Student and Alumni Stories

Henry Nguyen

Master of Public Health Alumni

Statistician, Niagara Region Public Health

“One of the biggest highlights of the MPH program was the continued support from instructors and the program coordinator. I always felt at ease at how accessible staff were and how fast email turnarounds were. Instructors were always available and some were willing to video conference for clarification on assignments and deadlines. Overall, program members made it easier for me to transition into full-time online studies. The program coordinator was particularly helpful with logistics and guidance to assist students in finding practicum placements.”

Henry Nguyen, a recent MPH graduate, has an up-close view of the staggering statistics that make Niagara one of the hardest hit regions across Canada for an escalating opioid crisis.

Henry was hired in October 2018 as a statistician with the Surveillance and Health Assessment and Research Evaluation (SHARE) Unit at Niagara Region Public Health (NRPH). He moved into the job immediately following his five-month MPH practicum with the unit. He also had previous summer work experiences with the NRPH.

Now, as part of SHARE’s team of epidemiologists and data specialists, Henry is working with community partners on a comprehensive opioid strategy to combat the crisis.

In 2017, St. Catharines, Welland and Niagara Falls were amongst the top Canadian cities, with a population of 50,000 or more, with the highest rates of emergency department (ED) visits related to opioid use.

“The SHARE team is constantly looking at new ways to enhance data quality and collection to make opioid related data as optimal as possible,” he explains. “This is by far the most challenging thing I’ve ever been a part of — it’s a matter of lives being saved and with that comes enormous pressure by the public and council to find a solution to mitigate all of this.”

“I had a frontline perspective to see how drug users behave when I was visiting some of the other community organizations as part of this strategy. When you see things and see people in the circumstances they’re in, it reminds you why you’re in this field. I went into public health to help build better lives for everyone in Niagara”

During his MPH practicum with the SHARE Unit, Henry was involved analyzing Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) data and then compiling data summaries.

“It was exciting as a student to work with people in the field and to get to know their everyday routine,” he says. “I don’t think I could have found a better team of teachers and mentors than the professionals at SHARE.”

“The goal of my practicum project was to provide tangible information and data to public health about health behaviours, beliefs and knowledge and allow them to use this information for future planning,” Henry explains. “This included performing data analysis pertaining to physical activity, healthy diets, chronic health issues, substance use, environmental health and much more.”

Henry is the son of Vietnamese immigrants and he came to Brock in 2013, from his hometown of Cambridge, Ont., to study Community Health. His initial idea was to pursue a career in dental hygiene but as his interest in statistics and data analysis grew, he decided to switch into Brock’s Bachelor of Public Heath in 2015 and then continue into the MPH in 2017.

“I’ve always been data driven and cared about the numbers and analytics,” he says. “I chose the MPH program to get a concentrated education and practical experience about the public health field.”

“I’ve taken online courses before but taking an entire program online felt new. It gave me the flexibility to do things at my pace. That was important because I was a TA at the time and I wanted to continue with my other interests.”

“I also knew that I’d be learning from faculty, some of whom I had during my undergrad, who always went the extra distance to help students and were passionate about teaching and molding the next generation.”

Henry sees a bright road ahead for his career — one that could lead to becoming an epidemiologist or research analyst. He’s considering a PhD in data sciences or health informatics. That’s a few years off though. For now, he’s already landed what he calls “a dream job” that revolves around his interests in the data and research elements of public health.

“I always want to go the extra mile to become better than average,” he says. “My biggest fear is complacency. I believe in taking the routes that will be the best for me. Anyone can do the easy things in life.  I’m better because of the MPH program. It’s prepared me with the kind of academic knowledge and practical skills to succeed at whatever path I decide to take.”

Yulia Sternin

Master of Public Health Student

“First and foremost, I’m interested in the local delivery of rehabilitation services across Niagara,” Yulia says. “During my career I’ve seen a dramatic change in service delivery. Looking to my future in public health, I’d like to contribute in policy writing that will help to address issues that enhance access of rehab services.”

MPH student Yulia Sternin comes from a long line of health-care professionals.

In fact, as a physiotherapist for more than 20 years, Yulia has followed in the footsteps of four generations of her family who worked in various health-care fields.

She has an expansive physiotherapy background in a variety of Niagara-based settings that include hospitals, private clinics, rehab centres and long-term care facilities. That experience came together in 2016 when she established her own company, YES Rehab Services. She operates a physiotherapy clinic in St. Catharines and also contracts a team of physiotherapists, occupational therapists and kinesiologists to serve clients living at home or in long-term care facilities from Fort Erie to Burlington.

“Every new client, every new issue is a puzzle,” she says. “The biggest reward for me is to be able to solve the puzzle. What I love the most is being part of a multidisciplinary team of professionals who are striving to provide the best solutions for people who need our help.”

Yulia is in the early days of her part-time studies that began in September 2018. The online format fits her needs as she juggles a busy life of studies, work and being a mother of three children.

Her first year of course work has gone well. She describes it as both exciting and humbling to return to university studies almost two decades since completing an honours biochemistry degree at Brock followed by a physiotherapy degree at McMaster University.

“The flexibility of studying online is paramount for me right now,” she says “It’s challenging but the best thing is that the faculty are here to help you overcome those challenges. When I asked for some help, I was quickly put in touch with a TA who has been amazing.”

Yulia is soaking in new concepts, new material and new ways of thinking. She’s looking forward to making connections, during her ongoing course work, with the broad MPH community of students who come from everywhere and can share diverse public health experiences and perspectives.