#OneEastToronto — Meet Sara Shearkhani

#OneEastToronto shares the faces of East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP), a group of more than 50 community, primary care, home care, hospital and social services organizations in East Toronto working together to improve the way local residents access and receive care. Meet Sara Shearkhani, evaluation lead and postdoctoral fellow at ETHP.

“I completed my PhD in health services research at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation last fall. Before enrolling in that program in 2016, I was pursuing a PhD in economics. But when my husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, I began navigating and interacting more with the local healthcare system. As a newcomer to Canada at the time, I was so grateful for all the help my husband received. I began to give back to the community by volunteering in health care-related roles. That’s when I decided I wanted to change my field of study.

As the evaluation lead and postdoctoral fellow at ETHP, I’m responsible for evaluating our community surge initiatives and Hubs work. I’m also responsible for developing our Ontario Health Team (OHT) evaluation framework, which ensures that the work we are doing aligns with what is expected from us by the Ontario Ministry of Health.

Evaluation work is important because we want to show the impact of the new model of care we’re implementing. As a team, we have great ideas and intentions. But to ensure these projects are improving the healthcare system for the populations we’re serving, we need to have ways to measure the outcomes of our work or our progress toward the outcomes. That way, if something isn’t working we can figure out ways to improve it. And if something is working really well, we can turn our attention to how we can sustain it.

I love the process of determining ways we can refine our programs and services and measure our impact. When it comes to health care, a plan can seem perfect in your head. But once you start engaging with patients and providers, you may find some areas of your project that need improvement. That’s why building relationships with different stakeholders and ETHP members is key in my role. These individuals are our sources of knowledge. They know our programs and services inside out so it’s vital that we capture what they believe are key evaluation indicators and components. You want to make sure that they’re part of the evaluation process and that their ideas and feedback are reflected.

As someone who’s had extensive experience with our local healthcare systems as a patient and family member of a patient, this work really feels like I’m giving back. I’m part of a collective effort to improve the way people in East Toronto access and receive care.”

Are you a member of East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP) who is interested in being featuring in our #OneEastToronto series or know someone who would be a great fit? Please email Lucy Lau, corporate communications coordinator at ETHP, at lucy.lau@tehn.ca.