I am a fourth year undergraduate student studying Sociology (Health and Society) at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.  UBC is one of the many Canadian schools that offers a Co-op program, in which undergraduate students complete three semesters of full-time employment in positions related to their field of study. Co-op provides an opportunity for students to apply what is taught in lectures to real-world scenarios, thereby enabling us to graduate with work experience and an established professional network. For students such as myself in non-vocational degrees, graduating with relevant work experience is essential when searching for work after graduation.  Each of my co-op terms has provided me with valuable practical experience to carry forward into further study and bring into a new position in the field.  In fact, it was the first of my co-op terms that led me here to HDR UK.

Over the next few months, I will be working on the cancer research project as part of the HDR UK programme using data available within the SAIL Databank including WCISU (Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit). This project will investigate and examine the recording of neoplasms in-situ and attempt an analysis of any subsequent cancer diagnoses. This work is important as it may contribute to the current body of knowledge by establishing the number of cases with in-situ codes and cancers that follow, but primarily because it will highlight the significant role population health research plays in health promotion and add context and understanding to this active area of ongoing research.

I spent my first co-op term at Population Data BC, a multi-university data and education resource that facilitates interdisciplinary research on social determinants of health in British Columbia, working primarily with the data access, education and training, privacy units. This work exposed me to the important role population data science plays in population health research and its outcomes. Research into harmonized documentation as a solution to issues associated with multi-stakeholder data access taught me about how coordinated access to linked administrative data streamlines the data access process, thus improving project efficiency and subsequently, health and wellbeing outcomes.

During my time working in Vancouver, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Kim McGrail whose work sparked my interest in population data science. One of the most formative lessons I learned, was the significance of interdisciplinary collaboration in population data science. Learning about and experiencing the extent to which interdisciplinary collaboration contributes to public health research inspired and shifted the way I think about my future studies and career. Through Kim, I was introduced to the team and work at HDR UK, and it became an aspiration of mine to work here.

I am grateful and excited to be spending my third co-op term at HDR UK (Wales & Northern Ireland). Although I have not been here long, working at HDR UK has provided me with learning opportunities that have shaped my plans for future studies and work. However, the most invaluable take away from this summer is that I will have had the experience of working on a project that I find meaningful and important.