The Future of Health Research

Supporting emerging researchers and their work is integral to advancing our health system – making it more equitable, innovative and efficient. At Women’s College Hospital (WCH) researchers at all levels are engaged in the research process, gaining the skills and insights needed to further excel in their careers.

Here are three current WCH emerging researchers whose work focuses on healthcare access and equity, particularly for our system’s most underserved.

Name: Mina Kazemi, M.Sc.
Title: Research Coordinator
Research Area: Women and HIV Community-Based Research
Tell us about your current research: The Canadian HIV Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Cohort Study (CHIWOS) is the largest community-based cohort study of women living with HIV in Canada. CHIWOS centers women’s voices in its work – we prioritize the issues that are identified as most important by the community; hire, train, and support women living with HIV as research assistants and team leaders; and apply strengths-based methods to data collection and interpretation of findings.  

Women living with HIV face vast social inequities and intersecting forms of oppression, contributing to poorer health outcomes compared to men living with HIV. To address this inequity, our work aims to understand the unique health and social needs of women living with HIV, as well as develop women-centred care models, services and policies.

Why have you chosen this area of research:
I am especially interested in this research as it values the strengths and the inherent dignity of each person by building authentic human connections across diverse social locations and creating a supportive environment for collaboration and partnerships. The study is used as a tool for advocacy with findings leveraged to address stigma and impact policy, services and care.
Significantly, this research has led to the development of a Women-Centred HIV Care Model, which is a person-centred, trauma- and violence-aware approach that integrates HIV care with women’s health and mental healthcare, as well as highlights the importance of peer support, capacity building and leadership opportunities.

Name: Marudan Sivagurunathan, PhD
Title: Postdoctoral Fellow
Research Area: Transgender Health focused on Transition-Related Surgeries
Tell us about your current research:
Transition-related surgery (TRS) is associated with positive health outcomes for transgender individuals. However, we also know that there are disparities and gaps in access to the surgery. As the inaugural postdoctoral fellow, I support the TRS research team address gaps in the existing literature through research across multiple domains including research on TRS related clinical outcomes, access to health services, and health profession education.

Why have you chosen this area of research:
As a sex and gender researcher, I am particularly interested in the area of healthcare access and outcomes for sexual and gender minority populations. Transgender individuals may have unique healthcare needs that are often overlooked in favour of a one-size-fits-all approach. Research on healthcare access, needs, and health outcomes for transgender patients remains limited.
Research that conducted at Women’s College Hospital, which incorporates both lived and professional expertise and experiences, can help highlight barriers to healthcare access and strategies to improve the patient experience and clinician education. As the first publicly funded hospital in Canada to establish a TRS Program, Women’s College Hospital is uniquely suited to explore this area of research.

Name: Ambreen Sayani, MD, PhD
Title: Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research – Transition to Leadership Stream Fellow
Research Area: Patient-Oriented Research and Equitable Healthcare Systems
Tell us about your current research:
Patient-oriented research is a continuum of research that engages patients as partners and focusses on patient-identified priorities to improve patient outcomes. An important challenge of patient engagement however, is to include people from diverse communities whose voices are seldom-heard. Exclusionary institutional practices and tokenistic methods of engagement frequently create barriers to participation from diverse communities resulting in policies and practices that do not meet the needs and priorities of everyone resulting in widening health inequities.

My CIHR funded postdoctoral fellowship has two important components. The first, is to build capacity to redesign health systems through equitable patient-oriented partnerships. The second, is to partner with typically underserved and seldom-heard patient communities to co-create a learning module for family physicians. The module will equip family physicians with the skills required to provide equity-oriented healthcare to individuals who are at a high-risk of developing lung cancer.

Why have you chosen this area of research:
Equity focused patient engagement and capacity building for equitable patient-oriented partnerships requires deliberative effort and affirmative action. It requires a culture of deep listening and respectful learning from communities who have been traumatized through systematic discrimination and historical injustices. Above all, it requires a commitment to honor relationships above all else and the agility to build safe spaces where the power to engage and the terms of engagement are defined by community members themselves. This is important to prevent further marginalization of groups from research, policy and practice – a need that has been heightened during COVID-19.
My fellowship gives me the protected time to develop innovative approaches to patient engagement and has led to the co-design of Equity-Mobilizing Partnerships in Community (EMPaCT), a patient partnership model which centers the voices of diverse members of community towards improving health outcomes in particular, health equity.

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