In 2005, while Kathryn Dong was an emergency medicine resident at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, she was finding her role primarily involved crisis intervention.
“I felt like there had to be a better way to prevent and address the downstream issues before they got to the point of an emergency department visit,” explains Dong. “I found myself asking, ‘What are we doing as a society to prevent these things from happening?’ particularly in the area of substance use.”
After volunteering with Streetworks, a harm reduction and health promotion agency, Dong decided to pursue her master of science degree in population health at the School of Public Health.
“While at Streetworks, I fell in love with the community and the population,” says Dong. “I began listening to their experiences within acute care, and it became clear to me that we needed to develop a program that met people where they were at on their journey—not where we wanted them to be at.”
For Dong, the MSc degree allowed her to have a career that would not only be about treating the individual patient, but would also help identify and study the health inequities that result in people getting sick in the first place.
While completing her master’s, she studied the impact of opioid overdoses on Edmonton communities. This interest led to her pairing up with Ryan Cooper, an infectious disease physician, to apply for funding from the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation to set up the Edmonton Inner City Health Research and Education Network (EICHREN).
Research through EICHREN led to the realization that there was a need for public health oriented interventions in hospital settings, which ultimately led to the creation of the Inner City Health and Wellness Program (ICHWP).
“Through this program we offer a trusted, safe place for inner-city residents to go when seeking assistance for substance use issues, social stabilization, disease prevention and other services,” explains Dong.
“It is humbling to work with this patient population. Seeing patients who have not been sober in decades make huge strides and advancements is unbelievably rewarding. It’s an honour to participate alongside that person on their journey.”
(Last updated November, 2015)