When there’s a threat to public health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw works hard to keep Albertans safe. Her weighty job titles reflect the importance of the work she does for Alberta Health Services: she is the Lead Medical Officer of Health for the Central Zone of Alberta and the provincial Medical Officer of Health for Public Health Surveillance and Infrastructure.
Deena leads a team of healthcare professionals in implementing policies and programs that will prevent injury, illness and disease in Albertans. Much of her day-to-day work involves chairing meetings, coordinating responses to public health issues and participating in planning.
The team prepares healthcare workers in Central Alberta for possible outbreaks of a variety of diseases, from measles to Ebola. Deena also consults with frontline healthcare professionals in situations ranging from the threat of rabies due to a bite from a dog or a bat to the health dangers created by the 2008 Gleniffer Lake oil spill.
Deena originally went into medicine expecting to be a family doctor who would work with patients one-on-one. However, her plans changed: “When I discovered there was a specialty focused on the prevention of illness and the promotion of health, I knew I had found my niche.”
Deena credits Augustana’s small classes and excellent professors for giving her a solid academic background and skills she could take into post-graduate studies and beyond. She says, “My undergraduate studies gave me the technical foundation I needed for medical school, as well as a cross-disciplinary experience that taught me to think about issues from many perspectives and use different approaches to problem-solving.”
One Augustana experience that stood out was the month Deena spent in Mexico. She says, “Dittmar Mundel taught us that the choices we make in our lives have an impact, for better or worse, on people and communities near and far. I became much more aware of global inequality.”
Disparity exists within Alberta, too. Deena points to the fact that people in some regions of Alberta have a life expectancy 11 years shorter than other Albertans. Her goal is to change that statistic. “I want to see less difference between the most healthy Albertan and the least healthy Albertan,” she says. “I want to close that gap.” Her focus is long-term: “I’m working with others to lay the foundations to make that happen. By creating good policies and programs now, we can help Albertans live healthier lives.”