Dane De Silva

BMLSc ’11

Dane’s time in the BMLSc program sparked his research interests to lead him to the career he has today. Dane highlights the courses that helped him along the way.

What is your current career or educational program?

Currently, I am the Family Violence Programs Manager in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, VA.

Describe what you do.

I perform surveillance work related to family violence and child/infant deaths. Although it is an intense subject matter, it is situated in the Division of Death Prevention where we take a public health approach. I lead our State’s Child Fatality Review Team, and we review cases and try to make recommendations (whether programmatic, educational, interventions) that address root causes in order to prevent poor outcomes later, such as death. Looking at associations and risk factors are an important part of this job, and the most interesting, because these are the factors that policies or prevention programs can make the most impact early in a person’s life.

What has been your journey, since graduating from the BMLSc Program?

After graduating from the BMLSc program, I did research work at BC Women’s Hospital where I was a research assistant in the Dept of Ob/Gyn, and then the national coordinator of a knowledge translation project to implement clinical guidelines (related to preterm birth and cerebral palsy) into practice at tertiary maternity hospitals across Canada. This was a 5-year project, as simply publishing guidelines is often not enough to change practice. During this time, I pursued a Master’s in Public Health at UBC. I focused my MPH in perinatal epidemiology, and it was during this degree that I realized that public health and research was for me, but I didn’t want to go as far as getting a doctoral degree. Five years later, that perspective changed, and I ended up wanting to pursue a doctoral degree to obtain even more training in maternal and child health (MCH). Circumstances in my life provided me the opportunity to leave Vancouver for the US, and so I did a doctoral degree in MCH at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. I wanted to grow as a researcher and gain new perspectives, particularly in an area where there’s much to learn about health equity in MCH. Completing that program has since led me to my current position, where I’m continuing to establish myself as a MCH researcher/epidemiologist.

How did your BMLSc degree help you to get where you are now?

The BMLSc degree helped me in several ways. I first realized my interest in pregnancy and maternal and child health during the microscopy class, where we chose a specific organ to create a portfolio of images. I chose the female reproductive organ to show microscopically how it changes at the cellular level to prepare itself for pregnancy. Following that, I conducted a Directed Studies unit in my fourth year, where I did my project at BC Women’s Hospital in conjunction with the Pathology and Ob/Gyn departments. This experience led me to the research coordinator position, which further fueled my interest in public health and maternal and child health. Now, what’s nice about working in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is that it combines both the pathology/clinical background from the BMLSc program with the public health/MCH training I received since then.

What is the most valuable experience you gained from the BMLSc Program?

The most valuable experience I gained from the program was the fourth year PATH 405 class, where we learned to critique papers and make effective presentations and lectures. This class helped me improve my critical thinking and hone my public speaking and lecturing skills. What was learned in this class has, to this day, been useful in peer reviewing articles, conference presentations, and my teaching.

What did you enjoy most about the BMLSc Program?

What I enjoyed most about the program was the small class size for hands-on experience. All of the courses were interesting, especially Histology, Clinical Chemistry, and Toxicology. Learning how disease/injury manifests itself in the body was fascinating. Lastly, I enjoyed the friendships formed from the program. After we finished our program, we all travelled to Hawaii to celebrate as a group, which was a fun trip!

What is one piece of advice that you would give to BMLSc students and recent graduates?

To BMLSc students – take advantage of the Directed Studies program in 4th year, because you can make connections with faculty and other researchers, and maybe discover what you want to do, which may not necessarily be in medicine. To recent graduates – I hope you found the program useful and that it will help you further your career. Using what you learned to pursue graduate studies is always a great avenue to keep learning.

Name one thing on your bucket list.

To visit all continents (with the exception of Antarctica). I have Australia left! Also to view the Northern Lights.