Milestone Reflections

Between now and Alumni Week(end) 2020, we'll be sharing reflections from alumni whose graduating classes are celebrating milestone anniversaries this year.  From 1970, 1980, 1990, and onward, read about the memories of your classmates and learn about the possibilities that public health brings to the future from your fellow alumni.   
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Lynne Mansell
MHSA '80
As a member of the MHSA class of 1980, I was fortunate to experience the early years of the new Masters of Health Services Administration program at the University of Alberta. Faculty members and students were brought together from a wide range of academic backgrounds, work experiences, personal interests, and geographical locations. All of us were excited to be part of something new that had the potential to change the broader health system, at a time when most other university programs were focused on hospital administration.

It may sound trite, but I learned the most from the perspectives and practical experiences of my fellow students as well as our enthusiastic faculty. My MHSA degree opened many doors for me in management, consulting, and strategic planning and gave me the incentive to keep learning.

One of my favourite memories was a class presentation of a “conceptual framework” made of tinker toys to the late Dr. Peggy Leatt at the second-year awards night in honour of her organizational theory teaching methods. Another was a farewell class lobster boil on my back deck, courtesy of classmate Neil Ritchie of Nova Scotia.

Since graduation, members of our class have excelled at providing leadership to many important provincial and national health endeavours, owing in no small part to our educational foundation. The evolution of the program to a full School of Public Health has and will continue to advance evidence-based decision making in matters of importance to the health and wellbeing of our society. I am proud to say I am a graduate. The future is in good hands.
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Lawrence Nestman
MHSA '70

In 1965, while finishing my articling for my CA degree in Calgary, and having worked on the audits of three Calgary hospitals, I realized my passion for health care. Dr. Gogan, CEO of Holy Cross Hospital recommended that I apply to the new program in Health Services Administration just being set up at the University of Alberta. That was the beginning of a satisfying career.

Our first-class was made up of six students with diverse academic backgrounds. Our small quarters in our small house provided an intimate setting for us to grow socially and academically. We got to know each other quickly and in a short time, faculty and students bonded and were on a first-name basis. Realizing that the program was new and that many in the health community were watching, we all took our responsibility seriously.

My education offered me experiences with Canadian and worldwide educators, and organizations such as WHO, as well as long-lasting friendships with colleagues along the way. I learned that public health has played such an important and integral part of life for Canadians. This was displayed in Canada as we as a country reacted to the pandemic crisis.

By and large, as Canadians, we pulled together because of the strong commitment we have to our health care system founded on a basic agreement of universality. While the pandemic highlighted the strengths of our healthcare system, it also highlighted some serious flaws that must be addressed as we move forward. Better funding for public health will be necessary, for health care support workers, for public health programs, for long term care, and for pharmaceuticals. As well, we must make efforts to address the inequality that now exists in the system. We have learned and we must continue to learn and to improve.

Change is sometimes difficult. But, when we reflect on how our health system has developed and changed over the years, we can be encouraged that we have always taken up the challenge, with courage and commitment, and made the necessary improvements in all aspects of our healthcare system. I think that this is, once again, an opportune time to make the difficult changes.

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Silvia Koso
MPH ‘10

I came to undertake my Masters of Public Health at the University of Alberta from a country, culture, and profession that were all very authoritarian and hierarchical. The MPH program encouraged, promoted, and stimulated my critical thinking skills and provided a community and a network that I still strongly nurture and share my contributions with, so that others may benefit from my experiences. 

In my first class, I was asked to critically appraise an article written by an esteemed professor from Johns Hopkins. I was stunned - "You want me to criticize his authority?" I learned then that no research or publication is perfect. That we all have something useful to contribute. It was very reassuring!

In these challenging times, public health professionals have a bitter-sweet feeling as finally, public health is getting the recognition and importance it has deserved for a long time. If only the occasion was a more positive one. Public health is about shaping a better today. Public health professionals continue to collaborate in creating positive changes in environmental regulations that may prevent humans from "unleashing" dangerous microbes; in developing labor and taxation policies, that may lead to the establishment of universal basic income; and in finding sustainable diplomatic solutions for the global refugee crisis. Because - in the end, everything is public health!

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Ian Colman

MSc '00

Looking back on my time at the School of Public Health, I think I’m obliged to say that my favourite memory from my studies was meeting my wife in the student room. Most of my other great memories involve other students who ended up becoming our lifelong friends. Twenty years later, we still get together for cottage weeks and international vacations - our kids are now friends as well! 

I fondly remember Pat Hessel sending everybody home early from an Epidemiology 1 class in the hope that we would all see Mark McGwire set the single-season home run record in major league baseball. Other highlights included Toboggan-o-rama, Felicity Hey's laugh,  and the sparkle in Duncan Saunders' eye every time he got excited about a story he was telling.

Alongside these memories is the valuable education I received through this program. At its core, public health education is about building a better future for all. And this is a bit glib, but an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. Investments in public health pay off in so many ways, for so many people, for such a long time.

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