O the places MCHP students go…
By Laurel Jebamani and Dr.Sumit Gupta
Manitoba Centre for Health Policy is a great place to be a student. We were both students in the late nineties to the early two-thousands. The positive supportive atmosphere and amazing opportunities for students at MCHP had a big impact on our respective career paths.
We were both hired by Les (Dr. Leslie Roos) in his unique hiring style. I (Laurel) was just starting grad school in epidemiology Community Health Sciences at the U of M and there was a job posting at the Centre so I polished up my resume to apply for the job. I remember walking into the Centre in the middle of summer to dropping off my resume and Les was working at reception so I handed him my resume. Later that afternoon I got a phone call from Les offering me the job.
My (Sumit) story with MCHP begins when I was an undergrad at Queen’s University, this was before everyone became constantly connected, I sent emails to 20 or 30 research places that I thought looked kind of neat. I don’t remember including my landline number but I must have because one afternoon my roommate said “Sumit, there is some doctor on the phone from Winnipeg for you.” When I picked up the phone it was Les, he just started talking about how I should come work for the Centre in the summer. It took me a good few minutes before I connected that person on the phone was from that place in Winnipeg that I had sent an application. When I got off the phone I knew I had a job, the address and a start date. I didn’t know what I would be doing or how I would be paid but I figured I would just show up and see what happens. I arrived at the Centre for my first day, Les wasn’t there and everyone else seemed to know about as much as I did about my new role but that was ok. Eileen knew what to do. She found me a desk and set me up with orientation materials for the next couple days until Les was back in the office to get me started on what he hired me to do. It’s a hiring style neither of us had encountered before or since. Les seems to have an ability sense if a person will be good fit in a role, when he hires people it always just works out.
The Centre offered us so many opportunities and experiences as students—learning on your feet how to write a grant or paper to taking us to present at conferences. I (Laurel) was able to take trips to First Nations communities when I worked with Pat (Dr. Patricia Martens). I worked on the first First Nations Health Atlas, we disseminated the results directly to First Nations communities. We ran workshops in communities and Pat brought me along on these trips. I also had the opportunity to work on The Need to Know Team. We would bring together Medical Health Officers from all the health authorities and talk with them about what they needed to know to move their work forward. That’s where I got the idea to work for a health authority. MCHP definitely had a direct impact on my career path as I’m now an Indigenous Health Planner with the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. That opportunity to work on the First Nations Health Atlas really was the starting point for a life long career in Indigenous Health.
MCHP had an influence on my (Sumit) career path as well. My first grant and paper were both when I was working at MCHP as a student. When I was still very new to the Centre Les and I were chatting and he told me about a study on immunization rates in Manitoba that had been completed a few years back, how things had changed since it was published and we should do a study on disparities in preventative care. He mentioned that we should put together a grant and then he said “I’m going to be on vacation deep sea fishing in Mexico for a week, why don’t you write a first draft while I’m away and then we’ll go over it together when I get back” and then he left.
I didn’t have a clue as to how I should start. But again Eileen came to the rescue she connected me with people that I could talk to about the processes and getting started. Although it was a crazy start, Les took me through grant, data, analysis, writing the paper and publishing. Les put me as first author on that paper. It was a very sink or swim environment but in the most positive and supportive way.
Although the details are different it’s amazing to see how similar both our paths were working with MCHP and how the Centre shaped where we both are today. I went on from MCHP to med school, focusing on pediatrics and later oncology and a PhD in epidemiology. After spending a number of years in clinical roles I am now in a role where part of my time is clinical the other is research. Much of the research I do these days is with IC/ES using administrative data. From a summer position as an undergraduate student at MCHP I have come full circle returning to administrative data and health services research.
Laurel Jebamani September 2001