Equity and Advocacy in Health Care

For Eric Comeau, BA’ 14, working in the health care field is about equity and advocacy.

Currently in his first year of study at Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick, Comeau has always been interested in health care and found examining the social determinants of health led to a better understanding of the circumstances that lead to illness.

“I believe medicine has changed over the past few decades and training doesn’t only including understanding diseases and treatments, it involves understanding the circumstances that lead to poor health outcomes,” he said.

“Many physicians are at the forefront of advocating for better health care and equity and this is something I value and strive for.”

The ability to examine the societal issues that impact health is something he developed at STU through studies in Psychology, Gerontology, and English, and later honed in a Community Developer position for Horizon Health Network.

“My work with Horizon Health gave me a perfect blend of experience and freedom to explore different aspects of health,” he said.  “My role was to take the data and research found within the New Brunswick Health Council’s community reports and Horizon Health Network’s community health needs assessments and engage community partners to develop strategies to address issues relating to health.”

In his time as community developer, Comeau facilitated the implementation of a bulk produce purchasing club, various chronic disease management programs, and a healthy breakfast program at a local elementary school.

“Facilitating the implementation of the bulk produce purchasing club is definitely the contribution I’m most proud of,” Comeau said. “The goal of the program was to improve access to fresh produce to community members, and over a two-year period the program grew from 35 members to more than 300 and it continues to grow.”

A Flexible Undergraduate Degree

Comeau, of Juniper, NB, came to St. Thomas after deciding a core science degree wasn’t the right fit. His experience at the university, and the liberal arts approach of his courses, benefitted him as a community developer and continue to influence his approach to medical school.

“STU gave me opportunities to examine societal issues pertaining to health through a number of lenses. There are numerous ethical dilemmas that have to be navigated by physicians and my coursework in psychology, gerontology, and ethics equipped me with various frameworks to use, which have been very helpful,” he said.

“My education was provided with a balance of content pertinent to my field of study and enough flexibility for me to focus on the concepts that interested me. I felt supported by the staff and faculty at STU and always felt my personal, professional, and academic wellbeing was valued.”

Dr. David Korotkov, Department of Psychology, taught Comeau during his time at St. Thomas and believes his success is a statement to his character and the value of a liberal arts education.

“Eric’s understanding that health and health inequity is a function of not just behaviour and biology, but also of various social determinants such as income and social status, education, as well as access to health support services, is quite insightful, impressive, and important,” he said.

“Initial or further study in the social sciences and humanities makes for a well-rounded understanding of the world, and his success is an example of how a liberal arts education may complement a singular interest in the natural sciences.”

Following the completion of his medical degree, Comeau is looking to specialize in neurology, psychiatry, family medicine, or internal medicine.