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My Intent To Study In Health Policy Area

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The objective of this Letter of Intent is to demonstrate my suitability to join the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation (IHPME) as a Master of Science Health Services Research student in the health policy area of study. I will outline my career aspirations and plans, research experience and interests and proposed research collaborations with faculty. Comment by Joseph Donia: If you needed the space, I would say that you could remove this

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Career Aspirations & Plans

In my final year of undergraduate studies, I was introduced to the philosopher Peter Singer. Singer says, “We have moral obligations to help, just as we have moral obligations not to harm”. He continues, “We make our life most meaningful when we connect ourselves with some really important causes or issues and we contribute to them”. His ideas have had a significant impact on my professional career aspirations. I feel that I have a responsibility and obligation to contribute to work that will improve the health of Canadians through investigation of our current mental health system.

My career objective is to use rigorous health policy research methodologies to help alleviate and improve public mental health. My career goal is to contribute significantly to mental health policy research in Canada. I hope to join IHPME because I am inspired by its excellent scholarship through its interdisciplinary, collaborative approach, commitment to quality and impactful work. If accepted, I hope to enrich my learning by participating in the Collaborative Specialization in Public Health Policy. I am interested in doctoral work in health policy research and would consider applying for the MSc/PhD Transfer Program at IHPME.

Research Experience & Interests

I have demonstrated scholarship as a research assistant since the summer of 2014. I have been employed as a summer research student in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Toronto and the Queen’s University Department of Psychiatry. In addition, my research skills have allowed me to secure employment and volunteer research work in local healthcare and not-for-profit organizations. This has resulted in five peer-reviewed articles (two of which are in press), two poster presentations and several work-in-progress manuscripts. I hope to contribute to health policy research that will inform policies to create a more just, equitable and accessible mental health system. I am interested in health policy topics that broadly aim to address social inequities, for example, a universal pharmacare system and mental health system reform. I am specifically interested in learning how to conduct research using a comparative policy analysis approach. I believe that my research interests align well with the aims of the research program at the North American Observatory on Health Systems and Policies (NAO).

Proposed Thesis Project & Potential Faculty Involvement

The proposed project aims to investigate health system approaches taken to address mental health needs in primary care settings. The nature and structure of primary care teams will be examined and special attention will be paid to studying the impact of the presence/lack of mental health workers (occupational therapists, counsellors, social workers, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists) within primary care teams. Baumgartner and Jones’ punctuated equilibrium theory proposes that policy-making is illustrated by periods of stability, which are then disrupted by times of rapid change. This framework will be employed to examine policy development related to mental health. Throughout the past decade significant change has occurred as the topic of mental health has become more “mainstream”, with increased attention being paid by the media, within the medical establishment and in public discourse. This project will employ a comparative policy analysis in reviewing mental healthcare within primary care settings in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. The authors will provide historical and social context between 2010-2016 by developing a timeline of policy and law enactments related to mental healthcare at the provincial level and cross- reference this information with secondary data (primary health care policies, policy briefs, government reports, peer-reviewed articles, government committee discussions on related health policy issues). Interviews with primary care team members will add to an understanding of how mental healthcare operates in primary care settings.

Results will increase public understanding of the approaches taken to address mental health needs in primary care with considerable attention focused on health equity and substance use (alcohol, opioids, cannabis and tobacco). The equity literature has thoroughly investigated the differences in utilization of healthcare features across socioeconomic groups. Van Doorslaer et al. demonstrated that poorer people use healthcare services more frequently than their more affluent counterparts. The proposed project will aim to review such trends. The sociology of consumption will provide an important theoretical framework for informing and interpreting the analysis. The theory examines four unique dimensions: the experience of consumption, the manner of delivery, the conditions of access and the mode of provision. These components will be addressed in detail within the context of mental health services in primary care.

Mental health services in Canada can be a complex system to navigate for patients and to study for health services researchers. The proposed research project could be informative in regards to mental health system reform and serve as a foundation for further research, perhaps in a doctoral setting. This project would serve as a crucial first step in my learning about this sector, while providing the opportunity to hone research skills necessary for future work in this field. I have spoken with several IHPME faculty members regarding the Master of Science program in Health Services Research and explored with them my areas of research experience and interests.

In regards to funding, I will be applying for the Canada Graduate Scholarship – Master’s Program and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship. I believe that given my background in medical research and interest in health policy research, my acceptance to IHPME would prove to be a mutually beneficial partnership. I would be honoured to have the opportunity and privilege to contribute to the mission of IHPME and to learn from some of the most eminent group of thinkers and leaders in health policy research in Canada.

15 July 2020

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