Amy Colquhoun, PhD '18

Manager, Population Health Assessment

Ministry of Health, Government of Alberta

Amy Colquhoun found her passion for epidemiology somewhat by accident. After completing undergraduate and graduate degrees in laboratory sciences, she had the opportunity to travel throughout Asia. While abroad, she witnessed how public health could impact the lives of people and the health of society as a whole. This motivated her to learn more about the field.

"The more I started learning about public health, and all of the different and interesting aspects of it, the more I gravitated towards epidemiology," says Colquhoun. "I liked epidemiology because of the influence it has on the public's health as a whole. This prompted me to start researching graduate schools so I could pursue my doctor of philosophy degree."

Through this research, Colquhoun discovered the School of Public Health and a potential supervisor affiliated with the School who fit with her interests.

"Karen Goodman was working with northern Canadian communities, their health care providers and health officials to address questions about a stomach bacterium that is a known risk factor for stomach cancer-Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori)," explains Colquhoun. "The fact that this work was collaborative and community-driven was really appealing to me. I was keen to learn more."

As a doctor of philosophy student, Colquhoun's thesis work contributed to the University of Alberta's interdisciplinary and intersectoral Canadian North Helicobacter pylori (CANHelp) Working Group. This group aims to address community concerns about health risks from H. pylori infection.

Working in collaboration with northern Indigenous communities, Colquhoun explored whether conventional epidemiologic measures of disease burden matched how those impacted by the diseases in question experience this burden. Through this work, she highlighted the importance of incorporating diverse perspectives when seeking effective public health solutions.

In 2012, Colquhoun was a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship recipient, recognizing her leadership skills and high standard of scholarly achievement in her studies.

"During my studies, I had the opportunity to identify and reflect on my key driving principles: pragmatism, collaboration and justice," explains Colquhoun. "This research was important to me because it was community-driven. I was excited about working in partnership with communities to collaboratively identify meaningful solutions to public health issues."

Now, Colquhoun is the manager of population health assessment in the Ministry of Health for the Government of Alberta. Through her work, she continues to put these key driving principles into practice. She works with others to assess population health status and address questions about specific health problems.

In her role, she helps lead public health investigations and also works in partnership with First Nations and Métis populations to compile and communicate Indigenous-specific health information to support community-identified goals.

"As a student and as an employee, I have had the privilege of working with communities to address questions about their health," says Colquhoun. "I am deeply humbled when I hear my Indigenous colleagues speak about our collaborative work with pride. Knowing that I contributed- even if in a small way- fills me with a great sense of satisfaction."

Amy Colquhoun is the 2019 PhD recipient of the Dean's Gold Medal. The Dean's Gold Medal was created as a legacy initiative during the School's 10th anniversary celebrations. The award is intended to recognize superior academic performance.

(Last updated June, 2019)