Division of Community Health and Humanities


Graduate Programs - Master of Public Health - Population/Public Health - Practicum Blog: Jacqueline Mills

Practicum Blog: Jacqueline Mills

Practicum site:

My practicum was in Whitehorse, Yukon (I am from central Ontario and have not spent any significant time before this practicum in the north of Canada). I was super interested in completing a practicum in a northern location in Canada and was incredibly pleased to end up in Whitehorse.  I worked in throughout the summer of 2018 at the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health. This office has about 10 employees who all work on various public health related projects (ex. opioid use surveillance, tracking cannabis indicators, analyzing suicide data, congenital anomalies surveillance and others). The office setting was fairly flexible and projects could be suggested by different staff on topics that interested them. I met with my supervisor once per week for about an hour to discuss my project outcomes and challenges.
 
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My desk at work downtown Whitehorse.
 

Practicum experience:

I really enjoyed my practicum experience. I was given lots of opportunity to learn, take on new projects and explore fields on my own. My project throughout the summer was focused on Autism Spectrum Disorder surveillance, diagnosis and support services in Yukon, however I was given opportunity to take on small side projects to explore fields of environmental health, data analysis and mental health and substance use as well. My supervisor was always looking for opportunities for me to take on different projects to learn skills and more about public health in Yukon.

Learning opportunities:

My practicum experience took things that I had learned in the classroom and brought them to real life situations. For example, in classes we would talk about stakeholder engagement being a key part of public health decision making and policy or program development. In my practicum I spent about 10-20 per cent of my total time actually engaging with local and national stakeholders. Also, developing a surveillance plan was a large portion of my practicum. Surveillance was not discussed in detail in our course work so this required a lot of independent learning on how to evaluate data sources, determine data elements to collect and outline the flow of data.
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A summit on aging. One of the only opportunities that I had to
interact and engage with the public.
Photo taken from http://www.ckrw.com/news/local-news/seniors-summit-in-whitehorse/
 

Experiences for the future:

I think that this practicum, if nothing else, has taught me to be more comfortable interviewing stakeholders and presenting to a group of people. Also, since I have not spent any significant time in a northern location before my practicum I also was able to learn a lot more about health in northern settings and challenges location and demographic presents to public health. This is somewhere I am interested in living and working in the future so learning about Yukon was a really important learning experience for me.

Challenges:

Really, two of the biggest challenges I experienced throughout my practicum were also my biggest learning opportunities. While I did receive guidance from my supervisor throughout my practicum, my project was mostly independent. I found this challenging because sometimes I would need help with something but my coworkers were working on separate projects and therefore I usually couldn’t ask them for help. However, independently troubleshooting my way through issues, even though it may have taken longer than if I was working collaboratively with someone ultimately resulted in more learning throughout my practicum.
 
The second challenge I faced during my practicum was being new to the Yukon.  Coming to Whitehorse I was really unaware of most services that were offered in the area. At the beginning of my practicum it took me a lot of time to figure out what services were offered in Yukon and how they interact with each other. Knowing the services that existed was crucial to the success of my project. 
 
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From a hike in Kluane National Park. Whitehorse offers so much in terms of work-life balance.
There are tons of trails nearby for hiking, mountain biking and running.
It is easy to enjoy the great outdoors on weekends and evenings.