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Sommer Scholars

Melanie Bechard

  • MPH Student

WORKING UPSTREAM

A physician in pediatric emergency medicine, Melanie Bechard finds immense gratification in treating problems ranging from a stubborn splinter to life-threatening illness. At the same time, she says that it’s incredibly frustrating to see many of the same problems over and over—problems caused by systemic societal issues that don’t have easy solutions. “The emergency room is a barometer of a society’s well-being,” she says. To help break the troubling cycle, Bechard turned to advocacy. A first-generation college student, she credits her parents with imparting a strong sense of justice early on that shaped her world view. Bechard got involved in public policy issues in medical school, becoming the vice president of Government Affairs of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students, a two-year position in which she led other trainees in lobbying the government for public housing improvements and universal drug coverage. While working as a senior pediatrics resident at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, she served on the Board of Resident Doctors of Canada, including a term as president. There, she and her colleagues advocated for national licensure to improve physician mobility in underserved regions. With an MPH, Bechard hopes to continue to influence health far beyond the hospital through policy to improve the health of disadvantaged populations. “While I look forward to fixing many fractured bones and resolving countless migraines throughout my career,” she says, “I am excited at the possibility of being able to impact the upstream determinants of health in a more profound way.”