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A Forum for discussion

Researchers gather to discuss health needs of military personnel, veterans, and their families.

The Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR) recently hosted its seventh annual Forum. The Institute, founded in 2010 by Queen’s University and the Royal Military College of Canada and headquartered in Kingston Hall, brings together researchers from 42 Canadian universities to address the unique health needs of the Canadian military, veterans and their families.

600 delegates, from across Canada and around the world, had the opportunity to see over 60 poster presentations and more than 110 podium presentations that focused on the health needs of our military personnel, veterans and their families – such as mental health, family well-being and access to health services.

Former Senator and retired Canadian Forces Lieutenant-General, Romeo Dallaire announcing that Queen's doctoral candidate Linna Tam-Seto (Right) had been awarded the Wounded Warriors Doctoral Scholarship in Military and Veteran Health Research at CIMVHR Forum. (Photo Credit: CIMVHR/Mark Galloway) 

Three Queen’s researchers were also recognized for their contributions to research involving Canadian military members, veterans and their families. Queen`s Rehabilitation Science doctoral candidate Linna Tam-Seto (PhD`18) was awarded the prestigious Wounded Warriors Doctoral Scholarship in Military and Veteran Health Research for her research on the unique healthcare system access needs of military and veteran families. An occupational therapist by training, Ms. Tam-Seto’s research focuses on the skills, knowledge and attitudes necessary for health care providers to meet the needs of military and veteran families.

“Most healthcare professionals don`t know that military families receive care through the civilian health care system,” she explains. “As a result, there are inherent challenges for these families, because of the nature of the job. Service members and their families experience increased mobility, increased risk of on-the-job injury and general stress. As a result, their health care needs aren’t necessarily met in the same way as civilian families. For healthcare providers working with military families, there needs to be a certain appreciation of military culture.”

Ms. Tam-Seto says the ability to partner with an organization such as Wounded Warriors Canada presents a tremendous opportunity to bring about meaningful benefit. She says she hopes to partner closely with the foundation throughout the remainder of her doctoral studies and beyond to support the application of the cultural competency model by working with health care associations and institutions. She hopes that her affiliation with WWC will increase awareness of health care challenges experienced by military and veteran families.

“The affiliation with Wounded Warriors Canada will provide a valuable platform for our research,” says Ms. Tam-Seto. “To have an organization whose mission is to help military families say that this research has merit and recognize the potential contribution of this research is an incredible opportunity.”

From L-R: Ms. Nora Spinks, Vanier Institute of the Family, Dr. Heidi Cramm (Rehabilitation Therapy), CIMVHR, and Colonel Russ Mann. Dr. Cramm received the Vanier Institute of the Family’s Colonel Russell Mann Military Family Health Research Award for her team’s research on the challenges faced by military families with children who have autism spectrum disorder. (Photo Credit: CIMVHR/Mark Galloway) 

Heidi Cramm (Rehabilitation Therapy) received the Vanier Institute of the Family’s Colonel Russell Mann Military Family Health Research Award for her team’s research on the challenges faced by military families with children who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Funded through a Queen’s SARC grant, Dr. Cramm, along with team members Garth Smith, Dawa Samdup, Ashley Williams, and Lucia Ruhland, examined how families are impacted by the variances between provinces in service offerings for children who have autism spectrum disorder, as well as the impacts of mandatory relocation and the lengthy wait lists for services.

“Military families move three to four times more often than their civilian counterparts – often with a limited timeframe to make that happen, limited choices as to where they’re going and limited control over how long they stay,” says Dr. Cramm, who serves as the interim co-scientific director of CIMVHR. “When we see kids waiting up to two years for specialized services, they can often face another relocation by the time they come up on the list. We know that for kids with ASD, there’s a high variability in service availability across jurisdictions, so we wanted to examine the experience of families in these circumstances.”

Alyson Mahar (Department of Public Health Sciences and Michael Schuab, Managing Editor of the Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health (JMVHFH). Ms. Mahar received the JMVFH Editor’s Choice Award for her research on public perceptions about the Canadian Forces. (Photo Credit: CIMVHR/Mark Galloway) 

Doctoral candidate Alyson Mahar (Department of Public Health Sciences) received the JMVFH Editor’s Choice Award for her work conducted with colleagues at King’s College London and funded by a Canadian Institutes for Health Research Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement. Ms. Mahar and her colleagues went on a myth-busting mission to understand Canadian public perception and knowledge about active and retired members of the Canadian Armed Forces. They found many Canadians held a positive view of the military and its members, and believe that service members face a higher risk of negative health outcomes – including mental illness, substance abuse and post-retirement unemployment and homelessness.

“Military members, veterans, and their families are often the focus of negative media attention. This can have a detrimental impact on self-worth and reinforce stereotypes and stigma. Highlighting the strengths of our military members and families is equally important.”

In addition to the awards and presentations, a number of keynote speakers addressed the conference, including the Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, the Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Veteran Affairs Canada, and the Honourable Roméo A. Dallaire, former Senator and retired Canadian Forces Lieutenant-General.

CIMVHR is hosting Forum 2017 in Toronto, ON from September 25-27 in partnership with Invictus Games Toronto 2017. More details will be made available soon at www.cimvhr.ca/forum