Episode #38

Many Containers Through Which to do the Work: An Interview with Sarah Dobson

Sarah Dobson’s journey has exemplified the idea that it is not our “container” (the university or institution we work for) that matters in impacting the world, but rather our interests, passions, and drive.



In this interview episode of The Academic Womxn Amplified, Sarah shares about her academic path, and how serious illness during her graduate studies pushed her away from pursuing a PhD, and into a variety of arenas where she has been able to have a huge impact in her field of public health. She talks about co-founding and running a non-profit, doing research as a ‘non-academic’, academic adjacent career paths, and entrepreneurship. We also talk about our current moment and the definitive links between systemic racism and poor health outcomes. 


Key point discussed:

  • Sarah’s beginnings, searching for the right program and finding her community [4:30]
  • Taking a detour to law school [7:30]
  • Relief and lessons learned from quitting law school [8:30]
  • Differentiating between excelling for the sake of it and excelling at something personally important [10:30]
  • Taking graduate classes in her second language [14:45]
  • Getting extremely sick and taking extended time off during graduate study [15:00]
  • Over-achieving, insecurity, and the need to prove herself [18:30]
  • Her need for stability and a steady job outweighing a desire for her PhD [20:00]
  • Working at a center for educating health professionals and doing research outside of academia [21:00]
  • Ground-breaking contributions and impact in health education throughout Canada and the world [22:00]
  • Co-founding and directing a non-profit [25:30]
  • Building her own company in an ‘academic adjacent’ field [29:30]
  • Consulting on grant-writing and how she helps early career scholars make their grant ideas meaningful to others [32:00]
  • Systemic racism, racist patriarchy in academia, and how to make an impact individually and systemically [34:00]
  • Sarah’s advice for self-reflection and finding your own way to make an impact [41:30]


Key Quotes:

  • “In the end it was such a relief…to recognize that this was not the path for me.” -Sarah Dobson
  • “Not going straight through is a valid path for academia.” -Cathy Mazak
  • “I just needed to take a breath.” -Sarah Dobson
  • “Writing is an act of empathy.” -Sarah Dobson
  • “There are lots of different opportunities to do what you love and to make a difference.” -Sarah Dobson


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