Impact Spotlight: Cheryl Camillo

Imagining a Better Future for Vulnerable Communities

By Charvee Sharma, Communications Specialist

For more than three decades, Dr. Cheryl Camillo (PhD) has been involved in understanding, developing, and implementing solutions to real-world social policy and governance challenges. 

As an interdisciplinary health policy expert at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (JSGS), her overarching goal is to enhance global population health and well-being by improving access to health care and social services, particularly among underserved vulnerable populations. 

Camillo’s fascination with health and social justice stems from her early years and is also closely aligned with the University of Regina's Research strengths: Integrated Human Health: Equity, Disease & Prevention. “For as long as I can remember,” she said. Camillo was inspired by her mother, who was the head nurse of the emergency department in a Level 1 trauma centre.  

Growing up in the presence of a strong, compassionate role model instilled in Camillo a deep-rooted passion for improving the lives of vulnerable communities. 

Born and raised on Canada's border in Buffalo, N.Y., Camillo found her path to health systems and policy in an unconventional way. At the start of her career, she worked for civil rights and health access for the LGBTQIA2S+ community during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Today, her interdisciplinary knowledge continues to shape her work. She majored in political science at the Yale University, went on to earn a Master of Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, and then a PhD in Public Policy from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.  

Having served in various public policy-making roles, Camillo brings a ruminative approach to identifying gaps and complexities in implementing public programs and policies. “Policy and economic research need to do a better job of recognizing and highlighting the effects of current neoliberal trickle-down economics on societies,” she said.

Camillo’s latest research article examines the impact of proof of vaccination mandates associated with first-dose coverage in different age groups in Canada. Funded by a $9 million grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to the Coronavirus Variants Rapid Response Network (CoVaRR-Net) for which she is Deputy Pillar Lead for Public Health, Health Systems, and Social Policy Impacts, Camillo has led a large research team conducting comparative research into Canada’s provincial and territorial COVID-19 vaccination campaigns to identify strategies, such as proof of vaccination policies, that can enhance vaccine access, particularly for vulnerable demographic groups. This research team includes Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine (PhD), of the University of Saskatchewan (USask) at the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Dr. Sara Allin (PhD) of the University of Toronto, and Dr. Tiffany Fitzpatrick (PhD) now of Public Health Ontario. 

Reflecting on her career, Camillo understands the challenges associated with incentivizing research. For her, a shift towards collaborative team research outcomes, instead of individual research output, is crucial for bringing about meaningful change. 

“In academia, incentive structures tend to revolve around quantitative metrics such as the amount and monetary value of grants or trainees employed,” she said. 

Looking ahead, Camillo envisions “a world without barriers between academic disciplines, where the lines between academics, scholars, and practitioners are blurred.” 

She also advocates the promotion of investments in intersectoral and interdisciplinary research. “Such initiatives get launched from time-to-time but aren’t sustained because it takes hard research funding, as well as soft grant funding that is intended only for specific research projects/purposes,” she said.