Alumni award shines light on distinguished public service career

Advocating for the health of others has been Sarah Viehbeck’s (BA ’02) calling since high school.

On Saturday, Sept. 16, she was recognized with the Brock University Alumni Association (BUAA) Distinguished Alumni Award in honour of her significant contributions as a public servant in the field of community health and research.

Viehbeck serves as the Chief Science Officer for the Public Health Agency of Canada, where she plays an integral role in providing strategic leadership and oversight of the agency’s science and research agenda and science-support infrastructure.

She credits much of her success to the academic grounding and foundational leadership skills she developed as an undergraduate student at Brock University.

Eager to turn her passion for community health into a fulfilling career, Viehbeck chose Brock’s Community Health Science program because of its interdisciplinary nature and strong connection to community programs and planning.

“At Brock, I received great exposure to the research process and to the connection between applied programming and how evidence can support refining that program,” she says.

As a student, Viehbeck was involved in Brock’s Leave the Pack Behind program near the beginning of its inception, playing a key role in the implementation, evaluation and refining of the program to address young adult smoking cessation.

Since then, she has dedicated her career to exploring the intersection of science and decision-making, and harnessing opportunities to positively shape the environments and systems where science is funded, conducted and used.

A man and a woman pose holding a framed certificate in front of a red wall.

Brock University Alumni Association (BUAA) President Chris Ventura (BA ’12, MEd ’17) and BUAA Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Sarah Viehbeck (BA ’02) at Brock’s Alumni Recognition Reception on Saturday, Sept. 16.

For 12 years, Viehbeck worked at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in various leadership roles until she became the Associate Vice-President Research, Evidence Integration. In this role, Viehbeck was responsible for all science-related strategy and policy development. She led the design of a comprehensive suite of programs and initiatives with a priority focus on equity, diversity and inclusion, as well as growing and maintaining a strong and sustainable Canadian health research workforce. She also played a key leadership role in the agency’s COVID-19 response and securing support for science in Canada.

“Getting to work on and help ensure research had a strong place in the country’s COVID-19 pandemic response was something I feel incredibly proud of. Science has never played a larger role in policy and practice than that time,” says Viehbeck.

The work of public servants is often done in the background. As someone who has dedicated her life and career to public service, Viehbeck says she’s humbled to have her contributions and career path recognized as an area worthy of distinction by her peers and alma mater.

“The Alumni Association is proud to shine a light on Sarah’s many contributions as a passionate public servant in the public and community health space,” says BUAA President Chris Ventura. “She has been a strong champion in her field to ensure that policies affecting the everyday lives of Canadians are underpinned by strong evidence-based research.”

Viehbeck says she is humbled and privileged to be recognized among this year’s alumni award recipients and all those who have come before her.

“This year’s award recipients are an incredibly diverse group of individuals that have all, within their own fields and backgrounds, made tremendous contributions. I’m really proud to be in such company.”

All award recipients were recognized for their outstanding contributions to their careers and respective communities at the Alumni Recognition Reception on Sept. 16, kicking off Brock’s annual Homecoming celebration.

A series of articles highlighting each Faculty recipient will be published on The Brock News in the coming days.

Nominations for the 2024 alumni awards are being accepted on the Alumni Relations website until Wednesday, Jan. 31.

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