PHDA testimonial - Sarah Costa, Health Economist, Canadian Centre for Applied Research in Cancer Control, BC Cancer Agency

How did you learn about the program and what motivated you to enroll?

I first heard about the PHDA program through the PopData e-news updates (i.e., regular emails sent through their listserv with various announcements). The courses seemed relevant to my work as a health services researcher, and the testimonials from previous students seemed positive and relatable. The fact that the PHDA program qualifies for CIHR funding as part of their Professional Advancement Award really motivated me to enroll in the program.

Tell us about your course experience. What skills did you develop and which courses provided the greatest benefit to you?

I enrolled in four courses, offered continuously between fall 2014 and September 2015. The courses I found to be of greatest benefit to me and my work were PHDA-01 (Working with Administrative Data) and PHDA-05 (Longitudinal Analysis and Multi-level Modeling of Population Health Data). These courses provided practical skills that I find I apply regularly to my job, and made me much more comfortable with using data analytic programs like SAS. The other two courses I took (PHDA-02 Epidemiological Statistics and PHDA-03 GIS and Population Health) were both very interesting and informative. PHDA-02 provided me with a good statistical overview as it relates to the health sciences, and PHDA-03 introduced me to a completely new system for me – GIS – and taught me how I can supplement some of my research with consideration to health geography.

How have you been able to (or how do you plan to) apply your new skills in your work/research?

I have been able to use the skills learned about data management using SAS directly in my current research projects. I’ve been able to share some of the knowledge gained in the PHDA-05 course with colleagues who are working on projects that require analysis of longitudinal data.

What do you think were the strengths of this program?

I found a strength of the program to be the engagement of the other students, who are usually all from diverse backgrounds with varying levels of experience with the content. It was helpful to learn from each other. The course workload was also quite manageable for those who are working full-time. The teachers also all seemed knowledgeable and passionate about the topics, and were willing to help students answer their questions or provide assistance for the course projects.

Would you recommend this program to others? If so, what recommendations/suggestions would you give those interested in applying to this program?

I would recommend the program to others who are interested in building on their data analytic/ population health expertise. I would suggest budgeting in the time to read through the course materials and do the extra labs that are provided – it always takes longer than you think it will!


Page last revised: February 2, 2016