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  • Writer's pictureMarielle Moraleja

Meet Jenna: A PhD Student at the University of Toronto and a Research Assistant at the Benoit Lab

Meet Jenna Quelch, a PhD student in Public Policy and Canadian Politics, taking a collaborative specialization in Public Health Policy at the University of Toronto. Her dissertation focuses on how provinces and territories conceptualize medical necessity, and how this impacts gendered health policies in Canada and more. Beyond her academics, she enjoys going on runs with her Aussie-doodle, exploring new restaurants with friends, and visiting family out West!

Her academic journey began when she moved out of a small city in northern British Columbia to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science in Vancouver. She notes, “I loved the diversity of the field and the real-world applications that Political Science offered….” She was keen to continue towards higher education and completed her Master’s in Public Policy at Simon Fraser University.

Her experiences throughout her Master’s program further inspired her to get a PhD, “I had the chance to work with some amazing faculty, supervisors, and the First Nations Health Authority. This work reaffirmed my commitment to public policy with a focus on healthcare and the role research plays in helping to improve inequities and highlight perspectives often ignored in academia”. She decided to go to the University of Toronto to complete her PhD, as the political science department is known to be the largest and most academically diverse department in North America, “…the department houses some of the foremost leaders in the fields of Public Policy and Canadian Political Science… the department offers great opportunities for collaboration and the rigour of the doctoral program sets students up for quality research contributions”.

With the opportunities the university offered, she was able to tie her passions in political science and public health policy together and do a collaborative specialization at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, which is where she met Dr. Benoit. She began working at the Benoit Lab in 2022 as a research assistant focusing on the Circle of Care project, where the team identifies and integrates Indigenous healing strategies within an Indigenous Healing Program for Indigenous women. Jenna is excited to continue working on this project and supporting other potential research areas Dr. Benoit proposes.

Upon the completion of her doctoral program, she hopes to join one of Canada’s many esteemed Political Science departments or Public Policy schools.

Best advice for prospective students? Jenna recommends networking with as many people as possible, especially current PhD students, faculty, recent graduates, and post-doctoral fellows. By doing so, you can gain insight from people at different stages of their careers which can offer you alternative perspectives towards your interests and goals.

The Benoit Lab is grateful to have Jenna on the team, and we wish the best for Jenna’s academic journey!

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