Previous Degree:B.A. (Sociology) 2011
Program and Year:Epidemiology, 2nd year PhD
Area of Research:Population health
Name of Supervisor:Dr. Greta Bauer
Scholarships:Dean’s MSc-PhD Transfer Stipend, Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, Trudeau Scholarship
Grants:Co-Principal Investigator on CIHR HIV/AIDS Community-Based Research Operating Grant (Trans Men who have Sex with Men Sexual Health Study); Co-Investigator on CIHR Operating Grant (Improving Quantitative Methods in Sex, Gender, and Population Health).
During my undergraduate studies in Sociology, I focused on the sociology of health and social determinants of health. I also worked as a health promoter, and as a research assistant on a number of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods studies concerning the health of marginalized populations. I had always planned on pursuing graduate studies in a health-related field, but given my interest in the social distribution and determinants of health, and my love for both qualitative and quantitative methods, I had planned to apply to graduate programs that combined social science and public health. To be honest, it was a chance encounter with my current supervisor (we were seated together at a wedding!) that first led me to consider studies in epidemiology. On her suggestion, I began to research the field and developed an appreciation for the wide range of substantive and methodological work under the umbrella of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. I ended up deciding to apply to the MSc program in Epidemiology, with the assumption that this strong training in quantitative methods would serve me well in future doctoral studies in quantitative and mixed-methods sociology.
Low and behold, after a few months of coursework I realized that I was meant to be an epidemiologist, and that I could make unique contributions within the field by combining my substantive interests with the cutting-edge methodological training I would receive as a doctoral student. My thesis research perfectly encapsulates this potential I saw in epidemiological research, focusing on issues in the social epidemiology of HIV among sexual and gender minorities that are at once theoretical and statistical.
For students considering studies in Epidemiology or Biostatistics, particularly those like me, who come from a social science background, I have two pieces of advice. First, don’t assume that you’re at a disadvantage because of your academic background. The broader perspective and system-level thinking you bring is incredibly valuable and will enrich your own research, and well as that of your colleagues. Second, read widely, including journals such as the International Journal of Epidemiology to get a sense of the kinds of research being conducted in our field. Since most of us don’t learn about Epidemiology and Biostatistics earlier in our educational careers, a little bit of catch-up is required. Who knows, this might be the discipline for you!
Currently, my long-term goal is to remain within academia as a faculty member in a public health or epidemiology department. I’m particularly interested in continuing to pursue research that looks at “upstream” or “fundamental” contributors to persistent health inequities, within Canada and globally, and methods for identifying and intervening on these factors.