Keeping The Dream Alive

Sarah Musavi, Ottawa Catholic School Board

Why I chose CARA as my professional association

CARA is more than a professional association to my professional game plan.

How I arrived at CARA is a story that proves, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears”.

I had a dream, with my eyes open, when I was 15, living in India that made it clear to me that I wanted to work in healthcare, but with an international experience, so traveling was a big part of this dream. How I would do that was not my concern, even though way back in 1985 in India, not may people were able to travel even within the country. I was no different, with university teachers as parents, this idea seemed ludicrous and impossible to everyone around me.

However, the dream only grew stronger and by 2000, as a fresh Biochemistry doctorate, working as a Scientist and Communications Manager for Monsanto, India, I was getting disillusioned with the GMO world. Even the hefty pay package was not enough to steer me away from my dream. I decided to quit and explore international options for health research management. By 2002, I was at Dalhousie University, Halifax, enrolled in the Masters in Health Administration program.

Well, dreams have their own trajectory and what I learnt was that as long as I kept my dream alive, it did’nt really matter how long it takes to get there and also, I could continue to find new roads to get there. So, by 2005, I was only halfway through my MHA, living in Ottawa, married and with a 15-month old child, enrolled at UOttawa in the MHA program! One would think I had achieved my dream, but I was only halfway there. Between 2005 and 2020, I have definitely traveled a fair bit, more than I had dreamt of, and worked in various healthcare organizations mainly as a research consultant or assistant on contracts, writing reports, doing interviews, collecting data, volunteering at Telfer School of management, UOttawa alumni association board and community gardening.

To me, healthcare also means making a direct impact and positive difference in people’s lives that I can see everyday, so my own health crisis led me to certifying as a holistic health coach and teaching classes in the community, Algonquin college and Carleton University, for using food as medicine to women. I also started my blog Currently, I work at the Public school board as an Education Facilitator, which brings me in close contact with parents and children, whom I steer towards principles of nutrition. I do feel accomplished each day making little differences in their health. However, my dream to work full-time in health research management is still waiting to take wings.

In Oct 2019, I was seated beside Manager of Research Enterprise at UOttawa during the annual gala. After an hour of our conversation, she asked, “why are you not in research administration?”. You know what is research and you can communicate. Those are the big rocks. Next day she sent me the link to CARA urging me to join. Just looking at CARA’s website got me excited thinking of all the possibilities it would open up for me to re-enter the world of health research administration.

At CARA, I have found a very rich community of professionals, committed to simplifying research management processes, keeping it ethical and sharing information openly to move things efficiently. Each day in the program, I find highly experienced leaders like Sarah Lampson, Frances Chandler and Deborah Zornes, working through the many crises, including the current pandemic of Coronavirus, being highly responsive to even the smallest issue with professionalism and using evidence with humanity.

Each day, I find myself becoming more confident to simply send in a job application for a research administration role. This is a big hurdle for me, given that currently I work in the school setting, which may seem far removed from the world of research administration, but CARA’s webinars and courses are enabling me to make that connection in healthcare research management.

CARA is my teacher, because I am always a student. Each day, I walk into the school with more confidence, knowing how to make linkages between student success and research ethics. I have learnt the nuances of research processes through following CARA’s webinars on how to work together with a multicultural and multigenerational workforce. So far, the best lesson I’ve learnt is through writing the grant proposal. Just refining the appropriate funding agency, forming a team, exploring the need and writing the project description has been the most enlightening journey of self and the student community. When the school receives its grant to start an outdoor classroom, they too will thank CARA for making this happen for their students and the nearby community.

Thank you CARA!