After completing their first semester of McMaster University’s MBA program, Kaleigh Penny and Abhinav Bhatnagar joined the Health Benefits Management team at TELUS Health for four months starting in January. It wasn’t your average co-op term, since COVID-19 restrictions meant a completely virtual experience – but support from the team and the students’ enthusiasm bridged the digital gap.
“We were quickly immersed with the team,” Kaleigh says. “In our first week, the senior leadership team was really quick to offer their time and introduce themselves, and they set up a 30-minute appointment to welcome us to the team despite the virtual environment. That was really nice, because I find when you’re working in an office space you can have that quick elevator-type chat, just in passing, and you miss that in the virtual space.”
Abhinav appreciates the daily team huddles and regular communication through Slack and email, which help everyone feel connected: “Even though it’s virtual, I don’t feel like I’m isolated, and I think both Kaleigh and I have had the chance to talk to a lot of stakeholders in the team, just because our projects required us to communicate to get information for what we’re working on – so that’s been really great, too.”
Abhinav chose TELUS Health for his co-op semester because he was interested in building on his undergraduate experience in science with a more comprehensive understanding of systems and technologies in healthcare.
“TELUS Health really encompasses the entire continuum of care, starting from electronic medical record (EMR) systems all the way through to platforms such as the LivingWell Companion for senior care,” he says. “I was interested in working for a company like TELUS that brings all these pieces together and has a wide scope in the healthcare space – and really learning how tech plays a role and will continue to play a role in the future in the space.”
Kaleigh heard about TELUS Health through a personal connection. A few years ago, she chatted with a family member who is a healthcare professional and who piqued her interest in technology solutions that are now part of TELUS Health’s portfolio.
“As somebody who is interested in process improvement and sustainability, I share a passion for exploring how technology and digital solutions are transforming the healthcare industry and just thought it would be a great fit the more I heard about what TELUS has to offer,” she says.
Both co-op students were surprised to discover the scale and significance of the contributions plan sponsors and organizations like TELUS Health make to Canadian healthcare.
“The advantage of learning about this space is really understanding the role of insurance companies and group benefits and how so many Canadians rely on private healthcare benefits for drug, dental and extended healthcare needs – and recognizing that we often talk about the public system (provincially covered care) but this is a huge market that also plays an important role in people’s lives,” says Abhinav.
“The main takeaway I’m taking from this is just how important this space is in the greater Canadian healthcare system,” Kaleigh agrees. “When we think of things like sustainability in our Canadian healthcare system, the private payer market and health benefits management industry is the main driver of that sustainability.”
Kaleigh and Abhinav finish their co-op term at the end of April and head back to a virtual summer semester at McMaster. They’re taking with them a deeper understanding of how the puzzle pieces of healthcare fit together, as well as specific familiarity with a wide range of TELUS Health solutions – such a wide range that they both laugh about how daunted they felt when introduced to them back in January.
“Technology plays one of the most important roles in the future of healthcare delivery, and just being able to see different platforms working in action and how that supports our healthcare system is definitely a different outlook that I’ll bring back to my studies when I’m learning about the theoretical side of things at school,” says Kaleigh.
“I want to be involved in helping make the healthcare space better, whether that’s in the private space with new technology and pharma, helping to bring new products to market, or in the public space working in hospital administration,” says Abhinav. “One thing TELUS has taught me is gaining experience in both at an early stage can be valuable because they are so intertwined.”
This co-op semester was a win for TELUS Health, too, according to Courtney Sutherland, Director of Operations at TELUS Health and Payment Solutions, who served as the students’ manager.
“The co-op program is extremely valuable to our teams and helps us establish a funnel of strong prospective full-time employees down the road,” she explains. “Not only do these students offer insights into better understanding the needs of the next generation joining the workforce, but throughout their terms they deliver high-quality work with a fresh perspective. We will continue to build on what we believe is a mutually beneficial program.”
With its co-op program, TELUS provides opportunities to students in Finance, Business, Technology or Engineering, to apply their academic experience into rewarding work assignments. Throughout the co-op term, they get to participate in formal and informal development opportunities.
Know more about co-op opportunities here.