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Why I Applied to SEPH

Written by: Hira Khan

The president of the SEPHGSA, Hira Khan, reflects on why she chose SEPH and why others should too.


What led you to SEPH?

During my undergraduate studies, I volunteered on a couple of research projects at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute as well as the CHEO Research Institute. Eventually, I went on to complete my undergraduate thesis project at OHRI as well. Through these experiences, I met many colleagues who were part of the Clinical Epidemiology Program. The positive experiences these colleagues had in the SEPH program, in addition to the prospect of working on clinical research as a graduate student and the funding package provided by OHRI, led me to apply to uOttawa.

Why should others apply here?

The School of Epidemiology and Public Health at uOttawa is unique in that it’s affiliated with multiple research institutions in Ottawa, including the OHRI, CHEORI, Montfort, Bruyere, The Royal, and ICES. Further, uOttawa’s location in the Capital Region of Canada offers students the advantage of getting involved with the municipal and federal governmental agencies, such as Ottawa Public Health, Health Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada, and Statistics Canada. The opportunities for research in Ottawa are endless and incomparable.

What experiences did you have at SEPH that are unique to the program?

SEPH is unique in that it is a relatively small program in a large faculty of medicine; this gives it the advantage of supporting a strong sense of community and increasing contact with faculty, while also having the resources to respond quickly to student’s concerns and world events. The COVID-19 pandemic is a clear example of this.

Within weeks of the start of the pandemic, Dr. Melissa Brouwers, Director of SEPH, organized two novel courses for SEPH students. 

One was a seminar course that allowed the students to learn from and directly interact with leading researchers in Canada on the early public health response to COVID-19 and their roles in it. The course offered a wide variety of lectures, from lessons learned during the SARS epidemic to best practices in public communication, from modelling the spread of the pandemic to the impact of COVID-19 on pregnancies and neonatal outcomes.

The other course involved field work, allowing me and my peers to conduct research and advise Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Health Officer at Ottawa Public Health, on healthcare policy for COVID-19 physical distancing measures among youth. This opportunity with Ottawa Public Health allowed all involved students to write and publish their research as primary authors with the help of SEPH faculty members and network with highly influential contacts working on public health in Ottawa. 

These unique opportunities could only be offered at SEPH because of the faculty’s commitment to providing students with a personalized and academically enriched graduate experience. 


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