Senior Program Consultant, Digital and Analytics Strategy — Shabdit Shah

Sr. Program Consultant, Digital & Analytics Strategy — Shabdit Shah

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Save 40% on Unlimited Medbridge CEUs with promo code TNCPT!
Save 40% on Unlimited Medbridge CEUs with promo code TNCPT!

This week’s spotlight is on Shabdit Shah, MScPT, a non-clinical physical therapist who is now Senior Program Consultant, Digital and Analytics Strategy at the Ontario Ministry of Health!

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What is your full name, title, and company name for your current, primary role?

Shabdit Shah, MScPT – Senior Program Consultant, Digital and Analytics Strategy at the Ontario Ministry of Health

What additional roles do you currently have?

In addition to my role at the ministry, I also hold an adjunct lecturer status-appointment at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine.

Where are you located?

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Where did you go to PT school, and what year did you graduate?

University of Toronto, 2017

What did you do when you first finished school, and for how long?

I worked across three different outpatient clinics, mostly focused on orthopaedics and some vestibular rehabilitation. I stayed at two of these clinics for just about five years, taking on progressive leadership roles.

In what setting(s) did you work, and what types of patients did you treat?

I worked solely in sports medicine during my time as a clinician, with a little bit of vestibular rehab. My patients ranged from weekend warriors to pre- and post-operative cases to elite athletes. I spent a good deal of time working with ACL and shoulder injuries due to the nature of my clinic setting and the surgeons I was associated with.

What did you enjoy about your early roles? What didn’t you enjoy?

I enjoyed meeting different people and learning about their journeys. I found immense satisfaction in challenging my own clinical reasoning and treatment skills across these diverse patient groups.

I did not enjoy limitations set out by insurance companies on physio coverage. I also found it challenging at the time for physios to progress upwards in their careers outside of the traditional clinic ownership path.

What else have you done since then, prior to your current role?

During my time as a clinician, I sought out roles to hone my non-clinical skills. At one of the clinics, I was promoted to clinic director, and at the other clinic I led the implementation of a group patient-rehabilitation program.

In addition, I started my MBA part time at the University of Toronto Rotman School of Management while managing my clinical caseload and non-clinical duties. Eventually, I transitioned to my non-clinical role while in the program.

When and why did you decide to do something non-clinical?

During physiotherapy school, I found a fascination with our business curriculum. I suppose I always had a deeper desire to move into something non-clinical, but I knew I wanted patient-care experience before I did so (and specifically, I wanted sports medicine experience to scratch an itch I had of working with that patient population since I was young).

During the pandemic, both my clinics were shut down, and I had a lot of time on my hands while I was at home. This time away from clinic was that catalyst that drove me to writing my GMAT and applying to MBA programs.

What are you doing these days?

I’m finishing my third (and hopefully final) degree in April 2024, so that will free up a lot of time for me. In addition to wrapping up the MBA, I’m continuing to manage a digital transformation project in my role at the Ministry of Health.

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Are you still treating patients, or are you solely non-clinical?

I’m solely non-clinical.

How long have you been in your current role?

I’ve been in this role since June 2022.

Did you get any special certifications or training along the way to help you get into your current role?

No specific certifications or training, but I will note that I got this role through an event being held in my MBA program.

How did you find your senior program consultant job? Did you apply or find it through a connection?

I met a representative from the ministry at an industry night through school. We had the chance to connect very briefly—I had literally 60 seconds to pitch myself to her—and I followed up afterwards with my resume, per her request.

She connected me to someone in my current unit who was hiring. I was able to land the job soon after meeting with two managers in the digital health program branch.

Did you do anything special to your resume and cover letter to land the job?

The Rotman school suggests tailoring your resume and cover letter in a specific format to ensure they are readable and comprehensive for the role that is being targeted.

I updated both my resume and cover letter to that format, and I ensured that they were as specific as possible for the role I was applying to.

In addition, it is recommended that the more quantitative you can be in your resume bullets the better, so I tried to quantify almost everything I did in every bullet point on my resume.

How have people reacted to you leaving patient care?

My family, friends, and colleagues were all supportive of my move to a non-clinical role.

I had to have some tough conversations with former patients during my hand-off period, as I had developed strong relationships with many of them during their treatment journeys—but they, too, have been supportive.

Some of my former patients still email me asking if I’m practicing. It’s always nice to hear from them, but I have to unfortunately decline and refer them on to another physio.

What’s a typical day or week in the life like for you? What types of tasks and responsibilities fill your time?

I don’t think I have a typical day, per se, but I will say that much of my time during the week is spent on developing, implementing, and managing various health-related policies and programs. I often am asked to provide advice and direction to senior management and other areas within the broader government—including partner ministries, crown corporations, and other stakeholders.

In terms of other tasks and responsibilities, I am required to develop reports, briefings, presentations, and correspondence on various programs and other digital health initiatives. This also includes things like budget analysis, options assessment, and formation of recommendations to senior leadership.

What are some of the rewards of your senior program consultant role? What are the biggest challenges?

Knowing that the work I’m doing is at the forefront of digital innovation at the provincial level is pretty exciting, and it is what keeps me motivated as I come into work every day.

As with any government position, the red tape is always a challenge and can be frustrating at times. One thing I’ve realized is having people up the chain who are advocating for you and your work is vital, and I’m lucky to have that in my role in this branch and division.

How did your clinical background prepare you for this role? Which skills transferred?

Two things from my clinical background have helped prepare me for this role:

  • The “frontline” knowledge of the health system, especially for someone like me who spent almost every clinical placement in school at each of the major hospitals in the city of Toronto, in combination with my private clinic experience upon graduation. This has come in handy in situations where a clinical perspective was beneficial and when I had to draft content for a clinical audience.
  • The rapport-building and other “soft” skills that often are a challenge to train. Coming from a profession where relationship-building is paramount, I found it very easy and comfortable to interact with stakeholders in my current role. I attribute this to the consistent patient interactions I had that honed my skills and comfort level.

What type of person do you think would do well in your senior program consultant role?

Definitely someone who is detail-oriented, has a strong vocabulary and writing skills, and has the ability to manage multiple urgent requests under tight timelines (which happens often when working at the ministry).

Do you work remotely or onsite?

I’m currently working a hybrid arrangement, with about two days in office and the other three remote.

Does your organization hire PT, OT, or SLP professionals into non-clinical roles? If so, what type of roles?

Yes, we do. In fact, there was another physio in this role before me, and we hired a physio to join our team after me as well.

Did you read any books, take any courses, or do anything special overall to get you where you are today?

I spent more time consciously reading publications, such as the Economist, and staying up to date on news—especially political news—as I figured it would help me gain a broader understanding of the sector I was going to be working in and where it fits in the broader national and international environment.

I spent a lot of time speaking to mentors and other individuals who I knew made moves to non-clinical roles, one of whom was a fellow Canadian featured on this site – Priya Thakkar. I also spoke to individuals who previously worked in the role I’m in to glean insights and determine if it was the right fit for me.

What is a typical career path for someone in your senior program consultant role?

For someone in my role, if you want to stay in the public service, the next step up would be into a lead or manager-level position. After that, the progression moves up into a director role, followed by a position as assistant deputy minister.

What is next for you? What are your high-level career aspirations?

This is a great question that will be met with a not-so-great answer: I don’t quite know yet.

Going through an MBA has opened my eyes to the world of possibility for a former clinician like me, when I thought my options were limited and narrow. It’s truthfully made me pause and do some deep introspection on what I want to do next.

Editor’s note: Want to learn more about pursuing an MBA? Check out this spotlight on Jim Dyer, PT, DPT, MBA, who is now Senior LDRP Specialist for Medtronic!

What would you recommend to someone who is considering going into a role like yours? Do you have any special words of wisdom for the readers?

Talk to everyone and anyone you can. Find people who are in similar roles, or were previously in roles, and get as much information as you can, so you can make an informed decision.

Job changes are hard, and doubly so when moving from clinical to non-clinical positions, so the more detail and data you have behind such a large decision, the better off you will be. That, and patience. Moving into a non-clinical role did not happen overnight and was certainly a very difficult career pivot for me. Be patient with yourself, but don’t get complacent. The right role is out there.

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What would you teach to today’s graduate students in your profession, if you had the opportunity?

I would incorporate more of the non-clinical foundations into the curriculum, even if it was as an elective option. I think simple things like budgeting and forecasting, for example, should be taught in any graduate-level program. While I am not sure what the latest updates are to the curriculum at my alma mater, I would hope that these elements are being incorporated, as they are relevant for anyone who wants to own their own practice, move up in a hospital or other healthcare organization, or just wants to examine their own earnings and project their future, so they can plan for life.

In addition to those “hard” skills, I would really like to preach the importance of leveraging your existing network and expanding it as broadly as possible.

If there was one thing that set me up for success and got me the opportunities I had, both as a clinician and now as a consultant with the ministry, it was my tenacity for continuing to expand my professional network.

Do you have any special advice for others who want to follow in your footsteps?

I spoke a bit about my Rotman degree in this post. If you want more insights on my experience, I did a similar interview with the school, where I answer some questions that may be top of mind and relate to me transitioning into my non-clinical role. You can read it here.

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