Dr. Silvina Mema: Canada is the land of opportunity

She is a medical health officer with Interior Health

Editor’s note: In 2020 it should be no surprise that more and more woman hold positions of power. Whether it’s business, politics, sports or the non-profit sector, woman continue to achieve new milestones. This story is part of a series of stories highlighting 16 women in Kelowna who are leaders in their fields. You can read all of their stories in our annual publication called Women in Business in the Feb. 28 issue of Kelowna Capital News.

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As an immigrant to this country, Interior Health medical health officer Dr. Silvina Mema said she quickly realized that Canada was the land of opportunity.

She and her husband landed in Edmonton from their native Argentina to pursue their master’s degree at the University of Alberta medical school. They saw Canada as a place of opportunity to expand their education and pursue their career dreams.

“One of the reasons we chose Canada is because there is no ceiling here for what you want to do. The sky is the limit,” Mema said.

“It was the first thing our university supervisor told us when he picked us up at the airport in Edmonton. And it is totally true.”

Mema said her supervisor’s claim that Canada was the land of opportunity still exists today in the health care field, where technology is creating new career possibilities that weren’t available 20 years ago.

She said those new jobs are partly what makes a career in health care “fluid,” meaning what students start out pursuing as a career may evolve into another area they initially never considered or realize existed.

“I think today it matters more what you want to do rather than where you work. Think about what you want to do and just do it, follow your passion.

“Where you start out may not be where you end up in whatever career you end up in so be open to new ideas. But you will find somewhere to fit eventually.”

Mema is a prime example of how changing interests and goals can impact career aspirations.

After studying for her masters, Mema didn’t like the medical specialty vacancies that immigrant doctors were being directed towards by the province of Alberta to fill medical care needs.

Rather than working directly with patients or pursuing her initial medical interest in ophthalmology, Mema realized her interest was working more in the public health care field, where her expertise could help more people from a preventative perspective.

She applied for and was accepted into the University of Calgary public health residency program for four years.

Upon her graduation, Mema started working for a cancer screening program with Alberta Health Services, and then applied four years ago for the medical health officer job opening with Interior Health, which brought her to Kelowna.

As a working mother with two young daughters, she feels the push and pulls of juggling a career and family.

“It is a challenge in the sense of when you are at work, you feel you should be at home, and when you are home you feel you should be working. But you realize the work-life balance thing doesn’t really exist, it is more of an aspirational thing.”

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