Popular York program introduces students to careers in healthcare

There’s a team of backroom specialists who may be non-medical but are crucial to the health of the service itself, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 6. Be they number-crunchers or policymakers, no one’s ever likely to write a prime-time series about them. But they’re the stars of York University’s Health Studies Program, which marked its 10th anniversary in July.

One of its strengths, says Professor Mary Wiktorowicz, is the capacity to take students who are sure they want to work in health care, but aren’t sure where, and direct them to a field they may not even have known existed.  Wiktorowicz, a co-founder of the program, is chair of York’s School of Health Policy & Management [Faculty of Health].

Jennifer Catton [BHS Spec. Hons. ’10] and Sheldon Parchment [BHS Spec. Hons. ’07] entered the school by one door and, quite typically, came out another.

Parchment, 26, lives in Pickering and works in Toronto at CAMH, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, as part of a small team co-ordinating a project aimed at reducing tobacco use across the province.

York’s four-year honours degree program was still fairly new when he entered it in 2003 and, he recalls, had a graduating class of only about 50. This year’s enrolment is 295, Wiktorowicz says, "and we continue to grow. New students tell us, ‘I’ve been looking for you for so long!’"

Parchment nods. "I don’t think most students understand the depth of the health field until they enter a program like this. And there aren’t many programs like this."

The York program opened his eyes to "a myriad of job opportunities in the health-care sector for professionals without a science background. I was blown away by the opportunities."

Someone has to make the crucial day-to-day decisions about everything from how hospitals are managed to health law and ethics, says Wiktorowicz.

Catton, 23, of Burlington, graduated from York last year. She’d decided in high school on a career in health care and, figuring it would have to be a clinical position, enrolled in life-sciences at the U of T. She stuck it out for three years but wasn’t enjoying it.

She says York’s health studies program gave her a deeper understanding of health-care systems worldwide, the government policies that drive them, the technology systems they use and the "business competencies" they need. "I sort of fell across this and it seemed like a perfect fit for me."

Catton works as a business analyst in the Joint Department of Medical Imaging, involving the University Health Network, Mount Sinai and Women’s College Hospital, and says it’s "150 per cent the area I want to be in. It’s very challenging and very fulfilling. "I’m much more comfortable in this role of helping maintain health care in Ontario and ensuring the system works efficiently."

Mayor’s fundraising events missing key details

Mayor Rob Ford’s campaign team says it held three fundraising events in June, including one at the upscale steakhouse Harbour 60, raising a total of $71,500 to help eliminate a shortfall, but the costs of these fundraisers and who covered them remain a mystery, wrote The Globe and Mail Oct. 6.

"It’s unbelievable that you could have a fundraising event without expenses," said York University political scientist Robert MacDermid [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies], who specializes in political fundraising. Unless the events took place in a public space, he added, the expenses should include a rental expense or acknowledge the donation of a venue. "There’s nothing [in the filings] to suggest he’s got in-kind contributions."

The news comes just a month after council’s compliance audit committee ordered a forensic review of the mayor’s election finances – unprecedented in Toronto.

A survey of opinion polls

Polling has become much harder with the advent of cellphones, since many users don’t want to waste their airtime minutes responding to a survey, said York University political scientist Robert MacDermid, in the National Post Oct. 6. Some pollsters have reported response rates, the percentage of people contacted who actually take part in the survey, as low as 20 per cent or less.

Q Can public opinion polls affect the outcome of an election?

A It’s unlikely, researchers say. There is something known among pollsters as the bandwagon effect – when hearing a party has a huge lead makes voters want to jump on the party bandwagon. Then there is its cousin, the underdog effect, which can rally voters behind a losing candidate. But those kind of voters are quite rare.

"It assumes that people don’t have any political views of their own, that they’re moved completely by supporting the underdog or jumping on the bandwagon," MacDermid said. "Hopefully people think more deeply about politics than that. It’s not hockey."

Harper Tories risk backlash with swarm of support for Hudak

It is not unusual for provincial candidates to get an endorsement from their local MP, but it’s rare for so many federal ministers to actively campaign for candidates in a provincial election, according to York University political scientist Robert Drummond, wrote Postnews Media online Oct. 5.

"Federal cabinet ministers have tried to stay out of provincial campaigns in some cases for fear that they might turn off more voters than they would attract," he recently told the National Post.

‘Trial of the century’ fails to lure viewers

Nearly two decades after gavel-to-gavel coverage arrived on our TVs, networks continue to find an audience for real courtroom drama – the latest of which is the case against Dr. Conrad Murray, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of singer Michael Jackson, wrote Postmedia News Oct. 6.

The phrase "trial of the century," for example, has been widely used to describe the case against Murray, when ratings so far suggest it’s not even the trial of the year.

Toronto lawyer James Morton, who teaches at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University, said public interest in court cases tends to be limited to trials involving "the exciting, the weird and the gruesome," which are typically of no legal significance. "The things that lawyers would think of as the ‘trials of the century’ are usually incredibly boring," Morton said.

Audiologists mull action against province

The association representing Ontario’s audiologists is considering legal action against the Ontario government for "inappropriately reprimanding" its members and for making medical decisions about hearing aids in an effort to save money, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Oct. 6.

The controversy revolves around the Assistive Devices Program (ADP), which provides financial assistance to all Ontario residents who require hearing aids and other communications devices such as the expensive wireless FM systems used in schools and other group settings.

Pam Millett, a York University professor in hearing education [Faculty of Education], questions the ministry’s claim that only two per cent of people who have hearing problems need FM systems to improve their quality of life. She cites the World Health Organization, which states that 35 per cent of those with hearing loss would benefit from using an FM system. "I’m a big advocate of FM systems’ use at home particularly for children," she says. "It can be a safety issue. If a parent with a microphone has a child on a bike riding ahead of her, she can tell the child to stop or turn or to say when a car is coming, when to slow down. In the car, an FM system enables a parent to carry on a conversation, to give the child more language, to talk about what’s going on, rather than let them sit in a sea of noise."

Like seniors, Millett says some parents are receiving letters asking them to return their FM systems. "I heard from one parent who was very upset. This parent is educated and a very strong advocate for her child and she felt insulted because the government was questioning whether her child needed this piece of technology."

Celebrities are putting their faith in Cargo’s cosmetic solutions

After leaving her job with Bell Canada, [engineer] Hana Zalzal [MBA ’92] attended York University’s Schulich School of Business, where she received an MBA, and worked briefly in marketing, spending her evenings at the Toronto Reference Library researching what she saw as an opportunity for a smaller, niche brand in the cosmetics industry, wrote The Globe and Mail’s Report on Small Business Magazine Oct. 6, in a story about the president of Cargo Cosmetics.

Zalzal has been named one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40, received the Fashion Group International Rising Star Award, and was pegged as Brand Innovator of the Year by Brand Packaging magazine.

Discussing her success, Zalzal is reserved, but manages to unearth on her crowded desk, amid piles of product samples and tear sheets, a handwritten thank-you note she received from a female MBA student after addressing a class at York. "That makes me feel good," she says.

Mark Rittinger, Schulich’s executive director of development and alumni relations, says that Zalzal is one of their most popular guest speakers, and that she is often asked to address new students when they enter the MBA program. "She’s got the whole package," he says. "For her to be a woman, an engineer, graduating and becoming an entrepreneur, it represents all that the MBA experience can offer."

York grad followed his heart into art career

Long before Stuart Reid [BFA Spec. Hons. ’86] became executive director of the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Sask., he thought he would be a lawyer, wrote QMI Agency Oct. 6.

He was studying political science at York University in Toronto, but every time he had the chance to enroll in an elective course, Reid gravitated toward fine art. "One day, I realized I should just follow what I love and it turned into a really rich career and a wonderful life," he said from his home office in Regina.

Reid, 49, is now a seasoned curator and writer. In January, he will leave the Prairies and assume the role of director and curator at Brock University’s Rodman Hall Art Centre.