‘Definitely apply’: Former physiotherapist Roger Lay on career transition & the National Mentoring Program

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 Students and Young Professionals in Public Health (SYPPH) Committee – PHAA

The PHAA’s nine month mentoring program aims to unite experienced public health professionals (mentors) and early career PHAA members (mentees) with similar interest areas. The program aims to build the capacity of mentees, provide experience in mentorship to public health professionals, and offer valuable networking opportunities.

The SYPPH committee asked Roger Lay about his experiences as a program mentee.


Roger Lay smiling at camera.
Roger Lay










About Roger Lay

Q: What is your professional background in?

A: I previously worked as a clinical physiotherapist in private practice for six years, and had the privilege of working with many older adults in the community. My work largely focused on musculoskeletal rehabilitation and the delivery of exercise classes using Pilates to promote healthy movements and prevent falls.

I recently completed my Master in Public Health (MPH) specialising in Chronic Disease Prevention. My thesis explored the potential of a citizen science approach to enhance walkability in underserved populations. Currently, I am working with Cancer Institute NSW supporting the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.


Q: Which PHAA Branch or Special Interest Group (SIG) are you part of?

A: NSW Branch


Q: What does your current role involve, and what is the current project/report you are working on?

A: In my role with the Cancer Institute NSW, I support participants of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program progress through the recommended screening pathway. When people return a positive test result, they are recommended to consult with their general practitioner, who may refer them to a specialist for evaluation of whether a colonoscopy is required. However, there are many potential challenges that participants encounter along the way, including difficulty in understanding Australia’s complex public-private health system, lower levels of health literacy, and language barriers. My role is to assist and encourage these individuals in reaching the next step of their screening pathway.


Q&A on mentoring experience

Q: What prompted you to apply to the mentoring program?

A: During the early years of my MPH, I had seen the mentoring program being promoted and had heard of the great experiences from previous participants. It looked like an amazing opportunity to engage with a more experienced worker to understand the public health landscape and explore career development ideas.


Q: What stage of your career/study were you at when you applied and participated in the program?

A: I was in my final year of my MPH and a little bit lost about where to head next. Coming from the fairly well-defined profession of clinical physiotherapist, the field of public health seemed nebulous and it was difficult to comprehend where to begin.


Q: What did you gain or learn from participating in the mentoring program?

A: Conversations with my mentor have always been very fruitful. Each meeting we discussed topics related to career development, writing skills, public health systems, and wisdom from my mentor’s own career. I’ve developed an ongoing relationship with my mentor and we share updates in our lives. It’s been great to hear the advice of an experienced public health worker as I begin my own.


Q: What elements of the program stood out to you?

A: The way SYPPH set up the mentor profiles and areas of interest was an incredible way to establish preferences for the pairings. The Objective Form was a good way of adding structure and direction to the conversations. The agreements made in these objects were key in sustaining a lasting and productive relationship.


Q: From your perspective as a mentee, what advice do you have for prospective mentors/mentees interested in applying?

A: Speaking as a mentee – definitely apply! The world of public health is vast, and it can be difficult to understand where to start, where to head next, and what challenges we might encounter. The mentoring program provides an incredible opportunity to have an ongoing discourse with someone who can demystify a lot of these uncertainties.



About the PHAA National Mentoring Program

The PHAA National Mentoring Program coordinates and facilitates the pairing of PHAA members early in their public health career with experienced members, who, where possible, work in the mentees’ area of interest.

The program runs over the course of nine months and primarily functions as a way to initiate a mentee-mentor relationship. The program is purposely flexible in design to allow mentees and mentors to work together in identifying the mentoring needs of the mentee, and develop corresponding objectives for the mentee-mentor relationship over the duration of the program.

The program aims to build the capacity of early career members of the PHAA through teaching, training, networking, and providing them with appropriate resources. The PHAA National Mentoring Program aims to accept 40 mentee-mentor pairs in 2023.


Mentee Program Benefits

  • Guidance and advice regarding your career ideas, helping you make more informed career choices
  • Opportunity to meet a public health professional with experience in your area of interest
  • Advice on resources relevant to your area of interest
  • Enhanced professional development and increased confidence


More program participants share their experiences


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