All I want is power

One of the tasks required in preparation of completing my Master of Public Health practicum placement is selecting values I have for my life and career – I selected “power”. The choice of power as a value was one that surprised or confused many who knew me, because it was often not interpreted the way I intended to be.

“Power”, to me, does not include the size of my salary, the number of people ranked above or below me, or the title that comes before or after my name. Instead, “power” to me, is the ability to influence positive change and aid people who are unable to reach their optimal health and/or Quality of Life. I think of “power” as a feeling of commitment and contribution to people and places greater than myself; putting me in a position to help people to empower others.

I write this post 6 weeks into my practicum placement at one of Toronto’s major hospitals, working alongside the Director of Ethics Alliance and Policy. Being in my current position, I am working with little (if any) amount of “power” in the traditional sense. I am in a supportive role, assisting in the research and development of institutional policy drafts on topics of medical and non-medical cannabis, gender identity, smudging ceremonies, and more. I took this role in hopes of gaining exposure to the administrative role of health care and better understand if I am interested in pursuing the policy approach to “power”.

I have been amending the hospital’s Cannabis policy to match the new legalization coming into effect mid fall. I am now reading the comments on the seventh edit, going on what will be probably ten or twelve different versions. At times it can be an exhausting feeling to have your work constantly criticized and then to write another edit. During these times of defeat I wonder if I need another path to feel like I am making an impact; or get my power.

Recently, I have been juggling with the following thoughts:

“I want to go to med school…”

“I want to go to law school…”

…in an attempt to create and find the type of “power” I am looking for.

I often state these hopes, dreams, and goals rather nonchalantly because I am unsure if I truly believe I want to endure them; or if I just think that I need one of these degrees to achieve this desire of power for change.

When I step back, in fact, I see that the power I am yearning for will come as I gain more experience and understand how my work will create and contribute to the change I want.

I am beginning to believe that a form of power is when someone works in/on an undervalued area within the field of public health; with a step in achieving the common goals of improving health equity, health of vulnerable persons, overall health of the population, or preventing chronic illness.

We must exist in the moment so that we can propel ourselves, and the work we are doing, forward. There is no straight path; it may take a while to get to where we want to go. We must not only want to see the end of our goal, but instead thrive in the process. This will allow us to enjoy and produce better work.

When I sit looking at the policy document littered with ‘track changes’ and comments, it is in these moments where I must turn the situation around. Instead of losing interest, I think, “I am writing this policy so that I can help anyone who may feel symptom relief with cannabis; and to give them the option to pursue it without stigma, discrimination, or barriers, similar to other treatments”. While not everyone is going to understand how doing this is giving me “power” to create change, I know that it does to me.

In conclusion, I give you three points of advice:

  1. “Power” comes from what you are doing with your career; and not the career title.
  2. Thrive in (and enjoy) what you are currently working on. If you are not enjoying it, change your mindset, take control of your current situation, and use the various “opportunities” to your advantage.
  3. Be proactive. Determine where you’d want your contributions to have impact; and find opportunities to pursue that.

So, I challenge you, just as I am challenging myself, to figure out: what will give you the feeling of “power”?

Don’t stop until you find it!


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