Alumni Member

Tara Gomes

When did you graduate from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health?

I completed a Master’s of Health Sciences in Community Health & Epidemiology in 2006.

How did you become interested in your field of public health?  What led you to DLSPH?

I was initially interested in becoming a large animal vet, and undertook a degree in biological sciences at the University of Guelph.  However, I soon realized that although I had a strong interest in health and biology, my strengths lay in the area of math and statistics.  When I learned more about the field of epidemiology, I realized that it was a perfect mix of my analytic expertise and my interest in applied health care. When I read about the Community Health and Epidemiology degree program at the DLSPH, I was excited about the opportunity to complete a degree program that provided such a wide range of courses as well as practicum placements to help me determine the direction of my future career.

In what ways has your DLSPH experience had an impact on your career?

Because I came from a strong analytical background, my experience at the DLSPH helped me to both expand on this set of skills and learn how to apply them to the field of public health.  This enabled me to see the huge impact that the fields of epidemiology and public health policy can have on the health of Canadians.  Furthermore, my practicum placement helped me further develop my skills in writing, research, and the analysis of large administrative databases, which was key to my success in finding a job immediately upon graduation at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES).

What have you been doing since leaving DLSPH?

I worked at ICES and the Ontario Ministry of Long-Term Care where I developed a strong appreciation for both health services research and the application of that research in public health policy.  In 2008, I was asked to become the lead epidemiologist for the newly formed Ontario Drug Policy Research Network (ODPRN), which has the mandate of conducting high quality, timely research for Ontario’s drug policy makers.  Through this role, I received incredible mentorship which helped me to grow my research skills such that I was able to undertake my own independent research agenda.  In April 2013, I became a Principal Investigator and Lead of the ODPRN.

What do you enjoy most about your current career position?

Being part of a network of incredible researchers from across Ontario has taught me about the huge amount of expertise that exists across Canada in the field of pharmaco-epidemiology.  It has also taught me that there is always so much more to learn!  I think that this is what I enjoy most about my current work: I am given the opportunity to work with so many talented people with different perspectives, interests, and backgrounds — all of whom are passionate about being involved in research that makes a difference.

What advice would you give to younger alumni or current students who aspire to follow a similar career path?

Be persistent, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself, and any seize opportunities that you’re given! Once I become comfortable doing something, I often like to make a change and do something different.  While this can be daunting, it has helped me develop a broad set of skills and has shown me what I do (and don’t) like to do.  Finally, if you would like to be involved in research, I would suggest finding a group of people who you enjoy working with and who approach their research in a similar way to you.  This helps you develop of a support network of mentors and collaborators who can help you navigate your career.

What would you say to a prospective student who is considering DLSPH?

The education that I received at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health was key to both developing the skills that I’d need to be a successful epidemiologist upon graduation and learning about what career path I might want to pursue.  If you’re looking for a challenging, fast-paced, diverse education in epidemiology, then I’d strongly suggest looking into the degree programs offered through DLSPH.