Irene Podolak, PhD candidate, Applied Health Sciences

Faculty of Graduate Studies

Irene Podolak, PhD candidate, Applied Health Sciences

Irene Podolak’s research is focused on health decision-making. She is Brock’s first doctoral recipient of a prestigious Frederick Banting and Charles Best Graduate Scholarship from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. She also is the winner of the Leading the Way Graduate Student Scholarship.

Irene’s research story
It has become increasingly evident that there are many factors presenting rapid change in the world today, most of these, and others we aren’t even aware of as of yet will influence the sustainability of our health systems in the future. However, many individuals believe that the health community is not sufficiently prepared to make informed decisions on how to respond to future uncertain events. Applying previous decisions that were based on historical data will not be relevant to new situations in the future. My research study will investigate how a method called scenario based planning, with the application of analytic tools and techniques, can enhance strategic health decision making to prepare for inevitable change.

Scenario based planning is not new — it has been applied in many industries. It’s described as a process to create and test several varied scenarios of equally plausible futures to identify innovative ways to manage uncertainty and minimize the risks of decision making.

The unique aspect of my research is that scenario based planning will be implemented with advanced analytic tools to simulate and test future health-related scenarios. This approach will enable health leaders to answer the important question of “what consequential decisions do we need to make now to respond to future uncertain events."

Graduate awards and the Brock experience
It is an honour to be speaking to you today — receiving this award has been very exciting and in all honesty, both a bit of a surprise and an immense relief. In my previous life before Brock I worked in the corporate world as a health consultant — when I wanted to do something I didn’t have to think about funding; I just went ahead assuming that the money would come from somewhere to pay for my projects. I have discovered that in academia, this is not the case.

The Frederick Banting & Charles Best Graduate Scholarship from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research will allow me to pursue a much more comprehensive research study in the area of health decision making.

I would like to close by thanking the people that have influenced my thinking. Dr. Mike Plyley was the first person I spoke to at Brock to investigate pursuing a PhD. His initial support was very encouraging and it strengthened my resolve to pursue this goal.

Dr. Jarold Cosby is the other person I would like to thank. He has become a great coach and mentor. His advice and ongoing support, and most of all, his willingness to explore the unknown, has made my experience at Brock very enjoyable and rewarding.


award-winning graduate students

Graduate students, above from left, Irene Podolak, Drew Marquardt and Sierra Holtzheuser, spoke about their research and the importance of awards and scholarships in supporting their success at the 2012 Graduate Student Awards and Donor Recognition Celebration.