When alumna, current student and new staff member, Chloe McNamee (BHSc ’15) (Wellness & Recognition) was considering career paths, she wasn’t exactly sure where her future was headed. Knowing her ultimate goal was to help people, Chloe headed west from her home in Brandon, Man., to take her first steps into studying public health at the University of Lethbridge. After finishing her undergrad and now close to completing her masters, Chloe says her experiences at the U of L have helped her shape a bright and promising future in assisting others to be their own biggest health advocate.
“Like a lot of people who make a future in health care, I came to the decision of wanting to help others because I saw the incredible impact my mom had as a nurse. She worked in a rehabilitation ward and would come home with stories of people who would ultimately end up in the ward due to completely preventable incidents. She would help people who had been involved in accidents where they weren’t wearing helmets while riding a bike, seatbelts in vehicles or people who had suffered decreased health and mobility because they weren’t aware of what a healthy lifestyle looks like.
“I wasn’t sure if I necessarily wanted to be a nurse but I knew I wanted to help people learn how to be healthy and active for as long as they could. I chose the public health program at the U of L because I could really tailor it to what I was interested in. Of the five programs in the country that were available at the time, the U of L was the only one where I could see myself thriving.
“I was pretty active as a kid in swimming and lots of outdoor activities so. My mom was a swimmer and I swam competitively as a kid too, so I knew how great it felt to get moving and the benefits of an active lifestyle.
“I had a really enriching and rewarding experience in my undergraduate program. I was able to take advantage of a lot of the opportunities available to students. I had an incredible co-op placement with Alberta Health Services which cemented my love and drive for health promotion and advocating for healthy lifestyles. Through the contacts I forged at AHS, I was able to secure a grant funded position with a program called Little Green Thumbs. It’s an indoor gardening program in schools where we would teach kids how to grow their own food from seeds. They learned about where food comes from, how to be their own food producers, and how to value their own health, their environment, and their community.
“As part of the Faculty of Health Sciences research day, my friend and fellow classmate Takara Motz (BHSc ’15) and I developed a poster presentation on a health impact assessment. We ended up winning the Faculty of Health Sciences Knowledge to Action Undergraduate Award that year with our poster. Receiving recognition from your Faculty when you’ve been working so hard feels wonderful. It also gives you that confirmation that you’re on the right path too, which as an undergrad can be a big anxiety towards the end of your program.
“After I graduated, I wanted to get some more experience and education under me before I headed out to the job market. I had initially applied to the nursing program as I thought more clinical, hands-on experience would be best but life had other plans and a career in nursing just wasn’t on the cards. So I looked at the masters programming at the U of L on the advice of my friend Takara and I’m so glad I did.
“I’m currently working on my Masters of Science (Health Sciences), it’s a thesis-based program and I have really come to enjoy the research aspect of the industry. There is so much to learn in the public health field and I love that I etc make discoveries that add to the current research.
“My thesis is looking at physical activity and aging with a focus on masters swimmers, 60 years and older. I have completed a few triathlons recently and I was continually blown away by the fitness levels and competitive drive of this age group. I wanted to find out why their physical activity was an important lifestyle choice and how they feel it has influenced their aging process. My love for swimming and passion for health promotion helped me realize that it is important that we learn about physical activity and the benefits it has to all populations, especially older adults. I discovered that there was little known in the literature about why older adults are involved in high-level physical activity, and little known about swimmers’ experiences to aging.
“If I think back to where I thought I’d be when I first took that drive from Brandon, I honestly couldn’t see myself where I am today. The best part about learning and growing with a university like the U of L is that while the destination may not be clear when you set out, the journey teaches you so much that eventually the pieces of the puzzle just fall into place. With each new experience I have, I find myself more confident and more sure that I’m arriving exactly where I’m meant to be.”