Kate Bishop-Williams

CurioCity
26 October 2018

Kate Bishop-Williams

Fourth year of a PhD in Epidemiology at the University of Guelph

Tell us about yourself

I was born in Hamilton, Ontario and lived in Guelph, Ontario for 8 years during university. I now live in Simcoe, Ontario with my husband and daughter. I love to read, swim, scrapbook, and I write children’s science books for fun!

What is your research about?

My research aims to answer the question: Does climate change affect respiratory infections, and if so, does this affect Indigenous and non-Indigenous people differently? As an epidemiologist, my research involves a lot of data and statistical analyses. I spent nearly 2 months living in a small community in rural Uganda, collaborating with research partners at a hospital. While I was there, I spent most of my time entering data from hospital records into the computer system. Now my time is spent investigating patterns in the data. I am comparing the admissions to the hospital to weather variables like temperature and rainfall. I do this for both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups and compare those as well. I want to know if the number of people coming to the hospital changes when the weather changes. If it does, this might help us predict what hospital usage will look like in the future as climates change and be better prepared to adapt. It is important to collaborate with partners that will use the results from the research we are doing. It is also important to think about how we can communicate this information in a way that is useful to those partners. Therefore, I spend time creating materials that summarize my research for partners at the hospital and other locations.

What have you enjoyed the most about your research?

I love the people I work with and learning from them often! I get to collaborate with communities, hospitals, community-based organizations, and students and professors from around the world. They all have different and important ideas and perspectives to share.

What have you found most challenging about your research?

It can be difficult to learn statistical software to analyze the data I am working with. The software skills are important though, and learning new ones has gotten easier as I use them more. These are also great skills to have when I am applying for jobs. It has taught me a lot about independent problem solving!

How has your research experience influenced your career path?

I absolutely love research! The excitement of learning new information does not get old for me. I look forward to many more years of doing research. I also love to teach-- so I am hoping to find a position as a professor someday.

How has your research impacted the world?

I study how the health of populations is changing as climates change. Everyone can benefit from understanding how their health can be affected, and that way we can protect it. Specifically, I am working with a hospital in a low-resource setting, and they will be able to better prepare for increased admissions in different weather patterns with these results.

What do you predict will be the next big breakthrough in your field of research?

Epidemiology and global health research is always changing. We are learning more about how climate change impacts health all the time. Now, researchers are spending a lot of time determining the best ways to adapt. Adaptation is the way that we can change our behaviours to make the most of the new situation or to reduce our risks. Adaptation will be very important for climate change.

What motivates you to do research?

I have always loved the idea of doing research. I love to learn new things, and I love the process of asking questions and finding the answer. I didn’t always know about epidemiology, though. When I was doing my undergraduate degree, I took an introductory course in epidemiology. This course covered all of the things I loved: health, math, and geography, all in one place. The more I learned about epidemiology, the more I wanted to know. I had some amazing professors and research supervisors at the University of Guelph. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today!

Tell us about your 'Eureka' moment

The great thing about my job is that I have little “Eureka!” moments all the time! Recently, my advisor and I were talking about my research in Uganda. We had found some interesting information, but we needed to convey the importance of these findings to others. Working with one of our collaborators, we realized the importance of our findings was that it could be applied to adaptation. Now, the hospital we are working with can prepare for changes in weather and how that will affect the number of admissions they have at the hospital. It was a great feeling to see the research I have been doing become so useful and practical!

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