I was born/grew up in: Beamsville, Ontario, Canada
I now live in: Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
I completed my training/education at: University of Western Ontario, B.Sc. in Cell & Developmental Biology; Queen’s University, M.Sc. in Genetics. When I am challenged to work in an area where I have little education, I find online courses and webinars in order to gain an understanding of the field, for example epidemiology and clinical trials.
Describe what you do at work.
I spend most of my time performing literature searches. This means that I am looking for all of the relevant information on a specific topic. I then put that information together into a literature review that summarizes everything in a way that can be understood efficiently by a clinician. A lot of critical thinking goes into scientific writing. It is important to be concise, but also to include all of the relevant information. There are decisions to be made about what information is relevant. I make these decisions by setting out criteria for what types of research studies I am looking for. For example, who is included in the study, what is measured, how long the study runs. I use this as a guideline to decide what research is relevant to the question I'm asking. As I read more on the topic I may refine my criteria to be able to make better decisions. In the end I always apply the same criteria to each research study when deciding how to address it. I work with teams that are located in different towns and often a different province than I am. We meet in person whenever we can, which is not very often and is sometimes not possible at all. We communicate by email, phone calls and sometimes skype.
When I was a student I enjoyed:
How does your job affect people’s lives?
The research projects I work on are initiated from questions that arise in the communities, or among the local doctors. The answers can help improve health care delivery and access, bring the community together, and form new bonds between doctors and their patients.
What motivates you in your career?
I like to learn about new things. One of the great things about my work is that the subject matter is always changing, so every time I start a new project I get to learn about something new. I like looking at complicated information and simplifying it into its core meaning. I like looking at information for trends, similarities, and differences to figure out what it all means in a larger picture. These interests help me to effectively communicate complex scientific problems in a simple way. I find it personally rewarding when I can put a lot of information together into a useful written document or presentation that will allow it to reach and impact many more people than it could have in its many detailed parts.
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
Describe your career path to this career.
In high school, I knew I wanted to go to university, so I took courses that would get me there. I had no idea what I wanted to do afterwards. I continued to study topics I found interesting and ended up doing an M.Sc. in genetics, where I developed my research, critical thinking and creative problem solving skills. This has served me well in the various jobs I've had since. I worked at a pharmaceutical company for a few years before moving to a rural town due to my husband's work. This posed a challenge to me professionally because most of the jobs similar to those I had done before are in cities. Instead of looking for a traditional job, I decided to think outside the box about ways that I could continue to use my skills professionally, and contribute to meaningful work. I asked others in the field about my ideas, and from their enthusiastic responses it seemed like I found an area of need where I could help. This is the basis of my current career: supporting rural medical research across Canada, in hopes of increasing the capacity of this field.
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
For fun I like to play the trombone in the many musical groups and ensembles in my community. I also play ultimate Frisbee, and I’ve recently started teaching gymnastics lessons, which is something I haven't done since high school!
What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?
I invented my own career based on my interests, experience. To figure this out takes some creative thinking, a good network of professional contacts, and a lot of determination. Keep pursuing your interests, even as a hobby, and take all the opportunities you can. You never know where it can take you!