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Our research team goes beyond “research”

As Be the Change Group’s research lead, Stephanie Liu is an expert in gathering and evaluating information, and ensuring that everything we do is grounded in evidence. In other words, she’s a builder—carefully, thoughtfully, and meticulously laying a strong foundation in our work and the work of our clients.

Our Research Team Lead, Stephanie, showing love to her office pup, Frankie.

So when the UBC Public Health and Preventive Medicine (PHPM) Residency Program was restructuring to follow a competency-based medical education approach, Stephanie was the clear go-to. For a year and a half, she put on her hard (skills) hat, high-vis (scoping) vest, and (data-crunching) boots to support the redesign of the program’s curriculum and processes.

The residency program shapes the career trajectories of future public health specialists. Designed for medical students who have completed their undergraduate and medical education and are looking to specialize in public health and preventive medicine, it comprises five years during which resident physicians focus on improving health and well-being at a population level through health protection and health promotion methods.

Hands-on public engagement experience makes a difference

From the onset, Stephanie knew this project wouldn’t draw on her typical research skills. As a research lead, she primarily guides our team in developing research methodologies that underpin evidence-based strategies for our clients. But with her public health knowledge, academic background (a Masters in Public Health, which is also completed by residents in the first year of the program), and public engagement experience, she relished the opportunity to dig in and assist the Residency Program team. “Having an understanding of public health was definitely an asset when supporting this program because it gave me more context on what is in scope or out of scope for public health,” she says.

Stephanie had the opportunity to bring her engagement experience to bear almost immediately. In switching to a competency-based model, the program would require residents to demonstrate competence in certain professional skills before moving on to another skill set, rather than simply meeting time-based requirements, in which students simply complete a class or rotation for a certain amount of time. It was a significant shift, hence the curriculum redesign, and would first require a deep understanding of the key stakeholders in the program: residents themselves, the Medical Health Officers (MHOs) who provide mentorship to them, and B.C.’s health authorities that provide rotations for residents to work on site and participate in the existing programs and initiatives at the health authority level. 

“My understanding of the role of public health practitioners and MHOs in our province was foundational to successfully supporting the program, “Stephanie says. “It was amazing to work not only with the residents of the program who are going to be our future public health leaders or MHOs, but also with current public health leaders.” 

Building community and capacity in the public health sector

Not only did this project fit seamlessly with Be the Change Group’s work in public health, but it also dovetailed with a number of other services that Be the Change Group provides, including change management, and adult learning and curriculum design. “This project is a perfect intersection of public health and education,” Stephanie says. “It’s a local project and through it, we’ve made great connections with people. It’s really powerful to build these connections and build rapport, and feel that we’re really a part of the public health of this community.”

Working with such a wide range of MHOs and public health leaders in B.C., including those who drove the COVID-19 pandemic response in the province, Stephanie gathered information to support capacity-building within the public health community. “Part of the program is working with faculty to improve and capacity-build to strengthen their coaching and mentorship skills to support resident learning,” she says. “So we developed a faculty continuing professional development program which is a series of sessions for faculty to build their skills, and coaching and mentorship too.”

With the residency program restructuring complete, Stephanie is onto new projects. But the quality of her work remains, embedded in the curriculum redesign and the relationships she cultivated, and serving as a cornerstone for the continued learning, growth, and success of B.C.’s current and future health leaders.

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