Know Your Heroes: Alice Carvalhal Schöffel

Name: Alice Carvalhal Schöffel
Title: Program Coordinator, Social Medicine and Population Health
Number of years working in health care: 6
I was born and raised in: Porto Alegre, Brazil

I decided to get into health care because I grew up with medical professionals, and I was always interested in science, biology and health. I really decided to pursue a career in health care once I learned more about how health is not just the absence of illness, but also about well-being. Learning how vital health is, how it touches all aspects of one’s life and vice versa, showed me how improving health can have incredible ripple effects for individuals.  

My role here at UHN is to work with the other members of the Social Medicine team to reduce health inequities across the hospital and other health care sectors by addressing the root causes of health. A lot of my work involves working to develop, implement and evaluate new projects that target the social determinants of health as an upstream approach to improving health outcomes. The team and I also work closely with key stakeholders, including community partners and members, to ensure meaningful collaboration and engagement in projects.

COVID-19 has affected me by showing me the value of the time I was able to spend on myself and with my family, and to continue this in my post-pandemic life. This has also helped me appreciate what really matters in life, and to not fixate on everyday things that won’t matter in a week, month or year.

The thing I love the most about my job is
seeing the direct impact my work has on others. Whether it’s by hearing testimonials from people who use our programs, or collecting data that shows improvements in health and wellness, it’s amazing to know my work and our programs help others.

The most incredible thing I’ve seen at work is the perseverance and resilience of people. I’ve seen different patients go through so many difficult times, be it active cancer treatment, recovering from severe COVID-19 infection or living in poverty. Nevertheless, these patients continue to be strong, kind and optimistic. I think the best example of this was a cancer patient I worked with, whose cancer came back and she was doing her second round of chemo. I would sit with her during her chemo sessions and chat – she was easily the happiest, warmest person I had ever met. She lit up the whole chemo ward, despite this being her second time doing this.

I’m inspired by
my homeland of Brazil. The greenery, nature and ocean revitalize the soul and make me feel connected to something beyond myself. I try to mimic this in Canada by keeping a large assortment of tropical plants.

My personal heroes are my parents, who have worked tirelessly to provide a better life for me and my family. Both are dedicated health care professionals who worked hard to overcome poverty and even moved to a new, unknown country. Not only am I inspired by their hard work and what they have overcome, but I always admire the dedication and care they have for their patients – I try to bring this to my work.

I sometimes worry about my cat. She is the sweetest cat ever, but very elderly. She’s 16 years old (about 80 in human years!) and has been with me since she was a kitten, coming along with me through all major life milestones. While she’s quite healthy, I’m always hyper-worried something will happen as she keeps getting older.

I’ve found joy recently from sewing. I’m self-taught, which leads to a lot of trial and error. But it’s so fulfilling and exciting when something turns out well and when you get to proudly say “I made this.” I particularly love getting more use out of items, or upcycling old clothes, by mending or modifying them. It’s a great way to give clothes a new purpose and to reduce fast fashion waste and its impact on the planet.

A movie I love to watch when I’m feeling a little down is About Time. It starts like any rom-com, but shifts to emphasize the importance of finding meaning in life and cherishing every minute, especially when shared with loved ones.

My ideal day off is relaxing outdoors with family and friends on a beautiful, sunny day, or staying home on a rainy day and watching movies with a hot cup of tea.

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