New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network

Amanda K Slaunwhite

1. What is your official current position and title?

I am a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of New Brunswick – Fredericton in the Department of Sociology. My research program is funded by a New Brunswick Health Research Foundation – CIHR-SPOR-MSSU Fellowship. I am also a Collaborating Scientist at the Centre for Addictions Research of BC.

2. What is your educational background?

I am originally from a rural area just outside of Halifax, and recently moved to New Brunswick from British Columbia where I completed my PhD in Health Geography at the University of Victoria. I have a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from Queen’s and a BA in Political Science from Dalhousie. During or between my degrees, I worked in the public sector for organizations such as the Parliament of Canada, Mental Health Commission of Canada, United Way of Greater Victoria, and BC Ministry of Health.

3. Talk a little about your career path?  Where did your passion for the research/work that you do originate and how did it develop?

I took a bit of an untraditional career path to end up in my current position. All of my degrees focus on different, but complimentary, disciplines (political science, urban planning, and geography), and I took time between degrees to work in the public sector. I’ve always been interested in health care policy, and it was during my internship at the Parliamentary Information and Research Service that I became very interested in pursuing research opportunities in relation to mental health care. I found it particularly inspiring to hear patient and provider experiences supporting persons with mental health issues, and those stories continue to motivate me to work in this area.

4. Tell us about one or two of your current projects?

I am very excited to begin working on a number of projects related to better understanding access and use of health care by youth, adults and persons from rural and remote areas of New Brunswick. One of my first projects will use administrative health data to examine mental health-related hospitalizations in New Brunswick by youth over a 12-year period, and another will evaluate the outcomes of the 2006/2007 rural hospital closures on access to services and health status. I am also privileged to be working with a team from the four Atlantic Provinces on the ACCESS-Mental Health, Patient Journeys project. We will be interviewing youth, parents and service providers throughout New Brunswick who support young people with mental health issues later this summer.

5. How do you see your research/work in terms of possibly contributing to evidence-based public policy?

I have been consistently focused on developing applied health research projects that can be used in practice to guide health care reform. There is a lot we do not know about how Canadians access services that could be used to better design treatments and pathways to care, which in many instances could potentially reduce the demand on acute care resources and improve continuum/quality of care. My work at UNB is focused on addressing these knowledge gaps in two areas that I think are of particular concern at the moment in New Brunswick: Youth with mental health issues, and access to care for rural communities.

6. Discuss any past achievements that were significant to your professional path?  Have any contributed to the promotion of evidence-based public policy?

In the past few years I have been doing volunteer work with persons with lived experience, and I found it very inspiring and grounding to become involved with the vast network of patients, service providers and caregivers from across Canada who are looking to improve mental health services across the country. It is very rewarding, and also helpful for learning about what is happening elsewhere.

7. Describe in a couple of sentences your involvement with NBSPRN and how your relationship with the Network has contributed to your research/work and/or to social/economic policy?

The NBSPRN has been a great resource for us in planning and making connections with community organizations throughout the province for our projects. Patient and service provider engagement is very important to the success of our research projects, and we are delighted to draw on the expertise of the NBSPRN when developing/executing our engagement plans, as well as improving our strategies for recruiting participants for research activities, such as the Patient Journeys Project.

8. Any last thoughts? 

It is wonderful to be back in the Maritime Provinces, especially now that winter has passed. I’m consistently amazed at the beauty of New Brunswick; the rural areas in particular are very charming. I had the best fish and chips of my life just outside of Springfield and can’t wait to go camping on Deer Island later this summer.

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A Ginger Design