From a young age, Gracia Mabaya knew she wanted to play a role in improving health care and living conditions around the world.
Growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, she watched other children dying from what should have been preventable diseases. For her, a career in public health made sense.
After completing her Master of Science in Health and Rehab Sciences at Western in 2011, Mabaya worked as a consultant for the World Health Organization. However, she wanted to take her career further by obtaining a degree that would set her apart.
Mabaya applied to Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program and was accepted to be a part of the program’s inaugural class. The class, which finished their studies in August 2014, graduated at convocation ceremonies last week.
“After being in the workforce and being exposed to the field, I felt like I wanted to have more of a course-based foundation in public health,” she said. “I wanted to obtain an internationally recognized degree that would set me apart in the workforce.”
Now into its second year, the MPH program was designed to fill a niche at the intersection of leadership, sustainability and policy within the Canadian health-care system, as well as globally. The interdisciplinary, interfaculty program aims to prepare students to address public health challenges, opening opportunities for students to serve as change agents on a local, national and international scale.
Since completing the program this summer, Mabaya obtained a job as a knowledge broker and research associate for pediatric neuromuscular research at the Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre. While she had previous work experience, she thinks the MPH program helped to enhance her resume, expertise and knowledge base which helped her into her current role.
“Now that I am back in the workplace, I can see how very well-designed the program was,” she said. “We were taught to collaborate with our classmates and we were encouraged to participate in the classroom setting as if we were in the workplace. That has been very valuable to me.”
Mabaya also enjoyed being a part of the inaugural class, because the faculty and management were very open to student feedback and took all of their suggestions into consideration.
For the moment, Mabaya is working on building her career at the national level, as her current role gives her the opportunity to work with organizations across the country and to manage knowledge transaction activities nation-wide. In the future, she would like to have more of a leadership role within the health-care setting, and she believes the MPH program has given her the foundation to get there.