Dr. Drona Rasali, BC's Provincial Health Services Authority

CARRFS eNews profiles a leading member in each issue. In this issue we profile Dr. Drona Rasali, Director, Population Health Surveillance and Epidemiology at the BC’s Provincial Health Services Authority.

Dr. Drona Rasali, Director, Population Health Surveillance and Epidemiology at the BC’s Provincial Health Services Authority.

Dr. Drona Rasali, Director, Population Health Surveillance and Epidemiology at the BC’s Provincial Health Services Authority.

What is your background?

I come from a professional background of veterinary medicine, with specializations received in health-related sciences including pathology, endocrinology, quantitative genetics and epidemiology. In my career path between 1980 and 2003, I held various roles from veterinary officer to senior scientist with the Government of Nepal. After completing my doctoral degree from the University of Manitoba, I worked in a national epidemiological project studying food safety systems (through pork traceability, to be specific) in Canada that involved both veterinary and public health. In 2005, I joined the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health as a provincial chronic disease epidemiologist. After my seven year tenure there, I moved to my current role as the Director, Population Health Surveillance and Epidemiology at British Columbia’s Provincial Health Services Authority.

What inspired you to become an epidemiologist?

A number of factors are involved:  Firstly, I was frequently involved in epidemiological field investigations of disease outbreaks, when I was a Government vet deployed in remote districts of Nepal. During that time, I found myself more at ease working with the animal population/herds rather than clinically treating individual animals. Later in my graduate studies, I took on population level genetics, mortality and diseases for livestock production as my fields of interest. Secondly, as a student of pathology, I found the work of Rudolf Virchow, a German physician known as the Father of Pathology who was also a true public health epidemiologist, as a source of my inspiration. Also, my ultimate goal in life has been to serve people who are underserved in society. I found public health and health surveillance as a way forward for me in serving the people directly. Connecting all these, I became passionately inspired to become an epidemiologist landing on the population health surveillance. 

What do you spend the most time on in your current position?

My current professional role involves the work of surveillance relating to population health for prevention of chronic diseases in British Columbians. Currently, the major activities of my professional work areas that take most of my time are developing a suite of priority health equity indicators for the province, profiling health indicators for communities across the province, as well as networking with the stakeholders for consultations on the major ongoing projects. 

What was your motivation to become a member of the CARRFS?

CARRFS was established for enhancing the capacity in surveillance of chronic diseases at the regional and local level. I have been engaged in its activities right from its inception following a national Think Tank Forum organized in 2008. Incidentally, ‘CARRFS’ name came from the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC’s) naming contest that I had won. The motivation for my engagement was simply my realization of the need for surveillance of behavioral, socio-economic and environmental factors at the local level that has been lacking.

How do you see the current role of the CARRFS in Canada today?

CARRFS is an alliance of interested public health professionals and organizations working on risk factor surveillance [that] is playing a proactive role in building capacity through e-learning courses on relevant topics and profiling various surveillance systems through case studies across Canada. Both are foundational work for the development of a national surveillance system. PHAC’s continued support to the alliance has been pivotal.

What are the future opportunities for the CARRFS?

We scanned the world literature and found that not many countries have specific programs of risk factor surveillance at the local level. Canada is a leading country in innovation for developing risk factor surveillance systems. CARRFS has a tremendous opportunity to network with provincial, regional and local health units and has a unique opportunity to develop models of local level risk factor surveillance systems to make a positive difference in public health. <>

By Jostein Algroy