Justin Turner

Wildfires, air pollution, and COVID-19: Individual and community resilience towards social and environmental disruption
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

Many Indigenous, rural, and remote communities face chronic shortages in healthcare and social services when compared to their urban and non-Indigenous counterparts. I have experienced this inequity firsthand, both as a Métis person living in small towns in Alberta and BC, and as a healthcare practitioner (occupational therapist) working in northern BC. My motivation for pursuing a PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences is to combat this inequity by developing skills in research, teaching, and leadership, which I then hope to leverage towards collaboratively developing health service and education opportunities for underserved communities.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

UBC is a world-renowned leader in research and education, however, I was most drawn to study here because of its position as a centre of excellence within BC. I also previously completed a Master of Occupational Therapy at UBC (2015-2017) and greatly enjoyed my educational experience.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

Like most graduate students, I fundamentally hope my research can make the world a better place. I was drawn to the Rehabilitation Sciences Graduate Program because it offers a learning environment rooted in the real world, often combining research and clinical practice. My supervisor Dr. Pat Camp exemplifies this applied research focus in her Pulmonary Rehabilitation Research Laboratory, located in the Centre for Heart Lung Innovation at St. Paul’s Hospital. I wanted to work with Dr. Camp because of our converging passions for improving health outcomes among Indigenous communities, as well as our shared professional backgrounds as clinicians—Dr. Camp being a physical therapist and myself an occupational therapist.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

The massive UBC Point Grey campus is full of beautiful buildings, old cedar forests, and expansive beaches. I especially love visiting the Museum of Anthropology, Tower Beach, and the Nitobe Memorial Garden. Greater Vancouver is a wonderfully diverse geographic region, which includes massive mountains, stunning ocean views, peaceful farmland, and many communities with their own unique cultures. As someone who really enjoys live music, it’s also a nice bonus that Vancouver is a common destination for touring musicians.

The massive UBC Point Grey campus is full of beautiful buildings, old cedar forests, and expansive beaches. It's a world-renowned leader in research and education, however, I was most drawn to study here because of its position as a centre of excellence within BC.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

In my program, I most enjoy learning from and connecting with fellow Rehabilitation Sciences graduate trainees, who come from diverse cultural and professional backgrounds. I have also appreciated engaging in university-hosted learning opportunities outside my program, such as research skill seminars at the UBC Library and teaching workshops at the UBC Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

Before starting my PhD, I worked as an occupational therapist (OT) in hospital-based and community mental health practice settings in Prince George, BC, which greatly prepared me for the problem-solving nature of graduate school. As an OT, I worked alongside individuals facing difficulties in completing one or more of their daily activities (e.g., getting dressed, cooking, volunteering, etc.) due to injury, illness, disability, or social factors. My clients and I would brainstorm together how they might overcome these activity-related challenges using environmental modifications (e.g., installing a bathtub grab bar after a lower limb amputation), compensatory strategies (e.g., creating a daily routine to manage depression-related cognitive challenges), or rehabilitation treatments (e.g., delivering a handwriting skills class for children with fine motor difficulties). I see graduate school as a continuation of my clinical work because my ultimate goal as a researcher is to collaboratively investigate and find solutions to problems, just on a bigger scale than working 1:1 with a client.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Graduate school is a long process that can feel arduous at times. Don’t neglect the non-academic parts of your life; make sure you build activities and social connections into your schedule outside school that tend to your mental and physical health. I like to think of my time as a grad student as transformational in many ways, personally and professionally, so I like to set non-scholarly goals for myself (e.g., go to the gym 3x/week). Being a grad student at UBC affords access to many health services and benefits, including counselling and very affordable fees with the UBC Student Recreation Centre, which I would encourage new students to utilize. Also remember that you deserve all the success that you receive as a graduate student, so try not to let anyone (including your own inner critic) convince you otherwise.


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