Shelley Doucet and Rima Azar
1) What is your official current position and title?
Dr. Shelley Doucet: I am the Jarislowsky Chair in Interprofessional Patient-Centred Care and Associate Professor in the Department of Nursing & Health Sciences at UNB (Saint John campus).
Dr. Rima Azar: I am an Associate Professor of Health Psychology and a CIHR/RPP New Investigator in Developmental Psychoneuroimmunology at Mount Allison University.
2) What is your educational background?
Dr. Shelley Doucet: BN, University of New Brunswick (Saint John campus) (2005); MScN, University of Western Ontario (2007); PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies, University of New Brunswick (2010); Postdoctoral Experience, the University of British Columbia (2014).
Dr. Rima Azar: BSc (1994) & MSc (1996), Developmental Psychology, Université de Montréal; PhD, Developmental Psychoneuroendocrinology, Université de Montréal (2004); CIHR Postdoctoral Fellow Position, University of Toronto Health Network’s Women’s Health Program (2008).
3) Talk a little about how your career paths intersected? Where did your passion for the research/work that you do originate and how did it develop?
We first met through the New Brunswick SPOR Network: Primary and Integrated Community Health Care Innovations (NB-SPOR-PIHCI). We are both active members of this provincial network; Shelley as co-tripartite research lead and Rima as a co-applicant. The NB-SPOR-PIHCI network is part of the pan-Canadian Network (network of networks), which aims to foster a new alliance among policy, research, and practice to create dynamic learning networks. In sum, “Canada’s Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) is about ensuring that the right patient receives the right intervention at the right time”. The NB-SPOR-PIHCI is deeply rooted in community-based primary health care.
Last fall, we were approached by Mr. Peter Daniels, from the NB Children’s Foundation (NBCF) to propose a project that could improve health care for children. This is how we came to work closer together.
In all our professional experiences, there has been chemistry in our team work. From this chemistry, there has been synergy, fun in the hard work, and a joint focus on the task!
4) Tell us about one of your current projects?
In December 2014, we were awarded a $750,000 four-year grant from NBCF to assist in implementing and jointly leading the New Brunswick Virtual Health Centre for Children. Without pretending to reinvent the wheel of care, this centre aims to: (1): Ensure the integration of health, education, and social services for children with complex health conditions; (2) Advocate for children with complex health conditions and their families; and (3) Offer families (the experts of their own lives!) a setting to voice their needs and to mentor/support other families. A unique strength of this centre is the inclusion of a patient navigator as an integral part of the care team, helping children and their families with their health care journey. In less than one year our team has grown in size to include one post-doctoral fellow, one PhD trainee, a four-year undergraduate medical student researcher, two honours students, a part-time program coordinator, and five research assistants. As this is a new project, we are currently in the needs assessment phase.
For this particular project, we joined our passions, interests and strengths. For example, Shelley is interested in exploring how health professionals from different professions across settings work together to provide collaborative care that meets the unique needs of children who have complex health conditions so that care is more coordinated and patient-centred. She is also interested in exploring how different sectors, such as education and social development, can work together to improve care for children through identifying best practices in this area. Rima brings to this project input from her various experiences in working with children of all ages and their families, from the prenatal period, to infancy, to childhood, and to adolescence. These experiences have been with children/youth both as: (1) A developmental clinician (such as training/ work experiences in Quebec and, in a recent second life, where she and her husband have been involved in the foster care system in NB, as foster parents) and (2) A stress researcher, in the context of both mental and physical health (such as maternal depression or child chronic diseases).
5) How do you see your research/work in terms of possibly contributing to evidence-based public policy?
The New Brunswick Virtual Health Centre will be the first centre of its kind. This project has the potential to have a concrete impact in the daily lives of families caring for a child with complex health conditions. Indeed, our centre takes a family-centred approach and will include a patient navigator model of care. Dr. Alison Luke, a post-doctoral fellow working with us on this project, is involved in the evaluation of the pilot testing phase of this project. It is our dream and hope that the evaluation of our model of care will show that the new forthcoming virtual centre will benefit children with complex chronic health conditions and their families in our province. How? By ensuring that NB children with complex health conditions and their families will have better access to more integrated health, social, and educational services, from the comfort of their own communities… regardless of the demographics of these communities (Native, English, French or Immigrants)!
6) Discuss any past achievements that were significant to your professional path? Have any contributed to the promotion of evidence-based public policy?
First, securing the funding from NBCF was the first milestone in our journey toward the creation of the NB Virtual Health Centre for Children in our province. Here, we would like to reiterate our heartfelt gratitude to the New Brunswick Children’s Foundation for their donation, which shows how much our province cares for its children!
Second, this operating grant allowed us to submit two more grants (provincial and federal) to leverage the funding as matching funds to expand the scope of our project, and thus have a much broader impact on public policy. We recently secured one of these grants, which is an operating grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
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?
We are both delighted and honoured to be members and friends of NBSPRN. Our relationships with the Network has allowed us to expand our network of partners and to reach out to more social and public health stakeholders (for example, we were invited to present our work at NBSPRN’s Policy Research Forum in Moncton in April 2015). Additionally, NBSPRN helped us with our CIHR-SPOR quick strike grant in which we were successful.
8) Any last thoughts?
Last thoughts? NB is a dynamic place for education and research! Indeed, health policy or clinical health research is beautifully blooming because our province is full of talents! In NB, we may think that we are small(er) or we sadly realize how much we lack financially, or that funding is getting more challenging. It breaks our hearts for our more junior colleagues and recent graduates. However, this being said, let’s keep thinking big whilst making the best out of what we collectively have thus far. To end on a lighter note, well, as mentioned above, as co-Investigators, we have fun working synergistically, even when under time pressure (marathons of grant writing, publishing papers, meetings in our respective sites or in other places, etc.). We are convinced that what matters the most in any collaboration between colleagues (and institutions) is mutual respect (like in all relationships). Now that our team has grown much larger than when we started in December 2014, we have even more fun working and supporting each other, especially when the work of each trainee/team member builds on the work of the other. Sometimes, funny (or rather silly) accidents happen whilst working hard (do we need to mention to whom?). For example, we may find ourselves at the end of a day wearing two clearly different coloured socks (when you are teaching, it can look funny). We take pictures, share with each other, and have a good laugh. At other times, we may forget who is driving the other’s car, Shelley or Rima. We find ourselves passionately discussing our project and, whilst doing so, someone keeps trying to enter from the driver’s side at every stop, even when not driving the car (well, usually it’s Rima when visiting the Saint-John site). This being said, balance is very important for mental and physical well-being.
Here, please let me (Rima is saying this) highlight my admiration for Shelley: In addition to being an amazing scholar and a devoted mother, Shelley has another passion well-acknowledged in our province: She is an accomplished runner (“female runner of the year”). I so much enjoy virtually (but enthusiastically) cheering for her at every marathon! And I (Shelley now) feel that I am the one that is blessed to have found the most amazing collaborator and friend one could ask for. Thanks to NB research networks, such as SPOR and NBSPRN, we found each other and hope that all researchers in NB have this same opportunity to find their “better” half!