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Confessions of an Eternal Optimist Sarah E Downey

I’ve always been an optimist. Yet even those who look on the bright side can sometimes puzzle over what their futures hold. When I graduated from the University of New Brunswick with a Bachelor of Science degree, I was deeply uncertain about the career path I should take. Then I learned about the Telfer Master of Health Administration and my professional life started to fall into place.

The year was 1990 and big changes were afoot in Canadian healthcare. The Canada Health Act had been in place for less than a decade. New funding mechanisms were gaining traction. And politicians were pressuring organizations to merge in an effort to become more efficient. As a result, the sector was growing more complicated, its challenges more daunting, and its place in our national conversation increasingly important.

I loved it all. Yes, healthcare in Canada is a complex business. But it’s a business with a big heart and a generous soul—a business that runs on meaningful relationships and relies on them to make our country a healthier and better place. In short, it’s tailor-made for an eternal optimist like me.

Twenty-eight years later, I’ve not only made a professional home in healthcare, but also stayed connected to the place where it all started for me. I serve as president of the Toronto Regional Council for uOttawa alumni; and the organization I lead—Michael Garron Hospital (formerly Toronto East General Hospital)—confers an award each year to the Telfer MHA student who delivers the best final residency presentation. The students who do their placements at our hospital also make sure my knowledge is current and supply me with fresh ideas. I suggest Telfer grads keep that fact in mind: for every viable new approach you’ll learn in healthcare, you’ll have to unlearn an obsolete one. Take it from an eternal optimist: it’s the best way to operate in this complex, big-hearted business.