Being a Public Scholar means focusing on the impact that my work will have outside of academia. Who will my research benefit? What value does my research add to the community? How will the world be just slightly better off by me conducting this research? To achieve this impact, public scholarship must revolve around connections.
Chronic tendon pain (tendinopathy) is a common cause of disability for Canadians which can drastically limit engagement with daily activities while also being difficult to treat. Achilles tendinopathy (AT) is typically treated with an eccentric exercise regimen (e.g., heel drops); however, long-term adherence to such programs is low which may contribute to slow recovery times and poor prognosis for individuals with AT. Development of new and innovative technologies may allow for more precise monitoring of exercise progress, improved patient engagement, and potentially better rehabilitation outcomes. My research aims to develop a home-based, user-informed exercise program and associated monitoring technologies (e.g., Bluetooth-enabled exercise equipment and smartphone application) to induce positive Achilles tendon adaptation and symptom relief in individuals with AT. Integration of such technologies within a home-based intervention may promote self-management of health behaviours and engagement within AT rehabilitation. Additionally, these technologies could also provide advantages to clinicians who can remotely monitor participant engagement, modify goals, and provide feedback to reduce risk of re-injury.
What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?
To me, being a Public Scholar means focusing on the impact that my work will have outside of academia. Who will my research benefit? What value does my research add to the community? How will the world be just slightly better off by me conducting this research? To achieve this impact, public scholarship must revolve around connections. By working with and amongst other scholars, academic and industry experts, community leaders, and the public at large, I am optimistic about the problems that we can solve and the good that we can achieve.
In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?
The traditional model of doctoral training typically focuses on the generation of new knowledge, which is published in academic journals or presented at academic conferences. But what if you’re not an academic? How can you benefit from academic research if you are not in the sphere of academia? The Public Scholars Initiative re-imagines the PhD experience by fostering collaborations and connections between research trainees and the community, industry, and the public. By re-orienting research outputs from primarily academic forums to a variety of accessible, stakeholder-driven mediums, the Public Scholars Initiative facilitates the efficient translation of new knowledge directly into the hands of those who could potentially benefit from it.
How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?
As an aspiring clinician-scientist, working towards creating a harmonious relationship between academia and clinical practice is fundamental to offering patients better treatments for musculoskeletal conditions. With health-related technological development outpacing the rigour of the scientific process, there is a growing need for clinician-scientists to ensure health technologies are deployed in an evidence-based way. With a background in engineering, I am hopeful that my blended training will allow me to work with patients to develop tools and technologies to enhance their healthcare experience.
How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?
Many musculoskeletal rehabilitation tools and technologies are not designed with the clinical context and patients in mind. Often, despite having the best intentions, designers/engineers do not rigorously consult with their perspective end-users and rely on ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’ logic. My research aims to change this paradigm by embedding end-users (patients and clinicians) on the research team. Additionally, by conducting usability testing with end-users early in the development process, we will have ample time to modify the design to best suit their needs. By working with stakeholders throughout development, we are hopeful that our technology will be more acceptable and useful to end-users, thereby promoting uptake and adoption in the clinic.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
Graduate school is an amazing opportunity to explore complex problems which may or may not have a singular answer. Chasing exploration to such depths is fascinating to me, and the UBC Rehabilitation Sciences grad program and the Department of Physical Therapy offer a fantastic option for blended training as a clinician-scientist. The ability to integrate my research and clinical training allows me the opportunity to reduce the research-practice gap while also broadening my personal skill set.
Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?
British Columbia has always been home to my family. In a fortunate series of events, UBC is also a world-class institution with global reach that houses experts in a variety of fields. My supervisor, Dr. Alex Scott, is a world-renowned expert in tendon mechanobiology and innovator in the field of musculoskeletal physical therapy. In conjunction with my supervisory committee, Dr. Scott’s mentorship offers me fantastic scientific, clinical, and professional development as I pursue training as a clinician-scientist.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
The Masters in Physical Therapy and PhD dual-degree program is a relatively new program offered selectively at Canadian institutions. The ability to integrate my research and clinical training allows me the opportunity to reduce the research-practice gap while also broadening my personal skill set. I am fortunate enough to work in the Department of Physical Therapy which offers an outstanding support network and has a demonstrated track record, with clinical and research trainees going on to achieve greatness in all facets of rehabilitation.
For you, what was the best surprise about graduate life, about UBC or life in Vancouver?
Having grown up around Vancouver and having done my undergraduate at UBC, I am still impressed with the multidisciplinary nature of UBC. There is always someone new to encounter who will teach you something about life, about a topic new to you, or if you’re lucky enough, both. The people are what make UBC.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
- Having diverse training and excellent mentors. Even within my engineering degrees I was fortunately able to pursue diverse training environments and multidisciplinary projects.
- Getting involved beyond academics. Clubs, teams, and student associations have provided me with so many experiences over the years that have helped me to grow academically, professionally, and as a person.
- Being open to experience. As a very linear thinker, I always needed to have a plan; however, being driven yet flexible has gotten me to where I am today.
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
In my personal time, I enjoy working out, baking bread, and am constantly trying to read more for leisure.
Do you have any tips for students from your home country coming to Canada / to UBC Grad School?
Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Whether referencing new experiences, new people, or new ideas, graduate school necessitates being uncomfortable so that you can grow. Learn to embrace this. Also, if you haven’t already, find your own way to de-stress. Graduate school asks a lot out of you and balancing your work with other activities will make your working time focused and purposeful. Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy it. It’s easy to get caught in the weeds writing papers or studying for exams, but graduate school is one of the best times of your life. Enjoy the ride.