A School of Public Health graduate student is among the 2012 recipients of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships, Canada’s most prestigious scholarship for doctoral students.
Amy Colquhoun, the School’s newest Vanier scholar, was chosen as a result of her leadership skills and high standard of scholarly achievement in graduate studies in health research.
Colquhoun, who studies epidemiology in the School of Public Health, is part of the U of A’s interdisciplinary and intersectoral Canadian North Helicobacter pylori (CANHelp) Working Group.
Working in collaboration with northern Aboriginal communities, her thesis work will contribute to the overarching research program, which aims to address community concerns about health risks from Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection. To date, there has been limited research in northern Canada about the occurrence of H. pylori, a bacterium that is a risk factor for stomach cancer. However, there is known to be a disproportionately high prevalence of this infection among northern Aboriginal populations and an increase in related diseases.
| Vanier scholar, Amy Colquhoun
Colquhoun says this community-driven research is unique. “The communities we work with have requested this research because they are concerned about perceived increases in the number of stomach cancer cases diagnosed in their communities,” she explains. “So, they are very interested in trying to tackle H. pylori."
As part of the CANHelp Working Group, Colquhoun will study effective communication and decision making related to the health concerns around H. pylori infection. We will try to answer questions about whether we are communicating research results effectively to those to whom it matters most, such as community members, health care providers and users of the knowledge,” she explains. “When we are talking about these concerns, are we speaking the same language and how does this affect decision making?
The research will benefit the Aboriginal communities that she’s working with by addressing their concerns. “It will help to make the research more tangible and will open lines of communication,” says Colquhoun.
She expects that lessons about improved communication and more effective policy decision making will be useful in other public health settings across Canada and beyond. Ultimately, Colquhoun is hopeful that the research will help to inform investigations and public health strategies on effective communication and decision making in situations where there is a specific health problem.
When asked about receiving the Vanier, Colquhoun says, “I feel very fortunate to have had great opportunities. My supervisor, the School, the U of A and my employer, Alberta Health Services, have all been very supportive.”
Colquhoun’s research supports the vision and goals of the U of A’s Northern Strategy which aims to strengthen innovative Northern research through advanced training, research capacity and collaboration. “The U of A provides an exceptional environment for public health research in northern Canada, and I have the privilege of learning from leading researchers,” said Colquhoun.
Karen Goodman, professor in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and the School of Public Health, is Colquhoun’s supervisor. According to Goodman, “Amy’s trajectory shows that she commits herself to paths that involve public service. That she enjoys this work attests to how well-suited she is to becoming a strong leader in public health practice and research.”
The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship program aims to attract and retain world-class doctoral students by supporting students who demonstrate both leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in graduate studies. Vanier scholars receive $50,000 annually for up to three years.