Ph.D candidate, Clinical Psychology
A Passion for Clinical Psychology: Vanier Recipient Emma Dargie aspires to change understandings of Vulvar Pain
By Christine Elie
13th November 2012
When asked what the future has in store for Doctoral student Emma Dargie, she stated, “I will go wherever my passion takes me.” Emma is in the midst of completing her Doctorate in clinical Psychology at Queen’s and has recently been awarded the prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship to help fund her research on chronic vulvar (i.e., genital) pain. Her work aspires to change the ways in which women with vulvar pain are understood medically and help foster more accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Working in the field of sexual health, Emma’s research looks at the changing understandings of vulvar pain. “Previously when women experienced this kind of pain it was seen as though it was all in their heads. Now we’re seeing it as chronic pain.”
After completing her Master’s on pain characteristics, Emma is now looking at these characteristics to produce an assessment tool for medical professionals. “Education about pain is quite limited in medical school;” Emma says this is a major impetus behind her work. She hopes her assessment tool will help doctors better assess and understand this common pain condition so that women can be accurately diagnosed and be offered better treatment.
Her field is relatively new, up and coming for the past twenty years. This is one of the reasons that the Vanier scholarship means so much to Emma. As all Graduate students can attest, applying for funding can be quite daunting. “One thing all students go through is applying for funding and it can be quite disheartening to get a negative reaction. Getting a positive reaction is a sense of validation, for me and for the field. It’s hard to get funding for issues related to sexuality.” Emma believes that the “scholarship emphasizes my drive to go further in the field of sexuality research.”
Her affinity for Psychology began when she was in High School. “I found myself in class in high school, drawn to understanding why people do what they do. I also liked to gain peoples confidence and help to make their lives better.” It was this desire to help that drew Emma towards psychology. Though, she admits, “I really had no idea about the research side until I got to university.” This all changed when she met her now supervisor, Dr. Caroline Pukall.
Emma credits Dr. Pukall with fostering her passion for clinical psychology. While in her second year of her Bachelors degree in Psychology at Queen’s, Emma began volunteering with Dr. Pukall. “Working with her inspired me on a research level, I saw the power that this kind of research can have in impacting peoples lives.”
Dr. Pukall became a role model for Emma. Inspired by her academically, Emma was also moved by her personal life. “In the first year of my Master’s she had twins. I saw her move from being solely an academic to balancing academia and parenthood.” It is clear when speaking to Emma that she has great admiration for Dr. Pukall, “she is an amazing person who does amazing work.”
Emma came to Queen’s from her hometown of Brockville, Ontario. She was drawn to the university because of its historic nature and school spirit. Upon completing her Bachelor’s Degree, she contemplated leaving Queen’s for Graduate work but ultimately it was her desire to work with Dr. Pukall and her love for the community that kept her at Queen’s.
Emma’s relationship with Queen’s is more than academic. During her time at the University she has been involved in a plethora of extra-curricular groups. From the peer mentor program to Musical theatre she is undeniably an active member of the Queen’s community. Her most recent passion is with the Queen’s Salsa community. She started dancing in the first year of her Master’s and has since spent time as President of the club. She currently teaches Argentinian tango lessons.
Where will all of this work take her? Emma acknowledges, “Clinical psychology is an interesting field because there are so many directions you can go.” One thing is for sure; she is keeping the doors to her future wide open. She aspires to bring clinical psychology to the masses: “with my research, I’m hoping to become adept in summarizing literature and being able to present it to lay-people concisely. Knowledge translation and interdisciplinary work will definitely be part of my career.”
Perhaps most importantly, though, Emma is resolute that she will positively impact the lives of many. When asked what the future has in store, she says, “I will stick with the things that drive me to help the most people.”