Contributed by Julie Lapenskie, MScAH'17
There are not a lot of gerontology/aging-specific graduate programs out there - particularly in Ontario. As someone with an unwavering passion for gerontology and health, I wanted an MSc program that specifically targeted this field.
I was intrigued when I discovered Queen's new MSc in Aging and Health program. I was excited to see that Queen’s recognized the education gap amidst an aging population. I wanted to be part of a program that drives the field forward, as it educates the aging and health professionals of tomorrow.
Just six months after completing the MSc in Aging and Health, I was fortunate to land my 'dream' job as a Research Coordinator for the Quality for Individuals who require Long-Term support (QUILT) Network, an Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Health Systems Research Fund Award. I work with an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Bruyere Research Institute (Ottawa), Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, and the University of Waterloo Schlegal Research Institute for Aging. Similar to my experience in the Aging and Health program, I work with individuals from a range of professional backgrounds. This type of diversity provides opportunity to challenge myself intellectually, pushes the limits of my skills, and helps me to grow as a professional.
The QUILT Network conducts studies across health sectors that encompass a variety of older adult populations. We have projects on long-term care, retirement, hospital, rehabilitation, community care, palliative and end-of life care, ethnic and linguistic minority groups, dementia populations, informal caregivers, and the list goes on. Unique to QUILT Network projects is the use of 'big data' from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, which allows us to link health and administrative data from different health sectors across Ontario to follow older adults at an individual level over time and from one care setting to the next.
The notion of marrying knowledge translation and policy development was a common thread throughout courses in the Aging and Health program, and it's proven useful in my current role. Part of my job is to plan and implement research projects that answer Applied Health Research Questions (AHRQ) posed by policy stakeholders to inform older adult health planning and decision-making. I also help coordinate an advisory committee of older adults, caregivers, and organizational stakeholders to ensure the research we do has value for the older adult populations we strive to serve (because otherwise, what's the point, right?).
In addition, I work with upper-year undergraduate students and support them in completing aging and health related research projects. I get to share my passion and (shamelessly) push the aging and health agenda with students who might otherwise have limited exposure to the field! I also get to pay it forward by sharing my experience and learnings from my peer and professor mentors of the Aging and Health program.
I told my boss I would be writing a blog article about my experience at Queen's and my role with QUILT. He commented that, in addition to my work experience, my education was so perfectly suited to the QUILT Network that hiring me was a "no-brainer". I think that speaks volumes about how well-crafted the Queen’s MSc in Aging and Health program is for preparing future aging and health professionals to work in an environment where older adults truly are at the centre of everything we do. So thanks, Aging and Health team, for my dream job!
Learn more about the School’s online programs in Aging and Health (8-Month GDip, 12-Month MSc, 48-Month PhD), visit: http://rehab.queensu.ca/academic-programs/aghe