A day in the life of a public health program evaluator, with Sameena Vadivelu

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Show Notes

In this episode, Sujani sits down with a friend from her MPH program, Sameena Vadivelu, to speak about a day in the life of a program evaluator. Sameena has worked as a program evaluator in a local health unit and takes us through how she became interested in the field, her job application journey, what a day looks like, and more.

You’ll Learn

  • What is program evaluation? And how it compared to what she had anticipated it to be.
  • How Sameena became interested in program evaluation.
  • Challenges she had during job searching.
  • A day in the life of a program evaluator at a local public health unit – the responsibilities of the role.
  • The biggest challenges about her work
  • Skills someone considering specializing in program evaluation should know/do/be prepared for (i.e. software, certification).
  • A moment Sameena felt most inspired.

Today’s Guest

Sameena Vadivelu

Sameena Vadivelu holds a Masters degree in Public Health (MPH) and an Honours Bachelor of Science degree specializing in Integrative Biology and Psychology. She’s currently a Program Evaluation Consultant at the Workers Safety and Insurance Board. In her previous role she was a Program Evaluator at a local public health unit. She has over five years of experience in evaluation. In this role she primarily supported the environmental health and infectious diseases teams and has provided support on various planning and evaluation projects. Prior to this she worked at a health authority in Labrador. In this role she worked closely with public health nurses to develop policies around contact tracing for sexually transmitted infections.

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Episode Transcript

Sameena 0:00
Really wants to know, like, you know, are these programs working? Or like what’s going on? Like, like, you know, all these interventions that we have in place like, what? What is it doing? And so that’s why I was really interested in program evaluation. And so it was kind of a good segue for me to get into that and really see, okay, well, you know, we have all these programs in place, what’s working, what’s not, and how can we make it more better?

Sujani 0:22
Welcome to PH SPOTlight, a community for you to build your public health career with. Join Us Weekly right here. And I’ll be here too, your host Sujani Siva from PH SPOT.

Sujani 0:41
Hi Samina. Welcome to PH SPOTlight and thank you so much for taking the time to sit with us to talk about program evaluation.

Sameena 0:50
No problem. I’m glad to be here. Thanks for having me.

Sujani 0:53
No worries. Before we started talking, I was about to say something and I told you let’s save it for the episode so that it’s more of a natural conversation. And what I was hoping to say is, like, I’m excited about this particular topic, like the day in the life of a public health program evaluator because for me, since I kind of took the epidemiology route, program evaluation is only kind of a concept in my head because of like, whatever I learned in that one course, we took in our MPH. And so for me, I’m excited to hear how it’s actually applied in the real world. And like some of the examples that you you’re going to share with us. But before we kind of dive into what your day looked like, as a public health program evaluator, maybe we can start with what is program evaluation, especially for maybe students who haven’t yet taken that course or students who are going to enter their mph. So let’s start with that. Like, what is program evaluation in the context of public health?

Sameena 2:00
Okay, well, program evaluation public health is really about looking at how programs are running. So a lot of times when programs are developed, there’s a lot of, you know, literature reviews that are done to kind of help inform the programs. There’s also like, the Ontario Public health standards, so things like that inform programs, but then really helping to see like, how the program is working and running, whether it’s been implemented effectively, whether it’s, you know, making the impact that it was intended to make. That’s really what program evaluation is about, it’s really looking into that to see whether, you know, are we doing what we said we were going to do? And are we seeing what we said we were hoping to see, that kind of really, yeah, sums it up.

Sujani 2:54
And so when we, when we talk about a program, like a public health program, what, what are we referring to?

Sameena 3:01
So a public health program can be, it just depends on how you define it. And so a lot of times it can be a single intervention, or it can be a number of interventions together to meet an overall goal. So, for example, a sexual health program, you can have multiple interventions, such as, you know, a campaign to increase testing, that can be a single program, and then the overall or you can have a broader goal, which is the long term goal could be something that’s taken from the Ontario Public health standards. And so it could be, you know, reducing the number of STIs in a population.

Sujani 3:42
Okay.

Sameena 3:43
Yeah.

Sujani 3:43
So what, when you kind of started because you started in this role right out of your master’s program, right?

Sameena 3:52
Yes, I did.

Sujani 3:53
Yeah. Did you feel like it was exactly how you learned it during the program? Or was it drastically different from like a classroom setting?

Sameena 4:04
I would say that the theory of program evaluation that you’d learn in a master’s program was the same, but it was drastically different in the sense of there’s so much more complexities when you’re actually in the field and like really looking at programs and learning how you can evaluate them. So in work, when you’re taking course it’s all hypothetical situations, you know, you’re giving it- you’re given a deduction or like an example of a program and then you’re asked to like to evaluate it and your understanding or you’re kind of becoming more familiar with the principles and the foundation of it. So in that sense, I think it was just- it was not easy, but it was just like you know, it just made more sense. It was more of okay, this happens and then this happens and this happens where it’s when you’re like on the ground actually evaluating program, there’s a lot of layers to it. Like particularly, there’s a lot of different stakeholders who might be involved in a program evaluations. And so it’s really about understanding what exactly their needs are, and then how that can help help refine your evaluation questions, and then further drive the evaluation. So there’s a lot of a lot more complexities in that. And also, there’s, like, one of the challenges with that is also like, the data quality. So when you’re in your master’s program, you know, you’re given a data set so there’s all that- the data quality part of it is there, and versus when you’re in a public health setting, sometimes the data is there, versus sometimes the quality isn’t as great. And that’s just the reality of it. And so, I think those are some of the pieces that you don’t really get to experience when you’re doing a course versus when you’re in the field.

Sujani 5:49
And I think that’s fairly accurate, even in epidemiology. You know, when you’re, when you’re doing it as a classroom assignment, it’s quite linear, and you go from one step to the next. And then when you’re in the job, it’s not anything like that. And yeah, the quality is such a big thing, I think, you don’t think about during your course and then once you’re actually doing it, it’s- it becomes a large part of the work that you do, like just making sure you get good data.

Sameena 6:20
Exactly. Yeah. And like, sometimes you just can’t even answer what you’re hoping to answer because the data that you thought was there, isn’t there or isn’t up to cards’ whole grace? So those are some of the challenges of evaluation for sure and it sounds like yeah.

Sujani 6:40
So I’m thinking about that one blog post that you wrote for the PH SPOT blog. And we’ll definitely link that up in the show notes page. And it was around, you know, not giving up when you’re applying to your job. I don’t know if you remember that post, it was quite a while ago.

Sameena 6:59
Think of what I wrote it.

Sujani 7:00
Essentially, like at the end of it, you were just encouraging people not to give up, even though the job application process can be quite frustrating, right out of school.

Sameena 7:12
Yeah.

Sujani 7:12
So I was wondering if we could talk a little bit about that. Because like I mentioned in our intro, you essentially went from your MPH program right into being a program evaluator. And so-

Sameena 7:25
Yeah.

Sujani 7:25
Maybe you could talk to us about that journey from graduating and kind of thinking about where you wanted to take your career and kind of how you became interested in program evaluation.

Sameena 7:37
Sure. So I mean, how I became interested in program evaluation, it really started in like, when I was like, I guess you could say like, it’s a little bit of the courses that I took with, you know, focus on health promotion, as well as the course, perm evaluation. Once I started applying and working on some of the applications, I was like, oh, yeah, like health, like, there was a lot of health promotion positions that were coming up. And that was something that was- that I was really interested in. And so having looked at that, and also having worked on like, you know, even previously performed my MPH, I did a couple of health promotion campaigns with other organizations. And so it really like, it made me realize that, what, like, I wanted to know how this was making an impact. And so like, a lot of when you’re working on a lot of health promotion campaigns, or even just in public health, in general, it’s very hard to see the impact that an intervention or a program is making immediately. And so that’s something that really, like, you know, I really wanted to get to because I really wanted to know, like, you know, are these programs working? Or like what’s going on? Like, like, you know, all these interventions that we have in place, like, what, what is it doing? And so that’s why I was really interested in program evaluation. And so it was kind of a good segue for me to get into that and really see, okay, look, you know, we have all these programs in place, what’s working, what’s not, and how can we make it more better. And so that really started from like, you know, my interest in health promotion, health promotion strategies, and programs, and then wanting to take that one step further to see, you know, whether it’s working or not, and so that’s really what got me into program evaluation. And, I guess referring back to the blog post with the challenges, it is very hard, like, I think it’s, like, I remember being so frustrated, like just you know, the amount of times you would apply for positions, and you know, you’re so passionate about it, you really want to see like, what impact you can make as a person who’s in the public health field. And so it can be very frustrating, but also it can be very discouraging when you don’t hear back from places or when you like, you know, it’s it. You’re kind of like okay, like I can apply to so many positions where am I not hearing back? So it’s just been I guess it’s one of those things, it’s like if you really want it and like you’re really passionate about this field and where like you know, where you see yourself, I think it’s just one of those things where you have to keep trying and not give up and kind of push through. And I think that’s what I did like I, it was, it took me, I think it was a couple, like six or seven months to really get into public health after I graduated. And so it was- it was rough, but it’s one of those things like I really wanted to stick within public health. And so I was open to both health promotion positions, as well as evaluation positions. And so it kind of just like, I took that leap of faith, because I started my first position, I just started on a three month contract. And so it was one of those things that I was like, I really want to get my foot in the door. And I really want to get a number of different experiences, because that’s one way that you’re going to learn on what you want and what you don’t want to do, right and so like, especially because like, you know, in your course, you get a theoretical understanding of all these principles and all these ideas of what public health is about, but you need to really get yourself in there to really understand. And so that’s why I was like, let me just do this. Even if it’s three months, then at least it’s three months under my belt of just getting exposed to the fields. So that’s what I would have to say for anyone that’s getting into the field.

Sujani 11:19
Yeah, I don’t think I knew that it took about six to seven months for you to start in the field. Yeah.

Sameena 11:26
Yeah. No, it did. Yeah, it was quite frustrating. Because I was like, Oh, my God, what am I gonna do?

Sujani 11:31
Were you doing any other like public health work, or it was kind of you’re just focused on applying?

Sameena 11:36
I just- at that time, I just focused on applying. And I actually went on vacation and came back. So let me just take it easy, but I was just primarily focusing on applying for positions and seeing what I can do.

Sujani 11:50
Okay, that’s good to hear. I mean, like a lot of people struggle, and they wonder if they will ever find a job.

Sameena 11:56
Yeah.

Sujani 11:57
So it’s good to know that just keeping at it. And it’s a matter of just number of applications you put through and-

Sameena 12:04
Yeah, and even if it’s a short term contract,

Sujani 12:07
Yeah.

Sameena 12:08
I would say, you know, take it because it’s one more experience. So yeah, yeah, is more than willing to go outside of the province as well, because I was like, I was determined, I was like, I will move anywhere,

Sujani 12:19
Yeah.

Sameena 12:19
To get- get exposed to different public health settings and stuff like that, because it’s different across the aisle like, you know, across the country. So

Sujani 12:26
Yeah, that’s a good attitude too, I think a lot of people sometimes are not willing to do that. And I think just- just for the short term, you can build your experience by exploring the country and the opportunities that it has, and then kind of coming back to where you really want to build your skills.

Sameena 12:45
Exactly. Yeah. Yeah, that’s perfectly put it.

Sujani 12:48
Okay. So then your public health program evaluation experience, a lot of it came from a local public health unit in Ontario, in Canada. So I was wondering if you could take our listeners through kind of what a day looked like for you as a program evaluator, in a local health unit? Yeah.

Sameena 13:11
Sure. So a lot of the work was around helping teens come up with their logic model, and really helping them kind of document their programs. And so I was primarily supporting the infectious diseases teams, as well as the environmental health teams. And so a lot of their work is mandated by the Ontario Public health standards. And so it was really about using the public health standards, as well as what the teams are already doing right now to come up with a logic model. And so it’s really about working with the teams, and kind of figuring out what is currently being done now helping them document that. So they have this visual of what their program looks like. So majority of my work would be helping, you know, teams really come up, that come together to draft their logic model and see like, you know, how to get a visual of their program, that the other part was mostly into data collection, and survey development. So I primarily worked with teams to come up with surveys to implement them and see what’s working with their program and what’s not. So a lot of times for the clinics, I would help them draft client satisfaction surveys, to see how their clinics are running and see where we can find areas for improvement, and really helping the teams, you know, interpret that information from the surveys that are collected. The other part, I would say is helping teams plan some of the programs so I know my title is a program evaluator, but as part of the evaluation, there is also a piece of planning, because your job as an evaluator doesn’t really start at evaluation. It also starts at the plan face, because that really helps ensure that you have all the components in place to have a, you know, a, an evaluation in place down the road. So you want to make sure that, you know, you’re using evidence informed, informed- information to plan and program, and also have all the systems in place to gather the data that you would need, so that when you’re, you know, down the road, you can evaluate their programs. So part of my role was also to help teams look at the literature to see know, how can we use this evidence to inform the program that they want to develop, and then making sure that we had, you know, key performance indicators. So helping the teams identify some of the key performance indicators that they’re going to be monitoring over the course of their program, so that when they are ready for an evaluation, all of those components are there so that they can actually evaluate their programs. So let’s say that those are the three like major like, tasks of an evaluator on a day to day basis. But, yeah.

Sujani 16:03
And so is it common for a program evaluator to also have the role of the planner in like most local public health units?

Sameena 16:14
I think it was, it is, it is common, but it also depends on because I know some local public health units, they also have a role of the health planner. So it’s, they have distinct roles. But the decision where I worked at, they, they had a health promoter, but also it was you know, some teams had health motors and some teams didn’t. And so in that, in that gap, a chrome evaluator would also take on the role of a planner.

Sujani 16:44
Okay. And then when you’re helping teams build those logic models, that kind of falls under the planning hat, is that how it’s defined?

Sameena 16:53
That would actually fall under the evaluation hat, but also the planning hat as well, because, you know, you’re there from the early stages to help plan the program. So you would help develop the logic model at the early stages, but because when I went in as an evaluator, these programs were already pre-established, because they were like, programs that were mandated by public health standards. So in that sense, we were working backwards to come up with a logic model on what that program did.

Sujani 17:22
Okay. And it’s- it sounds like, based on like, the activities that you explained that there’s a lot of working on teams, lots of stakeholders involved, is that kind of the nature of a program evaluators’ jobs?

Sameena 17:42
Yes, for sure. There’s a lot of different stakeholders, which kind of helps drive the evaluation. And so it’s all about, you know, working together with stakeholders, working together with the teams who actually run the program, to really see what needs to be evaluated and help kind of hone in on what exactly we need to look at. Because sometimes a program might be too early for an evaluation. And so we might consider, should we do a, you know, a implementation? Like, should we look at the implementation of the program and see whether it was implemented as intended? Or are we ready for more of a like, should we look at the of the, of the outcomes and see whether, you know, we’re reaching the intended outcomes?

Sujani 18:15
So I guess, out of curiosity, because you’re probably aware that the higher you kind of go in the like, as a federal employee, for me, it’s very hard sometimes to see the impact of my work, because I’m not really seeing the people that are impacted by it. But I hear from folks who have worked at the local health unit that they feel like they could see their work and the impact of has is that-

Sameena 18:44
Yeah.

Sujani 18:45
-same for you. Because you’re, you’re involved in kind of executing on the project one way or another, like as an evaluator, as a planner, do you feel that kind of like, ability to see impact?

Sameena 18:58
Yeah, for sure. Like, especially, like being on the ground, even collecting the data, you really are able to connect with some of the clients and you’re able to see, oh, like this program is actually working. And this is where we can improve and like, how can we make it better for the clients that were, you know, that we’re serving? And so we definitely, definitely, I can see, you know, the programs being successful. So yeah, for sure.

Sujani 19:24
That’s interesting. So like with the data collection, you would also be involved in that, hey, like it-

Sameena 19:30
Yeah.

Sujani 19:31
-just that you’re, you’re designing the evaluation, and then you kind of give it off to the team that’s delivering the program to execute. But you’re also involved in that process?

Sameena 19:40
Yes. So it really depends on the evaluation and the team itself. And so I’ve worked on evaluations where I would design the tool and then the team would be the one that would be implementing the survey tool versus there’s an evaluation that I most recently worked on where I was, you know, the person collecting the data, so conducting the interviews and conducting the surveys to gather that information. And so that was because of the nature of the evaluation. It was more of an external. It was, it was funded by the local health unit that I was working at. But it was situated, the program itself was situated externally. And so because of the nature of that program, the evaluators were the ones that were collecting the data.

Sujani 20:28
Okay.

Sameena 20:28
Yeah.

Sujani 20:29
And then how about on the analysis front? Do you also have the opportunity to do some analysis and report writing and maybe knowledge translation? Like that whole cycle?

Sameena 20:39
Yeah. All that fun stuff. Yeah, so a lot of- a lot of data analysis like so. Because the teams are, you know, they’re constantly busy and like, you know, working with public health nurses and public health inspectors are pulled in so many different ways that the analysis part really lies with the evaluator. And so a lot of the data that’s being collected, I would be responsible for analyzing the data, and then interpreting the data. And then also coming up with a report or some kind of summary documents for the team, but also to help communicate the findings of the- the evaluation that to the, you know, the clients themselves. And so we want to make sure that we’re also keeping the clients informed, because they’re the ones that are providing the valuable information. So yeah, so all steps of the process to go from data collection, data analysis, interpretation, to report writing, been all part of.

Sujani 21:37
The fun work. Yes. Takes a lot of time, but it’s fine. Yeah. I think you talked about kind of one example with the sexual health clinic, and where you would sometimes develop surveys to kind of get feedback from the members of that program. Are there some other examples that you could kind of just quickly throw out? So like, for anyone listening who hasn’t really worked in public health, yet? They could understand when we’re talking about like a program, what does that look like tangibly?

Sameena 22:09
Sure. So, in terms of a program, one of the programs actually, I evaluated most recently, actually, with one of my co workers was, we evaluated the temporary overdose prevention site. And so that in itself was a program. And so we were really responsible for, you know, working with the stakeholders, and kind of getting a sense of, you know, what, what can we evaluate at that point in time? And what were we- what were we, you know, hoping to answer? What kind of questions were we hoping to answer? And so it was really working, it was really about working with the different stakeholders, to come up with the evaluation plan, and okay to gather the data from the clients. But also, we wanted to gather the data from staff as well. And so really working with everyone to, to see what was needed, and then coming up with the survey tools and the interview guide, and then going through with the evaluation.

Sujani 23:09
That’s a really good example. So what would you say are some of the biggest challenges about your work as a program evaluator?

Sameena 23:20
I would say, one of the challenges, I guess, I kind of alluded to earlier, with the data quality piece of it. And so that is often a challenge, because because of, you know, a lot of programs have been running for so long. And so they’ve been collecting data for so long. And so it’s really, you know, sometimes it’s hard to go back and say, okay, like we need to be, we need to do a little bit better with the consistency of the data that we’re collecting, or just, overall, the quality of it. And so that’s one of the pieces that can be challenging. Another piece is kind of making sure that you know, everyone is on the same page. Like I mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of stakeholders that you’re working with when you’re working on an evaluation. And so it’s really about, you know, it depends on what, like, if you’re doing a large scale evaluation or small scale evaluation, when you’re doing large scale evaluation, it, it can be a challenge to get, like everyone on the same page to really narrow down on what exactly you need to focus on. That would be one of the challenges. And another one I would say is, as an evaluator, I found it vehry challenging to, to kind of, you know, go in to a team and kind of come up with an evaluation where the team also felt like okay, I didn’t have a ulterior motive for lack of a better word, just like not having a like, you know, predetermined idea of what the evaluation will reveal. And so it’s about really, you know, working with the teams to really say, okay, hey, like we’re really interested in looking at the program, there is no direction that we’re like, we’re- we don’t want a specific answer from the- this evaluation, we want to see what the evaluation reveals. Like we’re not like, we’re not coming in this with a predetermined idea of what the evaluation will reveal. And so that’s- it’s that I found to be really challenging, because it’s really about building that rapport with a team who’s, you know, worked on this program for many, many years, and who, you know, worked with clients. And so it really attached to it. And so really working with them to say, let’s, let’s see what the you know, how this program is doing, we can evaluate it to see and it might reveal that everything’s working great. Or we might find areas that we’re looking to improve on. And that’s ultimately going to impact our clients, because they’re going to be receiving better service and better programs. And so that I found to be a very big challenge when I first started, actually,

Sujani 25:54
I guess, like, convincing a group that you’re, you’re there without any preconceived kind of idea is one thing. But then I also think that there’s- there might be personal bias, like as an evaluator, how do you go in without that, in your head, like, you might think a program is excellent, or you might think a program is not that great, and you want to make sure those biases don’t affect your work? Do you ever kind of struggle with that piece?

Sameena 26:24
Yes, but also, as an evaluator, it’s one of those values that you know, you really want to see the actual impact and whether it’s actually working. Because if it’s not, then we really need to step back and see what can we do to to make this program better? And so I like, I would say, in terms of the biases, I, you sometimes go in, and you’re like, oh, yeah, this program sounds great. Like, if it were me, like, if I was a client, I would love this program, right? But then, like, you really need to kind of really get into it and see, okay, what exactly do we need to be looking at? And once you start the evaluation, I often find that, you know, I’m really more focused on Okay, let’s have a unbiased, like, you know, conversation and see how this program is going. And so I think in the beginning, there is limit of that bias. But once you start doing the evaluation, and you- you kind of focus on okay, like we’re doing this so that we can see how these programs are running, you kind of set that aside and move forward with the evaluation.

Sujani 27:28
I guess that’s where you put a lot of effort on building objective tools to help you exactly like surveys or questionnaires or focus groups or-

Sameena 27:39
Exactly, yeah. And there’s also like, you know, I’m not just the only evaluator at the Public Health Unit, right? And so it’s all about like working with the other public health evaluators as well, to see, you know, are we having an objective view. And so, some of the other program evaluators, they support other teams, and so they’re not so much so attached to the programs that I’m working on. And so they have, like, it’s just getting another set of eyes as well. And so that I find, is also helpful in terms of maintaining that unbiased kind of view.

Sujani 28:12
Is it- is it often difficult to then go back with the findings, because I would assume, you’re not always going to be bearing great news, after the evaluation is completed? Do you find that challenging?

Sameena 28:25
I do, because, you know, it’s just, it’s, it’s so because once you start working with the teams, and you see how much their, you know, so passionate about the programs that they’re delivering, it’s sometimes hard to kind of deliver news that they aren’t intending to see. But I think it’s- what really helps is bringing the team along. So really involving the team from the beginning of an evaluation all the way to the end really helps because then they see what kind of information is being gathered. And so that kind of helps with the buy in, and then as like, you know, as one or two staff members, like come along, and they’re working with the data, and they see what’s going on, they’re able to bring in more mind with their colleagues. And so I think it’s really- it is challenging, and I- and it is difficult, but I- one way that I find that really helps is when I’m just not doing the evaluation myself and there’s like team members from that program that are working on the evaluation closely with me so that they’re able to see that this is something that is actually being like, you know, brought forward by clients or we’re seeing in the data that we’ve been looking at. And so that’s something that’s very helpful I find. Yeah.

Sujani 29:38
So it sounds like communication is a big part of this role. And it’s a skill that would go a long way for someone considering program evaluation kind of spend some time building. And then I think earlier, we kind of talked about data analysis being another skill that’s important for program evaluation, I’m thinking about or I’m wondering if there other skills that someone interested in program evaluation should kind of focus on building to set themselves up for a career as a program evaluator.

Sameena 30:11
So one of the things I would say is really to work on, like, you know, just rapport building and that relationship building, because that is so important when you’re working on an evaluation, because it just doesn’t involve you, as one individual involves multiple stakeholders. And so I think that’s really important, because you’re able to kind of, you know, have that relationship and kind of really discover what exactly needs to be evaluated. And so that’s one of the things that, I think is important for an evaluator, another piece of it would be also some of the, the software’s that are used for data analysis. And so like, NVivo, is something that’s often used for qualitative data analysis. And so that’s something that I myself, I was familiar with, in my master’s program, but because I wasn’t using it as much. During my early stages, in my career, it was something that I had to, you know, retrain myself on for an evaluation that I was recently working on. And so it’s, it’s good to kind of really be more, you know, just kind of brush up on those kinds of skills to so that you’re able to use multiple different software’s when you’re collecting data.

Sujani 31:33
Okay, so I’m glad you mentioned the software, because, you know, we often talk about quantitative analysis, and the software’s related to that, because I remember, we used SPSS during the MPH program, and then kind of once you start working different organizations use different tools, and envy will seems to be kind of the standard for qualitative. So that’s a good, good skill to kind of practice if you want to get into that. And when you- when you talked about software, it reminded me of a conversation that we had previously, not during this recording, and is there an element of project management in program evaluation? Because I think if I remember correctly, you were also considering perhaps, like, upgrading your skills around project management as well?

Sameena 32:20
Yes, yes, for sure. A lot of times, when you’re working on evaluations, it can be a large project, sometimes evaluations are small, but sometimes there can be medium to large scale. And when there is multiple different people that are working on an evaluation, it’s really important to have some of that project management pieces. It also just helps people kind of, you know, stay on track with the evaluation, get a sense of where the evaluation is headed. It’s good. It’s, it’s good to have project management tools, just even just to help communicate to senior staff as well as management to kind of show them you know, this is what was intended for the evaluation. This is kind of the timeline. And so it just provides more of a visual and also just kind of, it’s a good tool to kind of use until project management is something that is definitely needed in evaluation. And that’s something that I’ve recognized, and I’m really hoping to brush up in the upcoming. Yeah.

Sujani 33:14
And then I hope like this doesn’t make people go and run and grab their PMP or something. Would you say that it’s a little bit more useful once you’ve gotten your feet wet in this role before you kind of go and get your like project management, sort of like certification, or it doesn’t hurt to have it right from the beginning?

Sameena 33:34
I would most definitely say that it’s something that’s better to get once you get your feet wet, just so that you get a sense of, you know, what public health is really about. What if you’re into, you know, pursuing the field in promotion, what program evaluation is about, because that really helps kind of inform the, you know, the tools that you’re able to use, because then that kind of really identifies, okay, which project management tools be useful for your scenario versus another. And so I think that that’s where, you know, having that knowledge of program evaluation, especially in public health can be useful to see like, kind of set the direction for more of the project management tools that you’re going to use.

Sujani 34:20
And we kind of chatted about this, in the beginning about, you know, you feel a lot of like the impact of your work when you’re working in the local health units. I’m wondering kind of to wrap up our conversation, if you recall any moments where you really felt like truly inspired by the work you were doing or, like you could just feel the impact kind of trickling down to the people that you were kind of serving in your role. Just- just for our listeners to kind of get a sense of the kind of impact that you’ve been able to make.

Sameena 34:53
Yeah, I would have to say, this is one of the most recent ones that I’ve worked on actually. Really, it’s, it was an evaluation of an overdose prevention site. And so having to conduct the interviews and the surveys and hearing the perspectives of clients and how impactful the service is to them, and how important it is, and how much they value this staff and you know, the skills that the staff bring, to making them feel human and just, you know, just making them feel welcome in an environment and just even in the community. And so giving them a sense of belonging. So those are like, hearing that from the clients, but also from the staff, like you’re able to kind of see how they’ve changed and what impacts the site has made to them. That in itself has been, it was so rewarding, and I remember feeling like oh my God, I feel so grateful to have to be part of this because you can actually see like you- you hear about like, you know, overdose prevention sites, and you see the impact and you hear about like, you know, why it’s important and all of that, but to actually hear from the clients and like, you know, to see how much trust and how much they care about the staff who provide these services. It was just so heartwarming, I just yeah, it was my most favorite evaluation that I’ve worked on today. Actually.

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About the Show

PH SPOTlight: Public health career stories, inspiration, and guidance from current-day public health heroes

On the show, Sujani sits down with public health heroes of our time to share career stories, inspiration, and guidance for building public health careers. From time to time, she also has conversations with friends of public health – individuals who are not public health professionals, but their advice and guidance are equally important.

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