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Featured Student

Christopher Tait

What’s your program and subject matter of focus?    

I’m a second year PhD candidate in Epidemiology. My research interests are broadly within the field of chronic disease epidemiology, with a specific focus on applying novel modelling approaches to inform prevention strategies for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Why are you studying public health?

My passion for public health was ignited while working as an English teacher in Lyon, France. Appalled to see my 11- and 12-year old students smoking cigarettes after school, I was compelled develop an anti-smoking initiative as a means to address unhealthy habits pervasive amongst French youth.

Wanting a solid foundation in the science of public health, I chose to pursue an MPH in epidemiology at Columbia University. During my Master’s, it became evident to me how valuable it is to make use of meaningful data to effectively translate emerging public health science to inform health policy and ultimately make inroads on improving the health of populations.

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

During my Master’s degree, I developed an eagerness to pursue doctoral training in epidemiology. Having completed both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in the United States, I was particularly excited about the prospect of returning home to study amongst the renowned faculty at the University of Toronto.

I was ecstatic after attending the DLSPH open house where I discovered the strength of the PhD program and became convinced that DLSPH’s dedication to chronic disease prevention would provide me with the rigorous training necessary to achieve my academic and professional goals. I was especially drawn to DLSPH because so many faculty have appointments with other large research hospitals and institutions which allows access to a greater network of healthcare professionals often lacking at other schools of public health.

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

In addition to working on my dissertation, I’m involved in a few diabetes modelling projects with Professor Laura Rosella. The first involves validating a population-based risk algorithm for type 2 diabetes in the U.S. population. Originally developed in Canada, the Diabetes Population Risk Tool (DPoRT) is a risk prediction tool that is able to accurately calculate up to 10-year diabetes risk using self-reported risk factor information.

The second project is an extension of the first, involving using the newly calibrated DPoRT model to estimate the effectiveness of diabetes prevention strategies in the United States. Both of these projects stem from epidemiology conferences I was fortunate to present at throughout the first year of my doctoral training at DLSPH.

Outside of research I’m involved with the DLSPH Epidemiology curriculum committee, I work as a Teaching Assistant, and currently serve on the organizing committee of the upcoming 2016 Canadian Society for Epidemiology and Biostatistics Student Conference in Winnipeg.

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

I would advocate that becoming a public health professional involves being exposed to rigorous didactic training as well as the application of that training in practice. The School not only features the most pre-eminent academic researchers in a variety of population health disciplines, but through its partnerships, provides numerous practical opportunities that enrich classroom training and foster important practical growth for the next generation of public health professionals.

What’s the one thing people can do to improve public health or health care locally and/or globally?

Be informed. If we don’t know what’s going, we can’t realistically make progress on addressing population health at any of these levels. The digital age in which we live allows us access to a multitude of platforms from which to stay informed about emerging public health science that will ultimately dictate the trajectories of local, national, and global health agendas. Being informed is a necessary first step to being a player in shaping these agendas.