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Public Health Sciences and Empire Life – a thank you

Public Health Sciences and Empire Life – a thank you

The following is a guest blog by Dr. William Pickett, Head of the Department of Public Health Sciences at Queen’s University. 

Growing up in a small town in rural Ontario, I was exposed to certain lessons that I believe have served me well. And one of these life lessons is that there are times in life when it is important to pause for a moment, and to be intentional about saying thank you.

As the Head of our Department of Public Health Sciences, I therefore want to use this opportunity to briefly tell you about a unique fellowship program that has been supported financially, and perhaps just as importantly, in spirit, by Empire Life. Empire Life is a national company with deep Kingston roots. Their national headquarters are just a short walk away from campus. They have a long history of giving to our university and to our community, and I know just how deep that runs within our medical school and Faculty of Health Sciences. What people might not realize is that over the last decade, they have also been a strong supporter of our department through a graduate fellowship program.

I counted them up recently, and since 2004, there have been 23 graduate students in our Department who held Empire Life Fellowship Awards. All of these students had a remarkable level of support while at Queen’s, and all of them have gone on to careers in the health sciences – some in our particular brands of research and public health practice, others as clinicians. These fellowships provided opportunities for many of our best and brightest students to conduct research that helped us to better understand and improve the health of diverse populations, and to understand the health care systems and policies that underpin us all as Canadians.

In the Department of Public Health Sciences, we keep track of our alumni.   So I can say with certainty that over the last decade Empire Life has seeded a number of specialist physicians and allied health professionals, both practising and still in training. There are several PhD level researchers who have gone on to become independent scientists. And still others who now practise their trade as professional epidemiologists, biostatisticians, and health services researchers. There is not one of these past fellows who is not gainfully employed in our field. And that makes me glow a bit.

In the late spring, the Department welcomed four representatives from the Head Offices of Empire Life for a luncheon and presentation by our current Empire Life Fellows. This is a practice that our Department has done seven to eight times over the course of the program. As always, the Empire Life contingent was led by Julie Tompkins, Vice-President, Human Resources and Communication Services. Julie in particular has a long history of work and service within our community that relates directly to public health. She “gets” the importance of this work, and at its beginning, this fellowship program was her brainchild with our then Department Head, Dr. Bill Mackillop, and Graduate Coordinator, Dr. Heather Stuart.

At that get-together, as always I was struck by the genuine care that the Empire Life staff had for our students, and the pride that they take in being a part of, and giving back, to our Kingston community and to our University. Many of the Empire Life representatives, past and present, are proud Queen’s alumni themselves.

“For Empire Life, this has been a partnership of the very best kind; one with an immediate benefit for fellowship recipients, and with enormous potential for a lasting impact on health and wellness in Canada and around the world,” says Julie.

As I said at the time, our department has a tremendous respect for what Empire Life has done as a corporation in terms of community outreach, and specifically in terms of the support they have given to our students and their supervisors throughout the years. We are very grateful.

Thank you, Empire Life.

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