Elsa M. Cabral
How did you become interested in your field?
I have always had a love for science, mathematics, people and business. Traditional roles and undergraduate professional degrees seemed to favour either one or two of these disciplines but not all four. In high school, I volunteered at a hospital and worked at a financial institution selling RSPs and mutual funds. I was challenged and fulfilled. The various roles that I played reinforced that I wanted to pursue a degree that could lead to a profession that touched all four. With some research I decided I would pursue a degree with a discipline of either Toxicology or Nutritional Sciences. When I was in high school, I started researching what degree and program I wanted to enroll in and achieve. I explored the mentorship program with Nutritional Sciences at U of T and I also spoke with a co-worker who was enrolled in U of T’s Toxicology program about the program and future career possibilities. After that conversation, I was sold. In the fourth year of my Toxicology program, I worked many hours in a pathology lab within the Faculty of Medicine. I enjoyed the research that I was conducting so much but I knew that this was not the right environment for me and it confirmed that the people piece had to be an integral part of my career. That is when I discovered, through my supervisor, the Occupational and Environmental Health professional degree within DLSPH. I was thrilled but very anxious about the application process given the competition especially with a small enrollment quota.
What do you enjoy most about your current career position?
I love that I work within a healthcare field but especially community healthcare. I believe community healthcare is a growth area with lots of opportunity for innovation for better health outcomes. My role is focused on identifying those opportunities and bringing them to our frontline healthcare team. It touches on science, mathematics, people and business each and every day. I couldn’t ask for a better fit.
In what ways has your DLSPH experience had an impact on your career and who you are today?
I am forever grateful for my DLSPH experience – it has made me the person that I am today not only at work but at home. What I have valued the most from my graduate program is that it taught me how to think critically and problem solve in a group setting by using a very practical methodology, in addition to its relevancy to the real world in addressing real community and business problems. The decision making process that I apply at home and at work has been defined and built on what I have learned at DLSPH and I believe it is one of my ingredients for success in my life. The practicum was the best way to start to apply that learning.
I am forever grateful for my DLSPH experience – it has made me the person that I am today not only at work but at home.
How did your experiences at DLSPH help you to overcome obstacles you’ve faced as a public health professional?
The most relevant experience for me has been how to engage and involve stakeholders in addressing any obstacles I face as a public health professional. Our class was very collaborative thanks to our leader, Dr. Andrea Sass-Kortsak. In no way do I try to solve a problem alone. I facilitate problem solving with relevant stakeholders. This is something I learned at DLSPH.
Describe any significant relationships with fellow students or faculty. How did these relationships help you?
Although I am not working in a profession directly linked to my DLSPH degree, i.e. I am not focused specifically in occupational or environmental health, I continue to connect with and learn from fellow students. The DLSPH program carries a lot of credibility in my opinion and the relationships I have built with fellow students and faculty are important to me as I have a lot of respect for these thought leaders.
Choosing DLSPH has been the best decision that I made in my career.
Do you have a favorite or funny story about your time at DLSPH?
My favourite story is the time I spent my whole reading week in the library with classmates and our program director trying to make sense of our Ventilation course. We all recognized the need to come together as a team to help each other and the level of commitment from each other was extraordinary. The value of teamwork and common goals to achieve an objective is something that I experienced for the first time during this reading week and I think about this experience regularly.
What advice would you give to younger alumni or current students who aspire to follow a similar career path?
Follow your heart in what you really want to do and have a vision as to where you want to be in 3 years or so. Create some annual career goals for yourself that will bring you satisfaction in real time but also set you up for achieving your vision. Be a career activist. You need to define the value you bring to your role and any future roles and you need to market that value. The experience and designations you achieve at DLSPH builds the foundation and gives you an excellent start to establish credibility in your profession and to demonstrate your capability, but you must translate that capability into skills and experience every day which will help build your credibility. And don’t forget to stay current and relevant for the marketplace you are pursuing.
What would you say to a prospective student who is considering DLSPH?
DLSPH is a top notch school with exceptional professional programs that provide great opportunities for a bright future in public health. Choosing DLSPH has been the best decision that I made in my career. Know yourself and know what you want to get out of a program first and know that you will get the best value of learning and experience from DLSPH. I highly recommend it!!!
A seasoned change leader, Ms. Cabral has held Director roles with both LifeLabs and MDS Inc. Dignostic Services prior to her recent transition to Bayshore Healthcare Ltd. She has demonstrated a passion for professional development, and is eager to share her experience with others, especially when it reconnects her to her alma matter the University of Toronto. Ms. Cabral most recently volunteered her time to support DLSPH graduate students in building their own professional skills, leading a seminar in the area of interviewing and job searching.