Graduates of Public Health

Hayford Avedzi, PhD in public health 

Hayford Avedzi graduated with his doctor of philosophy in public health. Now that he has completed his degree, he plans to take on a postdoctoral fellowship to to consolidate core research competencies that he has acquired during his doctoral training. He believes that this opportunity will also allow him to develop new skill sets necessary for a successful scientific research and/or academic career.

We asked Hayford what advice he would offer an incoming student and to tell us about a person who has had the greatest impact on him while he was at the School. Here’s what he said:

“The School of Public Health at the University of Alberta is solid. The School has all it takes to bring out the best in a willing student. Nobody can nurture a dream better than the dreamer. Incoming students should therefore come in prepared and have the right attitude and determination to have their dreams fulfilled.”

“Two professors stood by me and supported me through my program, just as a good father would his child. Professor Jeff Johnson provided a supportive environment for me to nurture my dreams. Professor Emeritus Duncan Saunders demonstrated to me that there are still good people with convictions who go to any length to right the wrongs of others.”



Kristy Baron, MPH in health promotion

Kristy Baron is graduating with her master of public health in health promotion. She earned her degree while she was working full-time as a health promotion facilitator in Edmonton, so she plans to continue to work in that field. However, she believes her degree will open new doors and new opportunities so she is excited to see what possibilities may be in store. She looks forward to continue her journey in public health with a health promotion lens.

We asked Kristy why she felt public health is so important. This is what she told us:

“For me, public health is ultimately about making positive changes in the world. Because so many things affect health, and health affects so many aspects of people’s lives, public health is really about making changes that impact people’s lives.”


Rebecca Clark, MSc in epidemiology

Rebecca Clark graduated with her master of science in epidemiology, and her graduate embedded certificate in communicable diseases. She was also the MSc recipient of the Dean’s Gold Medal.

In the fall, she will be starting her doctor of philosophy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. There, she plans to specialize in infectious disease epidemiology and continue her research into infectious disease modelling in order to predict future outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases. She’s excited about this work because by knowing where and when an outbreak will occur, we can allow the opportunity to employ interventions to mitigate the impacts.

We asked Rebecca what people or person had the greatest impact on her while she was a student at the School. Here’s what she said:

I am so thankful for the staff and professors in the School, particularly my supervisor Yan Yuan for providing me with an abundance of opportunities to grow. Being able to improve my presentation skills during group presentations, conferences and the 3MT helped to boost not only my confidence in conveying my research, but networking and public speaking ability in general.

I was also able to develop my teaching skills thanks to teaching assistantships with Yan Yuan and Ambikaipakan Senthilselvan, which I know will continue to benefit me as I move forward in academia.

Read more about Rebecca.


Juanita Gnanapragasam, MPH in health promotion 

Juanita Gnanapragasam is graduating with her master of public health in health promotion. During her masters program, she co-founded a non-profit called Converse and Cook. The mission of this non-profit is to create social spaces where individuals are empowered to explore their connection to food and their community by creating meals and dining together. With her public health background, she plans to build out Converse and Cook’s programming to have a greater reach in the city of Edmonton.

We asked Juanita to tell us about the greatest thing she learned inside or outside of the classroom. This is what she told us:

“In one of my social determinates of health classes, Dr. Jim Talbot was talking about the importance of relationships in public health. In this class he said, “You can’t move faster than the speed of trust.”

This comment really resonated with me because it emphasized the fact that, at its core, health promotion is about relationships. Making time to cultivate relationships with the communities you are embedded in is one of the most powerful ways health promotion practitioners can encourage communities to engage in positive health behaviours.”


Natasha Lifeso, MPH in epidemiology

Natasha Lifeso graduated with her master of public health (MPH) in epidemiology. She was also the MPH recipient of the Dean’s Gold Medal.

Now that she’s graduated, Natasha will continue to work as a research assistant for the Department of Paediatrics in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. In the future, she hopes to apply for the Canadian Field Epidemiology program where she would like to work in developing countries, and with communities to help disadvantaged populations.

We asked Natasha about the greatest thing she learned inside or outside of the classroom. This is what she told us:

I learned to keep an open mind to all the possibilities in public health. It is alright if you are interested in many things and unsure of what to do. 

I first started in public health with particular interests and specific ideas of what I wanted to get out of my degree. However, upon experiencing a variety of courses, meeting people in the School, and throughout my practicum and capping project, my mind became open to new areas of public health and I became very passionate about many topics.


Jillian Peters, MPH in global health 

Jillian Peters is graduating with her master of public health in global health. Once graduated, she will make an impact in communities both nationally and internationally. Internationally, Jillian will be working with a non-profit based in Uganda. She plans to use her public health background to monitor and evaluate health programs in rural fishing villages. In Canada, she plans to work with the refugee and immigrant population in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

We asked Jillian why she thinks public health is important. This is what she told us:

“Public health is important because it acknowledges that there is no “us” and “them”; there is only “us.” When one person or people group is suffering, we all suffer. This is true within Canada and, more broadly, within the greater global community. It is only when we recognize our need for each other and the importance of working together that we will be able to promote and sustain healthy people and healthy communities.”


Laryssa Sawchuk, MPH in health promotion (distance) 

Laryssa Sawchuk graduated with her master of public health in health promotion and completed the program by distance delivery. Like many other distance students, Laryssa was employed full-time while she completed her degree. She currently works in education and outreach around cancer screening in Manitoba. She plans to apply the principles she learned in her education to her work where her recent focus has been partnering with Indigenous communities, particularly those in remote and northern regions in Manitoba.

Laryssa offers a unique perspective as a distance student, so we asked her what kind of advice she would offer to incoming students. This is what she said:

“My advice to incoming distance students is three-fold. First, add all deadlines to your calendar to keep track of assignments and what you are expected to do each week. Second, many courses involve posting on discussion boards. If you follow the length and timelines outlined in the syllabi, you will do well on this portion. You don’t need to invest a large amount of time crafting the perfect post to do well, especially if you use your experiences to post thoughtful posts. Don’t stress about it. Finally, connect with other students in your cohort during the on-campus portion of the degree. Organize a digital method to stay in touch with this group throughout your degree; my cohort used Facebook chat.”


Staci Silverman, MPH in health policy and management 

Staci Silverman is graduating with her master of public health (MPH) in health policy and management. She will be working at the Edmonton West Primary Care Network as a quality improvement facilitator. There, she will use her public health background to optimize the Medical Home concept for providers and patients in clinics across the City of Edmonton.

We asked Staci to tell us about the greatest thing she learned inside or outside of the classroom. This is what she said:

“As a MPH student the greatest thing I learned is to always remember your personal purpose and passion for public health – your “why”. Creating change in health care can be incremental, slow and sometimes frustrating. Remembering your “why”, and recognizing the diversity of your experiences and interests are key in creating meaningful impact on the health care system and the health of the whole population.”


PJ Vasdev, MPH in health policy and management 

Today, PJ will graduate with his master of public health in health policy and management. During his time at the School, he was heavily involved with the student body and was elected as the president of the School of Public Health Students’ Association in 2018.

PJ will be strating his career in management consulting with a focus on the healthcare sector. There, he hopes to make an impact by shaping healthcare at the systems level.

We asked PJ to tell us about his favourite memory while he was a student at the School. This is what he said:

“Some of my fondest memories at the School are the spontaneous and candid conversations that I had with friends, faculty, staff and colleagues while hanging out in the School of Public Health lounge. I will really miss the School – specifically the people….definitely not the assignments (haha).”



Photo by Richard Siemens

Anna Voeuk, MPH in global health

Anna Voeuk graduated with her master of public health in global health. With her degree, she hopes to continue working in and with communities to reduce health disparities in Canada and in low- and middle – income countries.

We asked Anna about the greatest thing she learned inside or outside of the classroom. This is what she said:

One thing I’ve learned is the importance of engaging communities in their own setting. Being in the field and working alongside a community allows us to better understand the social determinants of health and to work together with the community to address local needs.

Read more about Anna.