Prior to earning her master of public health degree, Shandy McLean had worked as a clinical social worker in addictions counselling. After some time in the field, she realized that only focusing on individual behavior change, without also having the tools to tackle root issues influencing health and well-being wasn’t going to be the right fit for her in the long-term.
“I wanted to make a difference in the lives of my clients,” explains McLean. “But without developing some new knowledge, skills and tools, I knew I wouldn’t be able to have the impact I was hoping for.”
McLean wanted to learn about community development and using public policy as tools for changing the environments her clients were actually living and struggling within. She began researching and applying to several programs in Canada, but ultimately found a home at the School.
“During my first course, I knew this was where I was meant to be,” says McLean. “My instructor, Marie Carlson, a former dental hygienist, explained that she became involved in public health when she realized she couldn’t change the world one toothbrush at a time. It lit a fire under me.”
McLean completed the program as a part-time student while working full-time. She valued this experience because she was able to apply the program learnings to her work experiences on a daily basis. Integrating the coursework within practical, real life work settings made the learnings more meaningful for her. Additionally, as a result of working and studying at the same time, McLean felt she was able to build both her resume and her academic qualifications at a similar pace – something she feels has been very important to her success to-date.
McLean’s current position with the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan offers her many opportunities to apply her graduate learnings. As a benefits organization focused on promoting and protecting the health of covered members, McLean develops relationships with a variety of plan stakeholders, from health care providers to disease prevention and health promotion experts – all with the goal of ensuring the plan will efficiently and effectively support good health and a high quality of life for our covered members and their dependants.
(Last updated July, 2016)