Hello everyone! My name is Bhajan Gill (She/Her),
and I am delighted to be the recipient of this year’s inaugural ETIO Innovation in Public Health award. As an Honours Bachelor of Science graduate and soon-to-be Master of Public health graduate, it is incredible to witness how far my personal and professional achievements have taken me. However, my interest and passion for public health stretch far beyond my educational qualifications. Growing up and volunteering in small, low-income communities within the Greater Toronto Area, I have always been surrounded by the impact that public health innovation can have on populations. Whether through community project implementation, fundraisers, youth programming, or greater infrastructure and job opportunities, public health innovation plays a significant role in advancing population health and well-being. Public health innovation has been a primary interest of mine for many years.
Furthermore, my interests in public health innovation tie greatly with my passion for health equity, knowledge translation, and education. Public health innovation starts with ensuring that new processes, policies, or programs are being developed to increase quality and efficiency of health and health services, and address the entire population it serves, not just the majority. Public health encompasses everyone. Each individual possesses a wide variation of opinions, beliefs, and experiences, all of which need to be accounted for when discussing innovation. This also means taking an intersectional approach and working towards demolishing existing systemic barriers in order to support the needs and prosperity of all. These concepts tie heavily into the delivery and navigation of healthcare systems.
My innovation pitch topic highlighted an area of health equity research I have been greatly involved in, which focuses on investigating the numeracy education of healthcare providers (HCPs). Increased efforts are required to examine the existing skills and competencies of HCPs regarding numeracy education to ensure measures and initiatives can be developed to address these gaps, all to improve patient-provider communication and overall population health outcomes. I hope to use the teachings that I have gained within my educational and personal achievement, such as this award, to continue to advocate for innovation within public health, especially towards this area of research.
Winning this award has meant so much to me. It has shown me that the countless hours I have put towards my passions and dreams are paying off. It has shown me that anyone can achieve something when they have confidence in themselves to strive for their goals. And finally, this award signifies that we all play a part in advocating for public health innovation. Whether through policy changes, program implementation, or community advocacy, innovation starts with us choosing to make a difference.
My advice for future applicants and soon-to-be public health professionals is to have confidence in your own abilities and not be afraid to challenge yourself to reach new heights. Your potential is defined by what you think you have the ability to achieve. Set goals, not boundaries! Furthermore, be curious and continue to be questioning. Innovation starts with understanding what is currently out there. The ideas and work people are avidly working towards, what more can be done to support existing work, and what areas or populations need further addressing. Finally, strive for continuous learning and personal growth. Public health is an ever-growing field, and there is so much to learn about, so make the most of all the experiences you are involved in. You never know where your interests and abilities will take you and what opportunities or realizations will arise along the way.
Thank you again to ETIO and all the students, staff, and faculty at the Western University Master of Public program for making this opportunity possible. I hope to use this award as a stepping stone to continue advocating and working towards a better future in public health.