Featured Student

Aleksandra Zuk

What’s your program and specialty/subject matter of focus?    

I am a PhD candidate in the Division of Epidemiology. My research interests include the etiology and prevention of insulin resistance/type-2 diabetes in both the pediatric and adult population, as well as inflammatory mechanisms related to disease progression resulting from periodontal disease, and lastly the study of causal inference.

Why are you studying public health?

My interest in public health developed while caring for children undergoing Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation at SickKids Hospital in Toronto. In my role as a front-line Registered Nurse, I observe both the intense physical and psychosocial impact of pediatric oncology. This first hand experience is the reason why I wanted to study disease risk in the population. In pursuit of a doctorate, my training expectations are twofold. Firstly, my goal is to advance my capability as an epidemiologist and methodologist and develop the leadership skills necessary to become an independent researcher. Secondly, design and conduct epidemiologic research that can be directly or indirectly applied to mitigate the growing burden of chronic disease.

Why did you choose to study at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health?

I was specifically drawn to the DLSPH because of faculty whose focus is on the epidemiology of chronic conditions, the high caliber of the School’s faculty, and their expert leadership in interdisciplinary public health research. It is an honor to be working with distinguished faculty who’ve made significant contributions to the field of epidemiology.

What are some current projects or research that you’re involved in?

  1. A four-fold decomposition approach to mediation and interaction. To assess the role of 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] in mediating inflammation resulting from periodontal disease and its influence on insulin resistance among healthy non-diabetic adults using the Oral Infections, Glucose Intolerance and Insulin Resistance Study (ORIGINS). Investigator(s): Laura Rosella, Carlos Quiñonez, Ryan Demmer;
  2. Oral Health and Cardiometabolic Disorders (ORAD) Study. Assesses the relationship Between Oral Health and Cardiometabolic Disorders (ORAD) Among Adults Using Data From the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS). Public Health Ontario (PHO). Investigator(s): Laura Rosella, Carlos Quiñonez;
  3. The Landscape of Pediatric, Adolescent and Young Adult Thyroid Cancer In Ontario 1992 – 2010. A retrospective cohort analysis of data from provincial cancer registries and administrative healthcare databases (1992 – 2011). Assessing the incidence, geographic distribution, treatment patterns, survivorship and health­care utilization patterns of thyroid cancer survivors. Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario (POGO) and Sick Kids Hospital. Investigator(s): Dr. Jason Pole, Dr. Jonathan Wasserman;
  4. The Caregiver Self-Administered Financial Expenditures (C­SAFE) For Pediatric Cancer. Pilot study to develop an instrument to measure longitudinal out-of-pocket costs among pediatric oncology families. Canadian Centre for Applied Research in Cancer Control (ARCC) and Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario (POGO). Investigator(s): Dr. Jason Pole, Christopher Longo, Lillian Sung.

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

Pursuing a doctorate at the DLSPH has provided a supporting learning environment and many valuable research opportunities that I don’t think I could have elsewhere. Choosing to attend DLSPH at U of T presents research opportunities at places like SickKids, Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning, and various institutes under the University Health Network.

Prior to entering the PhD program, I was fortunate to have a research project underway. However, if you enter the PhD program without a project there are opportunities to use linked healthcare administrative data for health service research.