As a kid I had a dream that I would be a private detective in the vein of such icons as Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden and Kinsey Millhone. With my (imagined) powers of observation and incisive questioning I would uncover all the secrets, catch the villain and make everything right with the world. While this specific dream faded I stayed interested in finding out things and putting the pieces together to make a picture. This interest led me into academia and an incredible opportunity to study masculinities, grief and suicide. My supervisors, who also came with an activist orientation, mentored me in public scholarship and targeting research towards making an impact. They encouraged me to not only to publish for the academic journals but to think about directing my research findings to those creating health services, groups doing suicide prevention and those who survived the death of a loved one.
I realized that, as much as I (mostly) enjoyed academic life, I was even more interested in how all research could make a difference. My work as the Knowledge Translation Manager at Michael Smith Health Research BC, made me deeply aware of the importance of starting the work of research impact at the beginning, not just the end of a project. I learned and helped to pass on strategies for mapping and engaging knowledge users and, embedding principles of equity, diversity and inclusion and working with stakeholders to target dissemination. I got to know many groups and individuals committed to building pathways from health research to better health, especially for those who have been marginalized and de-centered from the research space.
Starting the position of Manager, Knowledge Exchange in the Vice President’s Office, Research and Innovation in May, 2022 was both challenging and invigorating. What has been most inspiring is to see the way that UBC researchers reach outside their discipline and collaborate to try to find solutions to some of the most urgent issues facing society: the climate crisis, drug poisoning, housing shortages, loneliness and disconnection, loss of language and culture and so many more. We know now that we can’t hold the all the answers by ourselves. The day of the lone private eye (or Principal Investigator) working in isolation is far behind us. As folk singer Ani Difranco writes, we try to keep our eye on the big picture but the picture keeps getting bigger.
Want to learn more about creating your pathway to impact, please reach out!