Featured Student

Sarah Palmeter

When and where did you complete your practicum?

I completed my practicum from May to August 2019 at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) in Ottawa. I worked as part of the Developmental Disorders Surveillance Unit within the Maternal, Child, and Youth Health Division in the Centre for Surveillance and Applied Research.

What are your academic/research interests?

I have a variety of academic interests including an interest in non-communicable diseases, especially mental health-related conditions. I am also interested in the way that built environment factors can affect health.

What are your career goals, and did your practicum experience change them in any way?

My career goals are to work as an epidemiologist, ideally in some type of government organization or agency. Through my practicum experience, I realized that I would also like a position that allows me to work on a variety of types of tasks and projects.

What were your primary responsibilities at your agency?

Throughout my practicum, I worked to support national surveillance of developmental disorders. I was involved in two main projects: a systematic review on validation studies to identify developmental disorders in health administrative data and the development of a surveillance knowledge product using data from the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability.

I worked on the systematic review protocol, search strategy, and article screening, as well as the analytical plan, data analysis, and synthesis of results for the surveillance knowledge product.

What was most rewarding about your practicum experience?

It was rewarding to be able to be part of a small unit and be able to contribute evidence to an area that is in need of current research.

What advice would you offer a prospective student who is considering an opportunity with your practicum site?

The federal government is very supportive of the students they hire. I would recommend taking any opportunity to participate in the student events that take place throughout the term, in order to learn more about the work being done at PHAC and to create networking connections.

What was the most valuable lesson you learned during your practicum experience?

I learned a lot about how chronic disease surveillance works at the federal level. I also learned the importance of communication and working as part of a team. Another valuable lesson that I learned is the importance of documentation in the work you are doing, in order for projects to be effectively transitioned between team members.