Feature: Empowered by learning

By Emily Leighton, MA'13

As a hospital pharmacist, Loai Bakry had a front-row seat to the importance of health promotion in empowering patients to manage their own health. From smoking to physical activity, he saw the impact on patients’ well-being and quality of life.

After working for several global pharmaceutical companies in different roles, including Novartis, Bristol Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca, his appreciation for public health grew even deeper.

“I started considering the social determinants of health as they applied to my work,” he explained. “Public health offers the opportunity to understand these factors at a population level and really appreciate the bigger picture.”

Now as a student in the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, Bakry is bringing together his interests in epidemiology, health economics and policy.

He left a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry, making the move from Dubai to London, Ontario with his family to pursue the one-year program.

The MPH program appealed to him because of its case-based methodology. “The program emphasizes real-world application and how to apply our academic learning in practice,” he said.

He points to the learning teams as another highlight of the program. Learning teams are assigned for the duration of the MPH program’s eight-month coursework section. These smaller groups complete assignments together and engage in discussion around class readings and case studies – an approach that helps MPH candidates identify strengths and develop leadership skills.

Loai Bakry

“It’s an amazing way to prepare for a professional career because we will never work alone or in silos as professionals,” said Bakry. “With the learning team structure, we’ve discovered how to use the strengths of everyone and to overcome conflict by listening to one another.”

“Hearing different perspectives and ways of thinking enriches and empowers us as students,” he added.

Bakry is completing his 12-week practicum placement at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, working with a team of oncologists. He is undertaking a systemic review of single fraction stereotactic body radiation therapy (SRBT) and its use as an alternative treatment option for certain cancers. He is also completing the Cancer 360 certification, as well as volunteering at the Princess Margaret Patient & Family Library.

The daily interaction with patients has had a big impact on his career goals and aspirations. “I’ve learned more about the economic burden of the cancer journey for patients,” he said. “Cost of medications, indirect expenses such as transportation and productivity loss can be substantial and become very stressful.”

With this top of mind, Bakry is planning to pursue his PhD studies in health economics, focusing on oncology. “I want to empower patients and caregivers with my research,” he said.

Bakry says the career risk he took in returning to school was well worth it. He advises others interested in the MPH program to embrace the opportunity.

“Don’t let anything stop you from pursuing your education,” he said. “This experience will lead you to an even better future.”