Looking Back on Four Months at PHAC

Writing this blog post, it’s hard to believe I have entered the final week of my practicum placement at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). As a quick recap, I have been working in one of the Guelph, ON PHAC offices over the past four months. My primary project has focused on developing a manuscript looking at different drinking and recreational water exposures across Canada.

Completing my primary project has allowed me to develop my skills in epidemiology, quantitative data analysis, and STATA. As these were areas where I had limited experience prior to this practicum placement, I was very grateful to have been given the opportunity to practice my skills in these particular areas of public health. I also uncovered just how much of a collaborative, team effort producing a scientific paper is. This surprised me, as I had previously thought of research as more of an individual activity. Receiving advice from my co-authors as to how best to present the information obtained, how to focus the results of the paper, and how to go about writing a paper were all invaluable experiences for me.

Through secondary projects I was involved in over the course of the summer, the team mentality of the PHAC office was once again evident. I was able to collaborate with different colleagues to gain a broader perspective of the work of PHAC. One such example was developing a survey to be administered to both internal and external PHAC stakeholders to assess the usefulness to users of a previously conducted study and report. I found this work to be very interesting, particularly as it allowed me to apply other skills I had learned over the course of the first year of the MPH program!

Overall, this practicum experience has inspired me to continue learning, while also serving as evidence that I am in the right graduate program for pursuing my interests, as I found my practicum experience extremely rewarding. I look forward to heading back to the classroom this fall with a renewed sense of purpose and a better understanding of applying knowledge gained in the classroom to real world settings.