Sandy Tatla is the director of new knowledge and innovation across BC Children’s Hospital and BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre. She and her team help foster a culture of organizational learning. They support nurses, allied health professionals, and physicians to best accomplish their work through ongoing training, education, and professional development.
Sandy is also a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the University of British Columbia (UBC).
I love supporting the integration of research evidence into clinical practice and finding new ways to improve knowledge translation. However, the most exciting part about research — in my opinion — is collaborating with the talented researchers, leaders, and health-care providers here at BC Children’s and BC Women’s.
I didn’t set out to have a career in science. Even now, I don’t really see myself as a woman in science. I’ve always enjoyed learning and education, as well as supporting others in their learning. Staying true to these interests and passions is how I’m best able to support science.
Choosing health care, occupational therapy, and then educational leadership
As a child — while I didn’t have any specific role models in the sciences — I really looked up to my mom, who was a nurse. I always admired her dedication to both her profession and her role as a caregiver and mother. She was my main inspiration for pursuing a health-care field.
I did my undergraduate degree in kinesiology, with a minor in psychology. The challenges I experienced during my science education were mostly related to my level of confidence and the very high expectations I had of myself. As a woman of colour, I didn’t see a lot of other women in academia or in leadership who I felt I could relate with.
I worked as a kinesiologist after I graduated, but wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to take my career.
At one point, I attended a career info session at UBC. Some presenters there were discussing occupational therapy, which was the first time I’d ever heard about the field. I was instantly drawn to occupational therapy’s holistic approach and its close attention to the whole psychosocial picture — mental, cognitive, and physical health.
After completing a master’s degree in occupational therapy at UBC, I was fortunate to have excellent leaders and mentors at BC Children’s who provided me with opportunities to pursue my interests and curiosities in practice-based research, education, and coaching.
These interests led me to return for a second master’s in rehabilitation sciences. I never imagined I would follow a career path in educational leadership, but here I am!
Balancing work and family
While I loved the direction my studies and leadership path were taking me, I felt torn between wanting to excel professionally and wanting to be a mother who was fully present for my children.
Being a mother has helped me to have more empathy for others and be a more compassionate leader. In addition, parenting has helped me prioritize and be efficient to make the most of my time.
I was on maternity leave during part of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I experienced many challenges with working while having a toddler and a school-age child at home. I was not able to fit in my research-related interests in addition to my leadership role during this time, which was really hard for me! My schedule is only now starting to open up again.
I carry many roles within my family. I’ve had to learn to balance the expectations I have of myself and the expectations my family has of me, too. I provide a lot of support to my parents, siblings, and extended family, in addition to being a mom of two kids and a very career-oriented person.
It’s a constant balancing act, but I’m very fortunate because I have a lot of flexibility in my work schedule. I am grateful to work with an incredible team of leaders who inspire me. We have a very supportive community and help one another to be our best. It’s not perfect and it’s not always easy, but it’s manageable and I feel very privileged.
Advice to anyone considering a career in science or health care
Follow your passions and interests. Don’t be afraid to take risks and try new things. This might involve looking into a field you’ve never considered before, and it could lead you down a very interesting and unexpected career path.
And then once on your path, it’s vitally important to take care of yourself so that you have the energy to give to the people you want to give it to — both at work and at home.
Join us as we celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science
Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023
Click here for event details
Registration is open to high school students, university students, the health science community and the general public. The curriculum and discussion will be targeted for a grade 10–12 education level. The event will be hybrid with the option of attending in-person or virtually.
To read more profiles and keep on top of the latest research in child health, be sure to follow us on social media: