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Every semester, the Co-op Problem Awards are presented to co-op students who conduct exceptional analysis of a problem affecting their employers.

Congratulations to the 2022 Winter Term award recipients, Paige Hall and Emily Lam. Emily and Paige demonstrated the strong analytical mindset and benefit that University of Waterloo co-op students bring to co-op employers.

Problem Statement by Emily Lam

Health Studies 4A
Employer: Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

This is a headshot of award winner Emily Lam.
Emily Lam


“You have cancer” are three words that no one wants to hear and being told that your rapidly growing malignant tumor will not be removed for three more weeks will likely not sit well with most Ontarians. Long wait times for breast cancer treatments in Ontario are of growing importance due to the negative implications on patients’ prognoses and the strain on an overburdened health care system. “In general, wait times across the health care system are one of the most important challenges faced by our government and health care administrators daily (Vogel, 2020).

Wait times for breast cancer treatment are of strategic importance to the health care industry because it impacts organizational and individual level factors. From an organizational perspective, staffing of health care providers, hospital resources and government funding are critically important considerations which strongly influence the system’s ability to handle cancer treatments in a timely manner (Vogel, 2020). Given that the system operates on constrained funds, the cost of treating cancer cannot be overlooked. If breast cancer is detected early (stage I), the cost of treatment is approximately $6,000 CAD per patient, while the cost can be substantially more if detected at stage III (~$14,000 CAD per patient) (Mittmann et al., 2020).

Accomplishments:

  • Led a clinical trial aimed at preventing radiation-induced skin reactions for breast cancer patients.
  • Published a paper in the journal Supportive Care in Cancer which investigated the impact of fatigue in over 600 breast cancer patients receiving radiotherapy.
  • Received the 2020 Co-op Student of the Year Award for work terms at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
  • Received the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer, Outstanding Young Investigator Award for research on pain in radiotherapy for breast cancer.

Problem Statement by Paige Hall

Health Studies 2B
Employer: Certified Listeners Society

This is a head shot image of Paige Hall.
Paige Hall

I will be analyzing the effects of transitioning between shifts, in a mental health hotline, on the quality of service for emotionally vulnerable or mentally unstable clients. This analysis will include both the direct impact of the shift transition guidelines on clients and the impacts of the respondent’s response to shift transition guidelines and how that impacts emotional support.

Accomplishments:

  • Recognized for analysis of shift transitions at mental health hotlines and the impact to clients seeking emotional or mental support.
  • Coordinated volunteer shifts, setting up and managing the volunteer group chat, assigning clients to Emotional Support Chat Respondents, assisting in training future coordinators, enforcing company policies, and adapting to unusual circumstances.
  • Served over a thousand clients from around the world by engaging in written conversational chats to provide emotional support for interpersonal relationships, loneliness, mental health, suicidal thoughts, domestic abuse, and stress, providing referrals when necessary.
  • Working towards becoming a regulated healthcare practitioner.

Explore more about The Problem Lab and the Co-op Problem Award.

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