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A simple choice turned into a fulfilling experience for one MHA student

With over 10 years of health care experience, Stefany Kawka joined the online Master of Health Administration program to advance her career.

“The Master of Health Administration (MHA) placement was a simple choice to make,” said Stefany Kawka, an MHA student based out of Ottawa who recently completed her placement requirements in Regina with the Government of Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Health.

With over 10 years of health care experience—including an Honours Bachelor of Kinesiology and a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy—and after working in varied clinical, instructor, and management positions, Stefany decided that she needed to ‘up her game’ to progress to more senior-level positions.

“System transformation is of key interest to me.  Being a strong agent of change, I am committed to the continuous improvement of Canadian healthcare, and its management and leadership in support of excellence in patient-centred care,” she said.

Stefany applied to the MHA program as she felt its design was both interactive and flexible, and because it included online learning, coursework, and on-campus residencies, allowing her to connect further with her cohort from across Canada.

“The MHA program has required me to thrive in varied team environments, build new relationships, be resourceful, learn new content in short timeframes, and use critical thinking, analysis, evaluation and communication skills. I believe strongly that my success in this MHA program will be an integral part of my healthcare journey.”

An exceedingly popular program among health professionals since its launch in 2012, the MHA program helps students develop the knowledge and skills required by managers in the health field which in turn allows them to contribute to improving the effectiveness of program and policy development, health service delivery, implementation and evaluation.  It also provides students with a unique opportunity to enroll in an in-person placement within a partner organization, such as the Government of Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Health. During their placement, students work on a designated policy project under the supervision of a mentor within the organization and their course instructor. 

Stefany was intrigued by the opportunity with the Ministry of Health, and wanted to immerse herself in the organizational culture, experience provincial-level work demands and pressures, and commit to project work within a highly-defined, one-month timeline.

“I choose this opportunity as I knew I would be able to speak to what tasks were completed, what skills were acquired, and what contributions and impact I was able to make with measurable and objective outcomes,” said Kawka. “Having such a defined experience helped me grow with project management needs and with the appreciation of growing meaningful and impressionable connections within a short timeframe.”

During her placement, Stefany worked on a project about suicide prevention in Saskatchewan. She completed data collection along with a thorough analysis and summarizing of that data to demonstrate trends, patterns and key indicators. In addition to this, she completed literature reviews and researched specific methods for prevention and for evaluated programs that have shown success with their initiatives. She presented her findings to executives in various Ministry of Health departments, along with the submission of briefing notes and a detailed framework outlining the short and long-term objectives of an action plan. Stefany considers the placement with the Ministry of Health to be the most impactful component of her graduate studies to date.

“The placement allowed me to use what I have learned so far in my program and apply it to true health initiatives in Saskatchewan that are a sensitive topic. Knowing that my research and recommendations could one day support an individual, family and community, brings great meaning to my work.”

"I was very impressed by the project that Stefany completed with the Ministry's Community Care Branch," said MHA Director and Health Policy professor Cheryl Camillo. "Like previous students, she began her placement as an experienced health professional curious about the policymaking process and left as a keen policy analyst. I look forward to watching her positively impact Canadian health policy." 

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