1. What is a Child Health Researcher?A Child Health Researcher (CHR) has formal graduate training and expertise in research methods, design, ethics and analysis; this can be grounded in a variety of disciplines, including developmental or clinical psychology, social work, nursing, public health, and pediatrics, to name but a few. Often working as part of a collaborative interdisciplinary team, CHRs complement the clinical expertise of health care professionals and the lived experience of family members with their expertise in research and knowledge translation.
2. What do you like best about your role as a researcher in pediatric transplant?
Interdisciplinary collaboration is very rewarding for me because it provides the opportunity for fruitful and innovative exchange between research team members with very different backgrounds. This exchange creates fertile ground for research projects that are not only scientifically rigorous, but that also have meaningful impact for improving the lives of affected children and their families. For example, my recent research project teams have consisted of members with expertise in nursing, social work, pediatric nephrology, and clinical and developmental psychology. It is also rewarding to incorporate the invaluable contributions of patients and/or their families in the research process.
3. What are the challenges in carrying out your role as a CHR?
Typical challenges facing any researcher include a tight funding climate and effectively balancing research with other academic responsibilities, such as teaching commitments; for me, this balance is facilitated by teaching classes that are informed by my research. Working within the time constraints imposed by the pressing and essential demands of clinical care undertaken by colleagues can sometimes pose a challenge. Lastly but certainly not least, maintaining a delicate balance between involving patients and their families in research to the fullest extent possible, while at the same time not overburdening them, is an ongoing challenge.
4. Describe a routine day.
There is no such thing as a routine day! I enjoy the novelty of managing the ever-changing activities and responsibilities that come up each day. These activities can range from writing grants and manuscripts, to analyzing and collecting data, to meeting with student research assistants or research team members. One of my favorite activities is meeting patients and their families in person and talking with them about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. I often use a mixed methods approach in my research that includes open-ended questions as well as standardized questionnaires.
5. What something you have found rewarding or are proud of that you have accomplished?
I find meeting patients and their families face to face in order to better understand their experiences to be very rewarding. My hope is that they, too, find sharing their experiences with an avid listener to be rewarding. I also enjoy working with post-secondary students at all levels—both undergraduate and graduate—who want to advance their training by acquiring research expertise and experience with us. It has been gratifying to work with students from a wide variety of backgrounds, including social work, medicine, microbiology and applied health. I am proud of a recently completed team research project concerning the psychosocial adjustment of family members of pediatric kidney transplant patients that resulted in local improvements to routine clinical practice.
6. What would you tell others who are interested in the CHR role?
The Child Health Researcher Role is multi-faceted and demanding, but very rewarding. Research in child health is most effective when it is collaborative and inclusive, incorporating and respecting the essential contributions of health professionals, patients with lived experience, as well as students. It has the potential to positively impact both policy and practice that affect the daily lives of pediatric transplant patients and their families. There are many ways to become involved in research—even a small contribution of time or expertise could make a big difference. Anyone who is interested in child health research can contribute in a myriad of ways—by lending their expertise to a research team, acquiring continuing education in research methods, or encouraging patients to participate.
7. How does an IPTA membership enrich your career?
I am a relatively new member of IPTA and was impressed by the 2019 Congress in Vancouver, where I enjoyed learning from a wide variety of presentations and valued networking with other allied health professionals in transplantation. Becoming a member of the Allied Health Professional Committee has been a delight; I particularly like meeting international colleagues and the opportunities for continuing education and collaboration. I strongly encourage all allied health professionals to consider membership in IPTA!