Sera Thomas

Degree: MSc Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Graduating year2015
Area of Research: Ophthalmology & Health Economics 
Name of Supervisor: Dr. Monali Malvankhar-Mehta
Grants: Lawson Strategic Research Fund 
  • My Journey

  • Future Aspirations

When I was in highschool I did a project on HIV Aids. I really enjoyed the process of synthesizing research and coming up with research questions. I was first introduced to applying the pathophysiology of a disease and combining that with its epidemiology to analyze the trends of HIV Aids. This really intrigued me and led me to the decision that I wanted to be an epidemiologist.

Once I decided epidemiology was what I wanted to do I enrolled in Life Sciences program which provided me with the background on human biology, statistics, and scientific methods in order to prepare me for a Masters degree.

I continued my progression through professional experience at Mount Sinai Hospital which gave me firsthand experience with the world of research and health policy. I was particularly drawn to improving patient outcomes and the reduction of hospital-acquired infections. I realized that the most effective way to contribute to patient outcomes was to apply evidence-based medicine. Thus, I enrolled in the Epidemiology program.

I specifically chose epidemiology because it is a very useful and beneficial skillset professionally and personally. It provides not only knowledge but application of quantitative methods to research. Statistical analysis is core to testing hypotheses, answering research questions, and generating larger conclusions. Epidemiology provides the research methods that will ensure your study design will generate valid outcomes. What interests me the most about epidemiology is its interdisciplinary nature; it combines the use of quantitative and research methods to generate conclusions that can be transferred into evidence-based medicine. In addition, the discipline requires collaboration with various teams (researchers, health policy makers, scientists, economists, physicians, healthcare providers). This collaboration fosters networks which are efficient, effective, beneficial to creating better research projects and research outcomes.  

My favourite memory studying at Western is the Research Seminar course. It provided the opportunity to be introduced to many professionals in the field and learn about their career trajectories and research projects. It was an excellent way to discuss how epidemiology is applied in their work lives and to network. I appreciated that the research seminar exposed me to epidemiology in different research areas, gave me the “Insider Insights” and all I had to do was sit in one place!

Future Aspirations

My current research is in ophthalmology and health economics. I am studying the use of telemedicine screening devices for prevalent ophthalmic diseases. I research the effectiveness of these devices and whether they are cost-effective interventions. My other research projects include the determination of a mathematical model that can derive utility values from clinical ophthalmic data. These projects will be useful for improving the health outcomes of patients with chronic diseases such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. 

My future aspiration is to apply epidemiology and the quantitative skills mastered through this program to either academia, public or private health sectors, including hospitals, government, and professional organizations. I am interested in health economics, population health and surveillance, and clinical research, as well as research literature, knowledge translation, and health policy. I hope to combine my epidemiology skills with my professional experience to conduct research and create efficient and cost-effective health policies that will improve both patient and population health outcomes.