Welcome to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC for short)

On May 1st I began my practicum placement at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Public Health Risk Science Division, located in Guelph, Ontario. More specifically, I became a part of the Knowledge Synthesis team – individuals who work to identify, synthesize, and translate scientific information and tools to better assess public health risk. Knowledge synthesis really answers the question: “what is our current state of knowledge?” The goal is to enhance and guide public health decision-making and policies by providing information that addresses the trends and determinants of infectious disease threats in Canada. Recently, vector-borne diseases that are likely to expand in range or emerge in Canada due to climate change have been prioritized. As a result, I have become project lead for a scoping review that will assess the global evidence on Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (EEEV). EEEV is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito and affects animal and human hosts. The human case-fatality rate for EEEV ranges in the literature from 35-75%, which makes EEEV one of the most deadly mosquito-borne viruses in North America. Over the past decade there has been a resurgence of EEEV activity in regions where the virus was previously unknown or rare.

To prepare for conducting a scoping review, myself and another colleague received a week-long crash course in knowledge synthesis methodologies.  Topics covered included scoping reviews, systematic reviews, meta-analysis, search strategies, and management software. The training sessions were thorough and interactive, leaving me feeling confident and ready to tackle my own project. In order to conduct synthesis research, one must work collaboratively with a team. Since day one, everyone in the PHAC office has been warm and welcoming, providing guidance, support, and assistance when needed.  I look forward to working with such a diverse team of hardworking individuals!

Throughout the week there are lots of activities and events to break up the day. I’ve tuned into webinars about emergency preparedness, participated in teleconferences with other PHAC offices across Canada, attended mindfulness workshops during lunch hours, and joined the Friday tradition that is treat day (we take turns bringing in baked goods to make Friday that much sweeter). On May 23rd our team ventured over to campus to attend the Centre for Public Health and Zoonosis (CPHAZ) 5th Annual Scientific Symposium. The CPHAZ symposium is a one-day event bringing together public health and zoonotic disease research from the University of Guelph and external organizations. The keynote speaker was Dr. David Patrick from the University of British Columbia’s School of Public Health. He gave an opening talk about antibiotic stewardship across the spectrum of one health. Following opening remarks and Dr. Patrick’s presentation, there were 2 minute student presentations, interactive poster sessions, public health pitches, and 15 minute research presentations. My supervisor was one of the presenters, discussing the risk of Chikungunya virus to Canadians. Lots of interesting topics were brought forward and discussed through a public health lens – reminding me how ever-changing and exciting the world of public health can be.