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Turning personal experience into a bustling career

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Luz Helena Saavedra Valdemar first realized her interest in public health after she was diagnosed with a giant cell tumour on her second cervical vertebra.  With a desire to impact the delivery of Mexican health care services, Saavedra Valdemar began looking for ways she could assist in creating more timely and accessible care for the general public.

Now a Master of Public Health Candidate, Saavedra Valdemar aims to further her learning and use her newly acquired knowledge to inform her professional work in public health.

Saavedra Valdemar began her public health education journey with post-secondary education in Biotechnology Engineering and professional experience with Health Technology Assessment. That helped her to secure a role as a Health Economics Advisor with the General Health Council in Mexico.

The General Health Council is responsible for developing, updating and disseminating the National Formulary of Mexico’s Public Health system to ensure that patients have equitable access to the most beneficial and cost-effective treatments available.  

After just eight months of working as a Health Economics Advisor, Saavedra Valdemar was promoted to Deputy Director of the institution. She says the most exciting part of her job with the General Health Council was her involvement with promoting affordable access to safe and effective medicine and vaccines.

“I am proud of the passion and responsibility I put into every day of my work. I always wanted to have a direct impact on the interventions available to Mexicans, so through my professional work, I felt motivated to analyze the benefits of every pharmaceutical drug or medical-product I came across,” she said.

Noting that many people in Mexico suffer with their health because of issues with affordable access to medical care, Saavedra Valdemar says finding solutions to combat that barrier to care is necessary to create a functioning health system and to obtain universal health coverage for the country.

She believes Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s Master of Public Health Program will provide her with the necessary skills to find new and innovative approaches to the problems she encountered in her work in Mexico.

“The Master of Public Health Program's case-based method and team-based learning, which means 'learning by doing', will help me to enhance my knowledge about public health and to construct better arguments to make decisions and develop practical programs to improve our health system,” she said.

The expertise of the Program’s professors, such as Amardeep Thind, PhD, and Ava John-Baptiste, PhD, is also something that attracted Saavedra Valdemar to the Program.

“Having Dr. Thind as my professor is an opportunity to learn more about the access to barriers and primary care,” she said. “I also consider Dr. John-Baptiste’s expertise in health technology assessment to be strongly aligned with my professional career and think it will guide me to apply health economics in my work when making decisions about public health policy and practice.”

Saavedra Valdemar also has a special interest in ‘orphan products’, which are products specifically designed to act as intervention treatments for rare diseases, and aims to complete her 12-week practicum placement at an organization involved with this type of work.

With her first semester of the Program almost completed, she says the connections and relationships she has built with her classmates while studying in Canada have continued to inspire her and help her see new view points to public health.

“All of them have something to contribute to the Program, and I believe all of us have been strategically selected to build a multidisciplinary cohort,” said Saavedra Valdemar. “At the end of the Program, even if we are from different countries and end up in different areas of practice, we will still be connected through the same objective: To promote and protect the health of people and communities.”