Faculty

Melissa K. Blair

Co-Founder / Chief Marketing Officer

SportsHosts

“I want to make students as job-ready as possible by integrating practical assignments and including Twitter as part of the course requirement. This helps students to look outside of the academic funnel and pay attention to the industry. They realize how their work can have an effect on, and can be affected by, the broader industry and culture.”

From her Denver, Colorado home, Melissa Blair likes nothing better than spending time chatting one-to-one with MPH students and working with them on course material.

“By far, my favourite part of teaching social marketing and health communications is talking with students and hearing about their inspiring and enthusiastic ideas,” she says. “I love getting feedback from students so that I can better help them tie together bigger pieces of their public health knowledge.”

Melissa graduated from Brock in 2010 with a BA in Community Health Sciences, minoring in Business. She went on to complete her master’s degree in Health and Social Marketing at Middlesex University in London, England.

“I am inspired and driven to help public health students think more strategically and to help business marketing students to realize that they can use their strategies for social good in the world versus just selling products,” she says.

Melissa has amassed a global perspective as a marketing director, strategist and a digital and social media lead while living and working in five major cities on four continents. She has collaborated with brands and organizations such as Unilever, L’oreal, Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Olympic Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities, and Victoria Against Violence.

Most recently, Melissa has put her energy in starting up SportsHosts, an initiative to connect travellers with local fans to go and watch live sports together. The vision of SportsHosts is to unite people from different cultures and backgrounds through a shared passion for sport.

Melissa shares her expertise with colleagues around the world and has been a presenter at the World Social Marketing Conference series that promotes the exchange of ideas and best practices.

She highlights “human insight and truth” as a key principle for marketing and communications within public health organizations.

“To be relevant and to resonate, campaigns must be based on human truth,” she explains. “It’s important then to develop a deep understanding of audiences and to involve those audiences as much as possible in the campaign planning process.”

Melissa recognizes the “a-ha moment” when her MPH students make that all-important leap in understanding the essence of social marketing and health communications.

“Social marketing is so much bigger than just social media,” she adds. “As professionals, we can apply effective and forward-thinking business strategies to address the world’s public health concerns. That gives us a unique opportunity to create change.”

Dr. Antony Chum

Assistant Professor

Department of Health Sciences

“The practice of public health is much broader than the health sector. The WHO and Public Health Agency of Canada have identified ‘intersectoral collaborations’ as a priority area to address the social determinants of health, since actions undertaken both inside and outside the health sector can play a critical role in shaping population health. I am particularly excited that our MPH program builds the capacity for our graduates to take a variety of roles — whether they are service or policy-focused roles in the health or non-health settings across government, non-profit, or private sectors — to address the determinants of health and health equity.”

As a health geographer, Dr. Antony Chum works closely with community groups and governmental organizations to promote health equity goals. His research centres on understanding socio-environmental determinants of health and developing strategies to build healthier cities and communities, especially for marginalized and underserved communities such as the homeless, low-income, and LGBT people. His recent work includes collaborating with the United Nations and World Health Organization to produce the Joint Global Report on Urban Health.

Antony is also an Associate Scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Ont., a major teaching and research hospital with expertise in diverse areas of health care. This position gives Antony a base to launch a multidisciplinary lab and collaboration network.

“I am currently working with groups such as Rainbow Health Ontario, Egale Canada, and The Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences to investigate how to use OHIP and hospitalization data to understand the risk of suicide and quality of care for those at risk of suicide in the LGBT community,” he explains. “The findings of this research can be used in clinical and community settings to help reduce LGBT suicides.”

Antony also works with an interdisciplinary team of researchers in Toronto as part of At Home/Chez Soi, a five-city national housing and health care project funded and coordinated by the Mental Health Commission of Canada. At Home/Chez Soi is a demonstration trial providing housing to homeless people with mental illnesses. The goal is to produce evidence about what works to improve housing stability and health for people with mental health issues. It is also being carried out in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Montreal and Moncton.

“While research into social and environmental determinants of health is important, we also need to move towards designing and evaluating solution to help solve complex public health problems. I try to balance these two dimensions of public health research in my work,” he says.

Antony is recognized for contributing to the study of built-environmental determinants of health and wellbeing through his advances in spatial data collection.

“There is an urgent need to develop novel methods to represent the complexities of human behaviour and the built environment,” he says. “I draw on the disciplines of urban and health geography, environmental and social epidemiology, and GIS (Geographic Information Science). My approach is aimed at enabling researchers to build strong evidence that will guide healthy planning policies — urban planning, architecture, and urban design — to promote urban health.”

Dr. Brent E. Faught

Professor of Epidemiology

Department of Health Sciences
MPH Graduate Program Director

“Our students come from different parts of the globe. While exciting, our MPH faculty and staff are challenged with dealing with various time zones as well as students’ life and work schedules. It’s not uncommon to receive emails from students at all hours of the day and night. I get a real charge, when I’m working in the late hours of the evening in Ontario, to respond in real time to students in other parts of the world. Our students always seem surprised. In many respects, that’s what our MPH program and, more specifically, what public health is all about. Where and when we can, it’s important to impress on our students the reality of 24/7 global health and that illness waits for no one.”

Dr. Brent E. Faught was raised on a family farm in Ontario’s Ottawa Valley. His natural curiosity, coupled with the farm-life lessons of working alongside his parents and siblings to harvest crops and milk cows, shape his teaching and research in epidemiology to this day.

“Farming is challenging because it’s unpredictable and ever-changing. We were taught to not just work hard, but to ‘work smart’ with reason and logic,” he says. “That logistical and practical sense is part of how I look at everything from helping students achieve their full potential to tackling interesting research questions in epidemiology. Those are also qualities that are really important to students who will find themselves on the frontline of public health challenges.”

His research expertise is in physical activity epidemiology. Funded by CIHR, Brent has invested significantly in examining the risk factors associated with children diagnosed with Developmental Coordination Disorder. He has also researched concussion in minor hockey with funding from Hockey Canada and the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation.

Brent revels in working with talented faculty and staff, collaborating with scientists around the world, and being inspired by the enthusiasm of his students.

“My research blends into my lectures! I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with students and peers about my discoveries. This new knowledge often leads to more research inquiries and helps students embrace new opportunities and adventures. The thrill that comes with research is discovery, and sometimes, serendipitous moments when you discover something by pure accident.”

Brent was well suited to lead the design of the MPH online program — the first of its kind at Brock University — and to carry on as the MPH Graduate Program Director. His long-standing record of outstanding teaching includes an Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) Teaching Award along with several excellence in teaching awards from Brock. Those awards recognize his contributions to curriculum innovation, new teaching technologies and experiential learning, in a range of courses such as population and clinical epidemiology, public health practicum and health sciences information technology.

“I’m an education innovator and big believer in experiential learning,” he says. “I love the fact that we have students doing practicums across Canada and beyond. It gives our MPH students a greater perspective of what public health means in terms of being a diverse, global community yet having similar challenges and opportunities.”

Dr. Paula Gardner

Associate Professor

Department of Health Sciences

“Public health is complex. The social factors that determine health including poverty, race, and gender can be incredibly difficult to discuss yet having this dialogue is critical to our understanding – of the issue AND of our role in it. I have been thrilled with the way in which the online format of this program provides a space to make ourselves vulnerable and begin to have these hard conversations. It’s just one of the many things I find exciting about this program.”

Dr. Paula Gardner’s research is located at the intersection of health, aging and place. As a community-based public health researcher, communities, and in particular neighbourhoods and university campuses, are the living labs for her research.

In her work as a social gerontologist and qualitative health researcher, Paula explores aging from a critical perspective to challenge assumptions about aging and disability, re-imagine practices and policies in community and care settings, and develop new ways of knowing that prioritize the lived experience of older adults.

Often described as a “walker stalker” Paula’s mobility research has her following along (or chasing) older adults and observing them in their everyday environment. One of her most recent projects, funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, explores the concept of mobility aid personalization (MAPx) — finding that older adults are more willing to use a mobility device once they give it their personal stamp customizing it to reflect their identity as well as meet their functional needs. Because sharing her work with others, particularly those outside of academia, is important to Paula, she created a blog The Mobility Project which provides a space for others to champion mobility and accessibility.

As an educator interested in supporting student wellness and academic success, Paula also leads a program of research aimed at promoting positive mental health among university students. The purpose of The Mindfulness Experiment is to examine the impact of an in-class mediation practice on students, instructors and the classroom environment.  This work has received a great deal of attention from various audiences including the Niagara Region Public Health where she has accepted several invitations to present on the topic.

Paula has a PhD in Public Health, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Sciences at Brock University, and faculty fellow and Continuing Education Coordinator with the Critical Qualitative Health Research Centre at the University of Toronto.  She has written and presented broadly on her methodological approach, most recently in a book chapter – Qualitative interviewing – More than asking questions”.

Paula’s research and approach to teaching have been described as ‘innovative’, ‘interesting’ and ‘fun’.  She is the recipient of several teaching awards including the 2018 Faculty of Applied Health Sciences Award for Excellence in Teaching. Teaching for the Brock MPH program is an exciting opportunity for Paula who challenges herself to use the full range of technologies an online format allows while also ensuring she builds a rapport and connects with her students.

Paula’s research and approach to teaching have been described as ‘innovative’, ‘interesting’ and ‘fun’.  She is the recipient of several teaching awards including the 2018 Faculty of Applied Health Sciences Award for Excellence in Teaching. Teaching for the Brock MPH program is an exciting opportunity for Paula who challenges herself to use the full range of technologies an online format allows while also ensuring she builds a rapport and connects with her students.

Dr. Madelyn Law

Associate Professor

Department of Health Sciences

“Teaching in the online environment allows students the flexibility to engage with the material in a way that fits their lifestyle. This flexibility is key to ensuring an accessible experience for those students who may be working professionals and who want to move forward in their education. “ 

“I truly enjoy working with our students. Some students come with experience in the field while others have recently graduated with degrees in different disciplines such as psychology, sociology, business, and social work. They bring a different lens to health topics and that allows for rich discussions in MPH classes.”

Dr. Madelyn Law is as passionate about creating high-performance health systems as she is about guiding students to become high-performance health professionals.

Madelyn channels that passion into building partnerships and relationships within the health sector and opening up avenues of opportunities in which she and her students can make a difference to public health practice and services.

Her research is focused on organizational culture and change management to enhance the quality — safety, accessibility, effectiveness —of existing systems. This work has led her to contribute to quality improvement projects alongside professionals in a variety of areas including public health, acute care, rehabilitation, primary care and community care settings. Madelyn’s research has been recognized with funding from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Public Health Ontario, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and Canadian Medical Protective Association.

As a teacher, Madelyn provides vision and leadership to expand experiential learning at Brock.

“The real driver for me is understanding how to create deeper learning,” she says “Deeper learning is best achieved by engaging students in meaningful activities that allows them to apply the theory and concepts that they are learning.”

She is the founder and Director of the highly successful Interprofessional Education for Quality Improvement Program. Started at Brock in 2012, I-EQUIP matches students with health organizations to carry out two-year health system improvement projects. I-EQUIP projects focus on everything from care transitions and medical imaging management to collecting health equity in hospitals and using music to enhance quality of life.

“Our I-EQUIP partners benefit from student projects that contribute directly to new knowledge and improvements in health service delivery,” she says. “Our students see how the health system works and that gives them a greater understanding of what their future roles could be as health professionals.”

Madelyn is active in many public health initiatives, for example, she is the academic lead for a Public Health Ontario project that focuses on strengthening continuous quality improvement within the province’s public health units. The project is a collaboration of 30 public health units across Ontario.

Madelyn speaks from personal experience in telling students, “until you ask questions and participate in new experiences, you never really know how much of an impact you can have on improving the health outcomes of our population.”

Dr. Jian Liu

Professor of Biostatistics

Department of Health Sciences

“I understand well what students need and I want to share with them the fundamental skills and knowledge in biostatistics/epidemiology that will equip them to work efficiently in public health areas. Teaching provides me a chance to share knowledge, skills and joy with students, which may help them to figure out what they want to do in future.”

Dr. Jian Liu contributes his intensive training in biostatistics and epidemiology to help address public health concerns across the lifespan.

“I really enjoy doing research on topics related to public health because this not only allows me to apply statistics to test research hypotheses, but the results from these studies also make a contribution to improve people’s health,” says Jian, who has past experience working as a biostatistician in provincial government.

One of his special interests is in the area of early life experience and cardiovascular risk. He has been part of research projects, conducted in the Niagara region, to investigate the prevalence of children and adolescents who are overweight or obese, are physically inactive, and have poor diet and eating habits — all factors that raise concerns for a higher cardiovascular risk profile.

These studies identified that more than one-fourth of youths in Niagara were overweight or obese and attributed this to factors such as family eating environment, food items selection, skipping breakfast behaviour, and sleep problems. The results were invaluable to developing and implementing prevention and intervention strategies to mitigate school-age obesity.

Jian also is examining the impact of depression on seniors’ chronic diseases. His work involves analysing data collected as part of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA). The study is a long-term national project to gather information from approximately 50,000 men and women between the ages of 45 and 85, about the changing biological, medical, psychological, social lifestyle and economic aspects of their lives as they age.

“With a rapidly aging population increase in Canada, the results from this study may provide information for prevention and intervention among Canadian seniors on chronic diseases related to depression,” says Jian.

As a teacher, Jian recognizes the challenge that biostatistics presents to many students.

“It’s extremely satisfying to encourage students to overcome this challenge by helping them understand how statistics works. The best way to do that is through practice so that they can see how the application of statistical concepts can help to solve real world problems. It boosts their confidence and it adds to their passion and will for epidemiology/biostatistics research.”

Dr. Izabella Ludwa

MPH Program Coordinator

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SCIENCES

“I find it very rewarding to be part of the MPH community and surrounded by people who are driven to promote health, prevent disease, improve quality of life.”

Izabella Ludwa easily relates to the demands and pressures facing MPH students.

It wasn’t all that long ago that she was in their shoes.

As the MPH Program Coordinator, Izabella says her experience as a student, juggling studies and family, gives her a huge perspective into how best to provide support to MPH students.

Izabella spent the best part of her accomplished student career at Brock. She took her undergrad degree at the University of Toronto and then came to Brock for her masters in kinesiology so that she could study with Dr. Nota Klentrou. She moved on to her PhD work — in fact, she was Brock’s first PhD student in Applied Health Sciences.

It was not an easy journey for the mother of two children, ages 2 and 7, to get to Convocation day in October 2016, and walk across the stage and receive her PhD degree

“I had my second child only nine days before the ceremony,” she says. “It was quite the journey, a long adventure and I couldn’t have done it without the help of some truly amazing people.”

Izabella is thrilled to have an opportunity to work at Brock in a role through which she can pay forward the support she received to persevere and succeed at her academic goals.

She’s a master of multi-tasking with responsibilities that span the moment a student shows interest in the program to the moment they receive their degrees. She’s at the frontline of recruitment, registration, admissions, course calendar, timetables, academic advising, student services and of managing the MPH Sakai learning management site. As well, she helps students research practicum options and apply for placements.

“In this role, I always keep in mind the resources and support that were available to me to navigate and negotiate next steps,” she says. “And, I ask myself, what else can I do, what else can I provide to students that will help them get to where they want to go.”

Izabella has a strong health sciences background that includes her master’s and doctoral research that focused on investigating the bone-muscle interaction during growth and development in children.

She is naturally suited to MPH course and curriculum topics.

Dr. Adam J. MacNeil

Associate Professor

Department of Health Sciences

“Teaching in the MPH program and working with highly engaged future public health professionals is significantly rewarding. I aim to inspire passion and equip our students with weapons to better understand the urgency around infection control at a population scale as we move closer to a post-antibiotic world.

“As an immunologist with a major focus on scientific advancement at the bench, I revel in the opportunity to engage with our students, the future leaders in public health, and actively stir basic and applied science into the melting pot of public health. I firmly consider equipping our students with scientific knowledge and rigour that is needed to advance public health strategies in infection control and beyond.”

Dr. Adam MacNeil recognizes there is a lot at stake for students, teachers and researchers whose work is focused on global public health threats. The strength of public health breakthroughs, says the immunologist, comes out of fostering excellence through the linkages between learning and the latest scientific advancements.

“Without health, we have nothing. Teaching and doing research are inseparable. Doing both well breeds success for the student, instructor, research program, institution, and community at large,” says Adam who is a past winner of the Brock University Award for Excellence in Teaching for Early Career Faculty.

“To do research well, means continual learning at the leading edge of the literature and effectively passing critical aspects of that knowledge to your students, colleagues, and co-workers so that the community, as a whole, benefits. Likewise, in the classroom, course content is shaped year by year as research in the field progresses. Being an effective teacher means encouraging engagement with the latest body of knowledge so that our students understand what is known and what remains to be determined.”

Adam has an impressive record of research that touches on a number of pressing global health issues.

His work in the area of infection control is primarily focused on the interface between microbes and how the immune system responds to them. His early research centered around immunodeficiency, has led him into other directions. For example, his laboratory is currently investigating novel immune responses to Zika virus as a way of better understanding these vector-borne infections and what immune players might modulate the site of infection toward better infection control strategies.

He’s had a long-time interest in experimental vaccine development. He spent part of his postdoctoral fellowship developing a novel vaccine platform that leverages the immune system’s recognition of virus-like particles in an effort to focus its attention on breast cancer cells hiding in plain sight. His passion for this research continues today given the current issues around vaccine hesitancy and misinformation.

He also has an innovative study under way into the allergy epidemic. With support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation John R. Evans Leaders Fund, Adam and his team are using leading-edge biomedical methods and technology to look at the fundamental processes driving allergic inflammation.

“My team is investigating how we respond to an allergen and the role key participating players are taking at a molecular and cellular level so that we may translate that knowledge to the benefit of the hundreds of millions worldwide suffering from these inappropriate immune responses.”

Dr. Sinéad McElhone

Adjunct Professor

Department of Health Sciences
Manager of Surveillance and Evaluation, Niagara Region Public Health

“Having worked both in academia and in public health, I am very interested in applying real life scenarios into my teaching to offer students practical experience which they can integrate into their working practices. I have been using examples from my current work, focused on some of the biggest health issues in Niagara, within my teaching to enhance the students’ knowledge and application of these skills.”

Dr. Sinéad McElhone is setting the course for Niagara Region Public Health (NRPH) to navigate today’s oceans of health data in order to achieve the best outcomes for residents of all ages.

Sinéad is the NRPH’s Manager of Surveillance and Evaluation. She leads a team of data- and information-related professionals including epidemiologists, medical informatics specialists, data analysts, a statistician and a geospatial health specialist. They have a challenging role in applying modern data analytics techniques to new and historical data sources, as part of the department’s surveillance and health assessment initiatives.

“We’re grappling with the diversity of data now available, the governance associated with these new and traditional data sources and how to transform these data into usable insights to support decision making to improve the health of local populations,” Sinéad explains.

Sinéad recently led a massive 18-month examination of health data by the NRPH. The project applied a “life course” approach to looking at nearly 50,000 lines of data about Niagara residents across the lifespan. She shared highlights of the study as the co-author of a policy brief, The Future of Niagara’s Health: Using a Life-Course Approach to Improve Well-Being.”

“The life-course perspective offers a transformational way of looking at health, not as disconnected stages unrelated to each other, but as an integrated continuum,” Sinéad explains. “Presenting data using this approach identifies times at which health and social care organizations can effectively provide targeted interventions during key life periods to have the largest impact on health and well-being.”

Her team also places a heavy focus on health equity and the concept of identifying the prevalence of key health issues such as diabetes, cancer and sexually transmitted infections in various demographic groups.

Sinéad began working for NRPH after emigrating to Canada in 2013 with her husband and two children.

She has an undergraduate degree in Human Nutrition and a PhD in a large-scale epidemiological study of obesity in children and adolescents, from Ulster University in Northern Ireland. She was a post-doc research fellow in the area of child obesity at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. Sinéad also spent six years as a Senior Lecturer, in the areas of nutrition, epidemiology and public health, at Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, England.

“When I moved to Canada I wished to retain my teaching skills and competencies,” she says. “At the same time, I was very interested in creating strong working partnerships between Brock’s Health Sciences department and NRPH to benefit students, researchers, NRPH and the population of Niagara.”

Ashleigh Miatello

PhD candidate, Health Policy

McMaster University

“It is rewarding to witness the growth that emerges in students when they connect the course concepts with their practical experiences. I encourage students to collaborate and communicate with each other because they gain vicarious learning opportunities from sharing respective experiences. They come away from the program with the skills and abilities to move into their roles as public health professionals.”

Ashleigh Miatello is working with researchers to find ways to give patients and their families a stronger voice in shaping and implementing health policy at all levels.

Her interest in this area began as a master’s student in Brock’s Community Health Studies and continues as a PhD candidate in Health Policy at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ont. Ashleigh has always explored ways to give voice to health system users who, often because of inherent power differentials, are not heard in policy making.

“I think incorporating the best evidence is critical in health system decision making and I am passionate about the experience of system users as this provides important insights into patient, caregiver and provider needs,” says Ashleigh.

In gathering feedback and input from all stakeholders, Ashleigh has a particular focus on amplifying the stories of patients and their families as they confront the touch points of the health system in which values are challenged by experiences.

“By exploring the underlying values that patients, caregivers and services providers hold based on experiences in health-care system interactions, we can identify where alignments and differences exist within and across  perspectives,” she explains. “This can enable us to support the co-design of solutions that address the differing needs of youth, family members and service providers, in the case of youth’s transition from child to adult mental health services.”

Technology is making it possible for researchers, like Ashleigh, to provide patients and their families with new tools, right at the touch of their fingertips, to share health system experiences.

She was recently part of a research team that developed and analyzed the effectiveness of a suite of smartphone and web apps, called myExperience (myEXP) It was part of an Ontario study to gather real-time feedback from young people, family members and service providers as youth journey through mental health services. The myEXP apps were effective in terms of in-the-moment responsiveness and encouraging candid feedback. As well, the apps showed promise as reflective tools for all participants.

In another study, Youth to Adult Transitions in Mental Health Care, Ashleigh worked with researchers to develop a policy-to-practice framework for youth mental health transitions. This three-year project set out to identify gaps in service, their causes, and approaches to making care more person-centred during the transition from child to adult mental health services in Ontario. The team provided policy recommendations and information tools to support continuity of care as youth, and families, move into adult services.

Dr. Miya Narushima

Associate Professor

Department of Health Sciences

“While many MPH students were trained predominantly in quantitative methods, it’s my pleasure to see how many quickly increase their interests, skills and knowledge by applying qualitative research to their own professional and personal development.”

Dr. Miya Narushima has always been passionate about reading and listening to stories. Being a qualitative researcher is second nature to her.

By asking the “how” and “why” questions, Miya uncovers underlying factors — unique psychological, social, cultural, systemic, and structural causes — that determine our health.

“Qualitative research can help us understand the lived experiences and perceptions of individuals and communities through rich and contextual data,” says Miya. “It provides us with in-depth analytical lenses to improve health and social care services, better aligning them with the socioeconomic and cultural realities of their target groups.”

Her goal as a teacher is to help students learn how to ask questions and, equally important, how to listen effectively.

“It’s important for students to acquire step-by-step hands-on experience of qualitative research on a current topic in public health,” she says. “Students will learn to be better interviewers as well as better listeners through practicing their active listening and probing skills in an in-depth qualitative interview for their own projects.”

Miya completed her doctoral training at the OISE/University of Toronto in the area of adult education and community development, fields which largely overlap with the health promotion discipline.

Her research activity has two main themes — to investigate factors that help develop an individual’s capabilities, and to create supportive social environments that increase health equity among people with diverse backgrounds. For example, she has led research projects that focus on community-based educational activities to promote health in older adults and migrants.

“I am particularly passionate about promoting healthy aging and well-being through facilitating various community-based later-life activities such as lifelong learning and volunteering in order to realize an age-friendly society where people could have a full life,” Miya adds.

“Aging and well-being has been always my central interest. After joining the public health program at Brock, I’ve gained more opportunities to strengthen the connection between my research and teaching areas through working with colleagues and students in the public health field.”

She particularly enjoys working with MPH students.

“They are a diverse group who come from different professions, regions, and perspectives. They bring their own resources into the course, that creates a productive non-threatening peer-to-peer learning experience that encompasses the students, the TA, and the instructor alike.”

Dr. Cassandra Ogunniyi

Strategic and Health Equity Initiatives Coordinator, Medical Division

Niagara Region Public Health and Emergency Services

“I look forward to inspiring and equipping the next generation of public health practitioners to understand population level health and the determinants of health and to be able to put knowledge to action and make a difference in their community.”

Dr. Cassandra Ogunniyi has lived and worked in four countries on three continents at various stages of her academic and professional career. Initially, her major interest was in the field of sport for development. Then, as she says, “public health found me.”

“I realized that I could use my skills, knowledge, and experience, previously focused on an international scale, to influence local or provincial policies, procedures, and practices in order to positively affect population level health,” she says.

Cassandra is the Strategic and Health Equity Initiatives Coordinator, Medical Division, at Niagara Region Public Health and Emergency Services. One of her main responsibilities is to implement the Health Equity Strategic Plan.

She also led a Public Health Ontario Locally Driven Collaborative Project to investigate the best ways to share health equity related data from local public health agencies to community organizations. As well, she is involved in a working group, of the Association of Local Public Health Agencies/Ontario Public Health Association (alPha/OPHA), to advance health equity at municipal, provincial, and national levels.

“Health equity is when all people have the opportunity to reach their full health potential and are free from social, economic, demographic, or geographic barriers to health,” she says. “It is important because there are some population groups in society that encounter barriers, which are unjust, unfair, and avoidable, and in public health, we are working to reduce these barriers.”

Cassandra’s bachelor’s degree in International Development Studies at the University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont., included 10 months working for Right To Play with Burundian and Congolese refugees in Western Tanzania, using sport to teach life and health skills. She focused on sport for development for her master’s degree in Practical Anthropology, at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, studying the gender and power dynamics between leaders of a local non-governmental organization that used soccer to teach children about HIV and AIDS. Her PhD thesis in Sports Management at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, examined the social impacts of females playing soccer in the context of poverty.

“Anthropology, in particular, taught me the importance of humility in working towards understanding a culture or population, a skill that is very useful in relation to cultural humility and health equity,” Cassandra explains. “It recognizes that the best experts about a certain population are the people in that population.”

Cassandra maintains an international profile. Recently, she was the project manager and co-author of a collaboration to develop two physical activity manuals that integrate South African Indigenous Games and Modified Sports with 12 important life values. She also was co-editor, and contributor to the Gender Awareness Manual produced by the German Development Agency (GIZ) Youth Development through Football (YDF) program.

Dr. Martin C. Tammemägi

Professor of Epidemiology

Department of Health Sciences

“I have spent many years of my life studying, learning and conducting research. It’s important to try passing on some of my acquired knowledge to the next generations. One of the things that I enjoy most teaching MPH students is watching and discovering them learning. As they progress, most students learn new ideas and can solve challenging problems – that is exciting.”

Dr. Martin Tammemägi is giving many lung cancer patients a new lease on life.

Martin is recognized internationally for his long-term research in developing and improving a lung cancer predication model as an effective tool in predicting a person’s likelihood of developing lung cancer. His original discovery was published in 2013 in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

“My career in cancer research has been a natural fit,” he says. “Cancer is a major public health problem, so warrants vigorous efforts. Also, cancer remains an enigma, and if you enjoy problem solving and tackling mysteries, solving cancer problems will challenge you.”

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in North America and in the world. Five-year survival rates for lung cancer are only about 17 per cent. This is because lung cancer is usually diagnosed after symptoms have appeared and the disease is at such an advanced stage that it is no longer amenable to surgical cure.

Martin’s national study confirming the effectiveness of the model was reported in The Lancet Oncology in 2017. With funding from the Terry Fox Research Institute and Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, the research team recruited 2,537 participants, current and former smokers between the ages of 50 and 75 who were identified to be at risk for developing lung cancer after filling out the risk prediction calculator. They were offered computed tomography (CT scan) lung screening at the start of the study, after one year, after four years and with additional follow-ups. Results showed that the model detected lung cancers in 6.5 per cent of the study’s participants. Of those, 75 per cent of these lung cancers were potentially curable early Stage 1 or 2.

“In fact, we found more lung cancers than expected,” says Martin. “The prediction model is a tool that is very successful at identifying individuals at risk of developing lung cancer at an early, curable stage when combined with low dose CT screening.”

In March 2019, in the journal JAMA Network Open, Martin announced that he had come up with a more powerful model, showing for the first-time the impact of combining the original model data with results of computed tomography (CT) lung screening scans.

“The inclusion of screening results to the model helps better select individuals who would benefit from screening and informs them whether they need to go for screening or how often they need to continue screening,” he says.

In ongoing work, Martin is co-leader of the TFRI-funded “The Terry Fox Pan-Canadian Early Detection of Lung Cancer Study: Extension” project. The idea is to detect lung cancer at an early, potentially curable stage by encouraging people at risk to go for lung cancer screening and improving lung cancer screening programs. The current study is looking at whether air pollution and genetic information can further improve our risk prediction model. He is also the Scientific Lead on Cancer Care Ontario’s lung cancer screening pilot.

As well, he collaborates with researchers from around the world such as U.S. National Institutes of Health and the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia. His prediction model for the detection of lung cancer nodules in CT scanning is recommended for use by The American College of Radiology and the British Thoracic Society Guidelines.