network and seek out connections with others in the field and roles you are interested in. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask someone to connect – as long as you have a clear purpose and specific questions, they will more than likely be happy to help.

What has been your greatest lesson learned?

The greatest lesson that I’ve learned is that it’s okay to have a lot of interests! We often feel like we have to specialize in something very specific within the health field. That works for some people, particularly if you are interested in academic research and want to do a PhD. I learned that this was not for me.

I’ve always had many interests within the field, including chronic disease prevention and management, social determinants of health, knowledge translation, epidemiology, evaluation and needs assessment, strategic planning, stakeholder engagement and communications, project management, multi-sector collaboration, and more. The great thing about the public health field is that you don’t necessarily have to pick just one of those interests because they all intersect and can come together to address a particular public health challenge.

Because of this, I get to develop new skills and interests I didn’t even know I had, such as entrepreneurship, marketing, and more.

Learn more about me!

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