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Seminar fosters discussions and lasting connections

 

[RSC Semninar Speakers]
Three Queen's faculty members – Heather Stuart, John McGarry, and Joan Schwartz – will be presenting aspects of their research at the Eastern Ontario Regional Seminar of the Royal Society of Canada on Saturday, April 13. (University Communications) 

Members of the Queen’s and Kingston communities will have the opportunity to hear four of Canada’s leading researchers speak about their experiences and discoveries as the university hosts the Eastern Ontario Regional Seminar of the Royal Society of Canada on Saturday, April 13.

For academics in the arts, humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering, being elected to the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) – either as a Fellow or a Member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists – is one of the highest honours they can achieve.

At the seminar, four RSC members – three from Queen’s and one from University of Ottawa – will provide insights into their work and experiences.

The schedule of presentation includes:
- 10 am: Heather Stuart, Bell Canada Mental Health and Anti-stigma Research Chair, Queen’s — The Nature and Nurture of Mental Illness Related Stigma
- 11 am: John McGarry, Sir Edward Peacock Professor and Canada Research Chair in the Department of Political Studies, Queen’s — ‘The Diplomat’s graveyard’:  Why Resolving the Cyprus Problem is not Easy
- 2 pm: Jamie Benidickson, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa — Sewage Then and Now: Public Health Challenges and Climate Change Opportunities
- 3 pm: Joan Schwartz, Department of Art History and Art Conservation, Queen’s — Rethinking Discursive Origins: Alexander von Humboldt, Photography, and the Pursuit of Geographical Knowledge

The annual event is organized under the guidance of co-chairs John Burge (Dan School of Drama and Music), a Fellow of the RSC, and Amir Fam (Civil Engineering), a Member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

“Each year this seminar brings together researchers who are leaders in their fields and this year’s group is no exception,” says Dr. Burge. “The sharing of intellectual ideas can be a great stimulus for one’s own creativity and this seminar is a great opportunity to broaden one’s horizons and knowledge base.”

Another goal of the Eastern Ontario Regional Seminar is to bring together leading researchers and community members to foster fascinating discussions and lasting connections.

“At the heart of the seminar is the common quest for knowledge and the sharing of perspectives,” says Dr. Fam. “By bringing together speakers from across disciplines the seminar helps foster new contacts and new paths of thought for not only the audience but the presenters as well.”

All events take place at the Queen’s University Club (168 Stuart St.) and talks are open and free to the public. Following the first two presentations a luncheon is being hosted by Principal Daniel Woolf. Registration is required for the luncheon, which costs $30. Registration for the luncheon by Friday, April 5 would be appreciated. RSVP by phone, 613-533-6000 x78797 or email: FEAS.ResearchAdmin@queensu.ca.

For more information about the presentations, visit the Royal Society of Canada website.

Awards Gala to honour trailblazers and community builders

[QUAA Awards Gala recipients]

A former governor of the Bank of Canada, a legal advocate for same-sex couples, and the country’s first Inuk heart surgeon are among the honorees at the upcoming Queen’s University Alumni Association (QUAA) Awards Gala.

“These recipients are trailblazers and community builders,” says Jeremy Mosher (Artsci’08), volunteer president of the QUAA. “Through volunteerism or their jobs, they have made a significant impact on Queen’s, their cities, and the country.”

Chancellor Emeritus David Dodge (Arts’65, LLD’02) is receiving the Alumni Achievement Award, the highest honour bestowed by the QUAA. Dr. Dodge had a high-profile career in federal public service, serving as both the deputy minister of health and deputy minister of finance, before being named the governor of the Bank of Canada in 2001. He served as Queen’s chancellor from 2008 to 2014.

Past recipients of the Alumni Achievement Award include NASA astronaut Drew Feustel (PhD’95); former Royal Bank of Canada chief executive officer Gord Nixon (Com’79, LLD’03); and former Princeton University president Shirley Tilghman (Arts'68, DSc'02).

Donna May Kimmaliardjuk (Artsci’11) will receive the One to Watch Award. The former president of the Queen’s Native Students Association is Canada’s first Inuk heart surgeon. She received an Indspire Award and serves as a role model to her community and Indigenous youth.

Kirsti Mathers McHenry (Law’03) is receiving the Alumni Humanitarian Award. She and her wife, Jennifer, are the driving force behind Ontario’s All Families Are Equal Act, which passed in the provincial legislature in 2016. It improved the rights of same-sex parents in a number of ways, including no longer forcing couples who use assisted reproduction to have to adopt their own children.

A total of 11 awards will be handed out. Other recipients include: 

The Queen’s University Alumni Association Awards Gala will take place on April 6 at Ban Righ Hall. For more information or to purchase tickets to the event, visit the Queen’s Alumni website.

Pursuing a Paralympic dream

Queen's nursing student Sarah Anne Cormier hopes to compete in snowboarding at the 2022 Paralympics in Beijing.

[Sarah Anne Cormier]
Sarah Anne Cormier is kept busy with her studies at the School of Nursing as well as long training sessions in the gym and on the slopes. (Supplied Photo) 

This article was first published on the Faculty of Health Sciences Dean’s Blog.

In 2017, Sarah Anne Cormier, a fourth-year undergraduate student in the School of Nursing, attended the Paralympian Search in Toronto in order to try out for running teams and development programs in Canada. While she was undergoing numerous tests of her running ability, she was also asked to fill out a form that asked her what other sports she participated in. Sarah had been snowboarding for years, but she didn’t think she should put it down. She had never really snowboarded competitively, and she didn’t want to be misleading.

When she asked a staff member working the Paralympic Search about the form, the staff member told her that she should definitely write down snowboarding. The Paralympic Committee was looking for snowboarders.

Sarah took the advice, and filling out that form ended up changing her life, because now she’s training intensely to make it onto Team Canada, with the goal of competing in the 2022 Paralympics in Beijing.

After the Paralympian Search in Toronto, Sarah was invited to a snowboarding development camp at Blue Mountain, where she made an impression on the Canadian coach for Paralympic snowboarding. The coach told Sarah that he thought she had real potential, and that he wanted to train her. Sarah agreed, and shortly thereafter started an intense training regimen for the sport.

In the summer, when there is no snow for Sarah to train on, she works on strength and conditioning in the gym five days a week. In the winter, when she can snowboard, she still trains four days in the gym on top of getting on the snow every chance she gets. Sarah estimates that this winter she has spent 50 days training on the slopes.

One of Sarah’s strongest motivations to undertake all this training – on top of her rigorous academic schedule in the School of Nursing – is to help inspire other disabled people to know that they can achieve more than they probably realize.

Sarah was born with complications from amniotic band syndrome, a condition that occurs when a fetus becomes entangled in the amniotic bands of the womb. As a result of this condition, Sarah was born missing her left leg below the knee as well as having various finger amputations on both of her hands. She has had to undergo seven surgeries throughout her life to address the complications caused by the syndrome.

When she was five, her parents signed her up for Track 3, a non-profit organization that teaches children with disabilities how to ski. Sarah loved skiing, but when she became an adolescent the sport made her feel self-conscious. When Sarah skied, she did not wear her prosthetic leg, but instead used outriggers as support for balance.

This system worked great, but when Sarah was 12 she started to get uncomfortable with the feeling that people were giving her unwanted looks when she skied on one leg. She didn’t want the attention that came with skiing, but she also didn’t want to give up winter sports.

Sarah found an answer to her dilemma: snowboarding.

If she took up snowboarding, she realized, she’d be able to wear her prosthetic leg. She asked her parents if she could take up the sport, and they agreed.

Even though she has been snowboarding now for 16 years, Sarah feels like she still has a lot to learn.

“Right now I’m trying to break 16 years’ worth of bad habits,” she says. But with the help of her coach and teammates, she also feels like she’s making significant progress.

And it’s clear that her hard work is paying off. In January, Sarah competed at her first provincial race in Bromont, Que. Even though she felt nervous to be competing, she didn’t let her nerves get the best of her: she won silver the first day of the event and gold the second day.

Sarah still has a lot of steps to take before she can reach her dream of making it onto Team Canada and competing in the 2022 Paralympics. Before she can make it onto Team Canada, she’ll need to make it onto the Next Gen team. And before she can do that, she needs to compete in two different World Para Snowboard Cups and finish with competitive times.

But Sarah is well on her way to making her dream come true, and all of us in the Faculty of Health Sciences are proud of her and are rooting for her.

At the same time, Sarah says she could never have achieved what she has so far without the support of the School of Nursing.

Sarah is currently halfway through her placement in the ICU at Kingston General Hospital, and she loves how much she learns there every day. Even though her schedule can be hectic as she tries to balance late nights in the hospital with long training sessions in the gym and on the slopes, Sarah says the nursing faculty and her fellow students always do what they can to help her. When she has to be away from home for long stretches, her friends from the school will even come walk her two dogs, Odin and Atticus.

Sarah will graduate this May, and I’m very happy to share her story with you. Mostly because it is so inspiring, but also because it shows how well rounded our students at Queen’s can be. Even though we have the most dedicated students in Canada, they’re also often people who are pursuing additional passions outside their studies. And this is something that we embrace and encourage in the Queen’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

Before I go, I also want to share the video below with you. Sarah was gracious enough to be interviewed last year for a video series about being an Indigenous nursing student at Queen's, and it's well worth watching. 

If you want to keep up with Sarah’s progress toward her snowboarding goals, you can follow her on Instagram @sacorms12.  

Dean Reznick thanks Andrew Willson for his assistance in preparing this blog.

 

Building research infrastructure

Queen’s University researchers have secured more than $1 million in research infrastructure funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund.

“Through this support, researchers will be able to build the foundational research infrastructure required to conduct cutting-edge research, and contribute to important new developments in their fields,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research).

 A total of nine Queen’s researchers will receive the federal funding in a variety of fields, from the ongoing search for dark matter to investigating stem cells, to probing the transition from suicide ideation to attempts to establishing a mobile-inclusive music theatre makerspace.

The following Queen’s researchers have received funding:

Sheela Abraham (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) has received $162,500 to further the study of cancer stem cells in relation to chronic myeloid leukaemia using systems biology. With the funding, she plans to investigate cell signaling events outside cells controlled by extracellular vesicles and look into if these extracellular vesicles may be key controllers in the aging of stem cells and how this could lead to cancer. Dr. Abraham will also investigate the possibility of using extracellular vesicles as biomarkers for chronic myeloid leukaemia, which would help doctors detect the disease more efficiently, and improve patient treatment and survival.

Joseph Bramante (Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy) has received $49,970 to better determine dark matter’s origin, character, and connection to known physics. Novel new physics search techniques are being developed alongside identified techniques, including using thermal emission of neutron stars as a signature of dark matter, searches for multiply interacting massive particles at underground laboratories, the abundance of elements like gold in dwarf galaxy as a tracer of so-called “asymmetric” dark matter, and charting dark matter’s interaction with neutrinos.

Julia Brook and Colleen Renihan (Dan School of Drama and Music) has received $40,800 to create a music theatre makerspace in order to examine the development and implementation of music theatre activities with underserved populations, such as students in rural and on-reserve communities as well as seniors and adults with cognitive exceptionalities. Participants will work with facilitators to develop music theatre activities using acoustic and digital music tools as well as custom made sets and costumes from the makerspace.

Kenneth Clark (Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy) has received $189,951 to develop a scintillating bubble chamber to support the ongoing search for dark matter. Direct detection involves the interaction of dark matter in a purpose-built detector such as that used by the PICO collaboration. This group has produced world-leading results for a spin-dependent interaction of dark matter with the backgrounds being the largest issue. The scintillating bubble chamber would identify these backgrounds, leveraging the current efforts for a significant improvement in the dark-matter hunt.

Vahid Fallah (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) has received $125,000 to support research into improving the process of selective laser melting, also called metal 3D printing. In this research program, the selective laser melting processing of reactive/sensitive metals will be optimized for more stability and a less reactive build environment. The former will be achieved by optimizing the laser optics assembly, and the latter will be realized by strictly controlling the build atmosphere through an innovative build enclosure design.

Madhuri Koti (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) has received $150,000 to support her research program’s goals of identify tumour-specific genetic features that specifically associate with the anti-tumour immune responses and whether these could aid in decision making for combination immunodulatory treatment; design optimal combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy approaches for use with immune stimulating drugs; and  develop markers of chemotherapy-specific host immune alterations for future design of biomarker guided clinical trials to improve patient outcomes.
 
Bhavin Shastri (Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy) has received $132,500 to establish a facility with an experimental test and measurement platform and an optical probe station to demonstrate photonic integrated circuits for neuromorphic computing. Photonic neuromorphic processors have the potential to outperform microelectronics in energy efficiency and computational speeds by seven- and four-orders of magnitude, respectively.

Jeremy Stewart (Psychology) has received $100,000 to support research into identifying factors that predict the transition from suicide ideation to attempts. This transition is a pivotal target for suicide prevention, but little is known about which youth will make this shift and what processes are involved.  The research will employ electrophysiology, laboratory-based behavioural observation, and real-time, daily Smartphone-based assessments to gain novel insights into the processes involved.

Aaron Vincent (Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy) has received $50,000 for his research into developing novel ways to search for and detect dark matter, using its effect on stars such as the sun, and how to use neutrinos as probes of new physics beyond the Standard Model. This research relies on computer simulations of particle physics and astronomical systems such as stars, clusters, and the cosmos, as well as statistical methods aimed at exploring the many possible models of new physics to compare them with data from dozens of different experiments conducted in underground laboratories, ground-based observatories, and in space.

For more information on the supported projects, or to learn more about the John R. Evans Leaders fund, visit innovation.ca.

Find out more about research at Queen’s.

Don’t miss out on research funding opportunities, subscribe to the University Research Services Funding Opportunities listserv. 

Unraveling mysteries in the blood

Queen’s University researcher Paula James explores why genetic carriers of hemophilia A often experience abnormal bleeding.

Queen’s University researcher Paula James has revealed women who are carriers of hemophilia A, an inherited bleeding disorder, experience abnormal bleeding in about 30 per cent of cases. Dr. James is working to unravel the mystery as to why this abnormal bleeding, including nosebleeds, heavy periods, and bleeding following childbirth, occurs.

To define abnormal bleeding, Dr. James used a bleeding score where higher numbers represent more intense bleeding.

“It’s long been assumed that women who carry this gene don’t have bleeding symptoms but we now know that isn’t true,” says Dr James, who also works as a clinician-scientist at Kingston Health Sciences Research Institute. “Some patients have low levels of clotting Factor FVIII in their blood, and for those that don’t, there must be other contributing factors. It’s a challenging problem because it has led to their bleeding symptoms being dismissed and not treated properly.”

Her team has discovered that women who are carriers of hemophilia A respond differently to the stresses that cause bleeding – even those who have normal levels of Factor VIII in their blood.

“Normally when we’re injured or cut or stressed in other ways, a number of the elements that help our blood clot go up. However, we thought that it might not work that way in these women,” says Dr. James. “So what other things could be happening within someone’s body that would make them at risk for bleeding?”

To find out, Dr. James and her group compared levels of Factor VIII circulating in the blood levels of 17 women who are carriers of hemophilia A with those of seven normal control patients. The volunteers’ blood was tested before and after being treated with Desmopressin, a drug that causes an immediate increase in clotting factor levels that mimics the way the body responds to being cut or injured.

The researchers were looking to see whether the women’s response to the drug was related to how much Factor VIII was already in their blood. “We wondered whether a person’s response was only dependent on where they were starting from using a baseline,” James says. “That turned out not to be the case.”

Dr. James’ study showed that, compared to the control group, the Factor VIII response in Hemophilia A patients, including those with normal clotting factor levels, was both significantly reduced and shorter-lived. These results were correlated with those that had higher levels of abnormal bleeding.

The research results suggest that the women may not be able to generate and sustain a high enough increase in Factor VIII in response to bleeding, likely because of the FVIII mutation that causes hemophilia A. Abnormal bleeding can lead to iron deficiency, which causes fatigue, sleep disturbance, and impaired learning and work performance.

“It’s a huge quality of life issue for these women,” says Dr. James. “We need to understand this disease better in order to treat it properly. While we still don’t have all the answers, this discovery adds significantly to our understanding of why, even when they have normal clotting factor levels, women who are carriers of hemophilia A have abnormal bleeding.”

The study was published in Blood Advances

In tune with the community

Queen's University nursing students gain valuable experience while working with different organizations and groups.

[NURS 405 programs]
Students from the School of Nursing's NURS 405 course worked with university and community groups on a wide range of topics including food security, physical activity, healthy eating, and mental health. 

Becoming a well-rounded student to prepare for life after graduation often involves working in the community. The NURS 405 course in the Queen’s University School of Nursing provides a unique town-gown opportunity for fourth-year nursing students.

As part of their clinical placement, the students work with community organizations on projects that focus on a wide range of topics including food security, physical activity, healthy eating, and mental health. This year, two of the projects featured students working with Kingston Housing and the Office of the Provost.

“There is a lot of critical thinking included with these projects,” says School of Nursing Professor Deborah Tregunno. “The students often go into these assignments thinking they know what’s best for their community clients. But this is very much a learning experience on both sides, which is critical to their development in nursing.”

Meagan Franchetto and Jillian Koskins worked with the Frontenac Housing Corporation’s tenants on developing resources focusing on food insecurity and nutrition, including shopping for food, food labels, food storage and preparation. On a weekly basis, both students interacted with the tenants and Franchetto says it was moving to positively influence the daily lives of her clients.

“It was easy to assume we would go in and know exactly what to do because of our training,” she says. “That wasn’t the case at all. We really took the opportunity to get to know our clients and built the programming around their exact needs. It was eye opening.”

Sarah Gelmych and Courtney Gallant took on the challenge of enhancing the university’s Swipe It Forward program. The pilot program was designed to combat food insecurity on campus through the donation of meals from students with meal plans.

“Many people on the Queen's campus are unaware that students are facing food insecurity issues,” says Gallant. “The Swipe it Forward program is a way to help and our job was to raise the profile of the program within the student population but also with the faculty and staff.”

Gelmych says 39 per cent of post-secondary students in Canada face some type of food insecurity which essentially means there are barriers to the student eating properly on a daily basis. With the program, students can donate up to five meals per semester and a new poster campaign, designed by Gelmych and Gallant, should help raise the profile of the program on campus.

They also created a new website Food For You which provides links to programs on campus.

“We are teaching the students to communicate with all populations – the NURS 405 course lets them step outside the ‘Queen’s bubble’ and work in the community,” says School of Nursing instructor Denise Neumann-Fuhr. “The community organizations reap the benefits but so do our students.”

A mother’s road to medical school

At the age of 31 and a mother of four, Dawn Armstrong hasn't taken the typical route to the Queen’s School of Medicine.

[Dawn Armstrong]
Dawn Armstrong isn't afraid of a challenge and now is a first-year medical student at the Queen’s School of Medicine. (Supplied Photo)

This article was first published on the Faculty of Health Sciences Dean’s Blog.

When she was working as a welder in northern Alberta after graduating from high school, Dawn Armstrong had no idea that she would one day go to medical school. She wouldn’t even really start to think about pursuing a career in medicine until several years later, when she was in her late 20s with three children working towards a bachelor’s degree at Acadia, double majoring in neuroscience and biology and completing an honours thesis. Now, at the age of 31, Dawn is a mother of four, a strong Aboriginal woman, and a first-year medical student at the Queen’s School of Medicine. 

Dawn’s path is clearly not the one that we typically associate with medical students. But she doesn’t want us to think of her as an exception; she wants us to look at her story and realize that anyone from any background at any stage of life can pursue a medical education.  

While Dawn was growing up in a rural Nova Scotia, her family did not make her feel as if education was something especially important. Her father was a golf pro and her mother was an artist; neither had gone to university and neither ever made Dawn think that she should make a point to earn a degree. 

After high school, then, she did not bother applying to any universities, and instead moved to Edmonton. She did not know anyone there, but she thought of Alberta as a place that had a lot of opportunities. 

At first, Dawn worked as a bartender at a golf course, but her career took a sharp turn after getting to know a regular customer. This man worked as a welder and, while talking about his job one day, he bet Dawn that she couldn’t hack it in welding. Always up for a challenge, she took his bet and accepted a job at Strike Energy. 

Dawn did not take up welding just to win a bet. She considers herself a very hands-on person who likes work that blends problem-solving with manual labour. In many ways, then, welding seemed like it might make for a perfect profession for her. 

She started this job when she was 18 and enjoyed working with her hands and traveling around Alberta and British Columbia on various assignments. The man who had bet her was impressed by her and became a mentor. 

[Dawn Armstrong]
A mother of four children, Dawn Armstrong already had a busy schedule before arriving at Queen's University's School of Medicine. (Supplied photo)

But he was also the person who eventually encouraged Dawn to leave welding. He had been warning Dawn for some time that the work is very hard on the body over the long run. When she became a single mother at 21, Dawn ultimately left welding and switched her career track by earning a certificate from a community college. From there, she worked as an educational assistant, helping learners with special needs. 

Outside of work, Dawn’s life also continued to change, as she got married and started to move around the country with her husband, who is in the Air Force. Eventually, Dawn needed to go back to Nova Scotia to care for her mother after she suffered a severe stroke. 

When Dawn thinks back to this period in her life, she sees the seeds of her interest in medicine being planted. Caring for her mother made her realize how fulfilling the work can be, but she also had two other meaningful experiences that made her consider pursuing medicine. 

First, Dawn had agreed to become a surrogate mother for a couple wanting to have a child. One of the men was a family physician, and she found it reassuring to be able to talk to him throughout the experience. 

This experience taught Dawn just how meaningful doctors can be in people’s lives. She learned that healthcare providers do so much more than make diagnoses and prescriptions: they give peace of mind to those in their care. Dawn wanted to be a source of support for others in the way that this physician was for her.

Secondly, she had started an undergraduate degree program at Acadia University and found herself particularly invested in her biology coursework. For the first time, this made her think that she had a strong interest in science. While pursuing her three-year degree, she had two children, one being the surrogate baby. By the time she graduated she and her husband had three children.  

All of these different experiences – caring for her mother, raising children, surrogacy, and her coursework – made her decide to apply for medical school. 

By the time she reached the interview stage of the admissions process, Dawn was close to the due date for her fourth child (not counting the surrogate pregnancy). When Queen’s offered her the opportunity to interview, she had to ask if they could accommodate her schedule, since the original date they proposed was very close to her due date. 

Asking for this kind of accommodation, though, was scary. What if it hurt her chances at being accepted? What if they just said no and she couldn’t even interview at all? Even if they agreed to help her, would they be annoyed? Dawn had no idea how the school would treat her as an expecting mother. 

To her pleasant surprise Queen’s was more than accommodating. She was able to schedule her interview to after she gave birth, and was assured that every possible arrangement would be made to guarantee her comfort.  Two weeks after giving birth Dawn traveled to Kingston to interview at Queen’s. When she was offered a seat in the class of 2022 a few weeks later, she had no trouble choosing to accept. 

Dawn is well on her way to meeting many of her goals. She has now completed her first semester of medical school, and is completing a few research projects. She aims to be a dermatologist and knows Queen’s will prepare her well for this specialty. 

Dawn’s ability to be a mother and a medical student at the same time is impressive. When asked  how she finds the energy for school, she says that she has the energy because she loves it. In some ways, she sees her classes as a nice reprieve from parenting. “School is my break,” she says with a smile. 

What I love about Dawn’s story is the way that it overturns so many stereotypes about who can and cannot go to medical school. We usually don’t think of people who didn’t go straight to university after high school as going on to medical school. Or people who were young mothers, or people in their 30s, or people who have four children.  But all of these things apply to Dawn, and she is thriving at the Queen’s School of Medicine. 

 As Dawn’s story shows, all are welcome at the Queen’s School of Medicine. 

Dean Reznick thanks Andrew Willson for his assistance in preparing this blog.

Getting the mental health conversation started

  • Panel and Heather Stuart speak during Let's Talk Mental Health
    A panel of students and Cross-Cultural Counsellor Arunima Khanna shared their experiences with mental health on campus during a special event on Tuesday, Jan. 22 in Mitchell Hall. (University Communications)
  • Bell Chair in Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Heather Stuart
    Bell Chair in Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Heather Stuart speaks during Tuesday's Let's Talk Mental Health at the Rose Innovation Hub in Mitchell Hall. (University Communications)
  • Bell Chair in Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Heather Stuart, Let's Talk Mental Health
    Bell Chair in Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Heather Stuart hands the microphone so that an audience member can ask a question of the panel members. (University Communications)

It was an opportunity to talk about mental health at Queen’s University on Tuesday.

Facilitated by Bell Chair in Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Heather Stuart, a special event called ‘Let’s Talk Mental Health’ was held in the Rose Innovation Hub at Mitchell Hall, with the goal of sharing “real stories, real conversation, and real experiences.”

Emceed by Rector Alex Da Silva, the event brought together a panel featuring Arunima Khanna, Cross-Cultural Counsellor with Student Wellness Services, as well as students Constantina Venetis, Jake Bradshaw, and Tom Ellison, who all discussed their own experiences with mental health and answered questions from the audience.

The talk is one of a number of events being held leading up to Bell Let’s Talk Day on Wednesday, Jan. 30.

Other events include #BellLetsTalk games on Saturday, Jan. 26 for the men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams as well as the men’s hockey team.

On Bell Let’s Talk Day booths will be set up from 11 am to 2 pm in Mitchell Hall and the Queen’s Centre to share information about mental health resources on campus

Elsewhere on campus, Queen’s Residence Life will host a Bell Let’s Talk booth event at Leonard Dining Hall from 11:30 am to 2 pm. Later in the day Residence Life will host a film viewing and open discussion on mental health at Victoria Hall A011 from 6:30 pm to 9 pm, which is open to students living in residence.

Virtual exhibit examines the digital future

Showcasing innovative Queen's technology projects that could change the way we live.

Close-up of hands using computer (courtesy of Glenn Cartens Peters, Unsplash)

Last fall, experts and audience members gathered at Queen’s University to discuss the future of research, knowledge sharing, and the student learning experience in the digital age at the first-ever Principal’s Symposium.

Hosted by Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf, and emceed by CBC Radio’s Nora Young, the symposium examined advances in artificial intelligence, data analytics, and data governance, as well as how ongoing digital transformation is influencing post-secondary students, Indigenous communities, and people in developed and developing countries.

“The speakers and panelists at our symposium shared a broad and detailed picture of how digital innovation is reshaping learning and discovery both here in Canada and abroad,” says Principal Woolf. “With their insights in mind, as well as those being revealed by researchers and students at Queen’s, we can build upon our institution’s digital framework and take advantage of the opportunities future technologies will surely present.”

The symposium also marked the launch of a supporting virtual exhibit – Imagining Our Digital Future – to highlight digital planning initiatives currently underway at Queen’s and in the Kingston community.

“For decades, Queen’s faculty and students have been leveraging technologies to advance learning and research,” says Principal Woolf. “Technological innovation will continue to change how we live, so our ongoing exploration of this new frontier is not only important, but essential to the future of knowledge, truth, and healthy societal progress. Sharing our ideas and efforts across disciplines will help us stay concerted in our efforts to create an open, inclusive, collaborative, and innovative digital future.”

The virtual exhibit features over 40 digital technology projects happening at Queen’s and in Kingston that have the potential to impact our daily lives, and create previously unimaginable learning and research opportunities across the disciplines – with plans to showcase new projects on an ongoing basis.

Currently, featured projects include everything from “smart” surgical instruments that will help doctors more efficiently remove cancerous tumours and state-of-the-art camera technology used for analyzing human movement, to online database technology used to help preserve Indigenous heritage and art or reunite communities with their history. There are also projects focused on augmented reality and VR simulators, ambient and artificial intelligence, astroparticle physics research, archaeology, surveillance, and more.

Faculty, staff, students, and Kingston community members engaged in interesting digital initiatives are welcomed to submit their project for possible inclusion in the virtual exhibit. Contact the virtual exhibit curators using the online form.

How building a culture of feedback is developing better doctors

Competency-based medical education (CBME) is creating a culture in which everyone is comfortable asking for, giving, and receiving feedback.

[Julia Tai , Department of Internal Medicine]
Julia Tai is a second-year resident in the Department of Internal Medicine at Queen's University.

For Julia Tai, a second-year resident in the Department of Internal Medicine, competency-based medical education (CBME) is closely associated in her mind with a regular event in her department: Feedback Friday.

During Feedback Friday sessions, one resident must leave a team-wide meeting so that all the other members of the team – the attending staff, medical students, and other residents – can discuss the absent learner’s performance. After the meeting, the resident who left the room receives a detailed assessment based on the discussion.

The first time Dr. Tai was the subject of Feedback Friday, she was terrified. After she walked out of the room, all she could do was wait and try not to think about what they might be saying. As scared as she was, though, Dr. Tai also says she was excited because she knew the assessments that were going to come out of the meeting were going to make her a better doctor.

Feedback Friday is one tool among many that Internal Medicine is using to implement CBME, and the idea behind it is to give all the members of the program a chance to develop honest, constructive criticism for each resident. Dr. Tai sees Feedback Friday as evidence of the culture that CBME is creating at Queen’s – a culture in which everyone is comfortable asking for, giving, and receiving feedback.

When Dr. Tai was choosing which schools to rank for the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) process, she was attracted to Queen’s for many reasons, but one unique feature stood out: the fact that it would be launching CMBE across all specialty training programs when she would start.

What makes CBME exciting for Dr. Tai is the fact that she is encouraged to take a leadership role in her own education. Under CBME, Dr. Tai and her fellow residents are always expected to ask their preceptors for feedback and check in as to whether they are progressing satisfactorily through the stages of the program. If they think they’ve worked on a case that builds one of the skills they are trying to develop, it is completely normal for them to ask a faculty member to provide an assessment on their progress.

The residents in the Department of Internal Medicine, though, do not always need to initiate the conversations about their progress. Every four months, Dr. Tai meets one-on-one with her academic advisor. In these meetings, the two of them review her work and evaluate how well she is moving toward her goals.

Based on these regular meetings, Dr. Tai’s advisor develops a report on whether or not she is ready to move on to the next stage of the program. This report is then submitted to the Competency Committee, who makes the final decision on a resident’s progress. There are four stages in the program: Transition to Discipline, Foundations of Discipline, Core Discipline, and Transition to Practice. Each one of these stages provides residents with different skills to focus on and different goals to reach. All residents progress through these stages at their own pace, so what they are learning is dependant more on their level of competency rather than on how much time they have spent in the program. The stage of the program a learner is in is also kept confidential, which enables residents to focus on their own progress rather than on comparing themselves to others.

Halfway through her three-year program, Dr. Tai is proud of how much she has learned and how far she has come as a physician. And she believes that her growth has been greatly assisted by CBME, which has enabled her to have a sense of ownership over her education. 

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