Kate Wahl

Endometriosis-associated sexual pain

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

Before beginning my MSc, I spent four years at the Princess Margaret Centre as a clinical research analyst. Working in that environment gave me the practical skills I needed to implement clinical research and helped me realize that I wanted to be able to ask and answer my own research questions. I decided to pursue a graduate degree so that I would have the advanced methodological training I needed to be an independent researcher.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I came to UBC because I wanted to develop content expertise in sexual and reproductive health research. I also wanted to do impactful research and so I decided to focus on endometriosis – a gynecological condition that relatively few people know about that affects 10% of women! My co-supervisor, Dr. Paul Yong, is one of the few scientists in Canada whose program of research focuses on endometriosis and so UBC was a natural fit. Since arriving, I have had the opportunity to work with other incredible women’s health researchers like Dr. Wendy Norman and Dr. Sarah Munro too.

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

I enrolled in the School of Population and Public Health because it offers the foundation in statistics and epidemiology that is necessary to understand and conduct health research. The School also provides a diversity of elective courses that allowed me to develop skills in qualitative research and a more nuanced understanding of Canadian Health Policy. I was particularly lucky to learn the interview methods I used in my master’s thesis in a course offered by my co-supervisor, Dr. Susan Cox.

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

The best surprise about UBC was the breadth of opportunities that the school offers to its graduate students. In less than two years, I was both a mentee and a mentor, became a member of the BC Pain Research Network and the Women's Health Research Cluster, adjudicated the Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Conference, participated in the 3 Minute Thesis competition, and completed training to become an Associate of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning. Each of these experiences provided me with skills that surpass traditional graduate education and better equip me to generate and mobilize knowledge within and outside of academia.

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

The practical training I received as a clinical research analyst before coming to UBC best prepared me for my graduate studies by helping me understand the real-world applications of what I was learning.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Bring a growth mindset to your graduate experience! Now is a great time to explore challenges, take intellectual risks, and learn to capitalize on setbacks. Knowing that not everything will go according to plan, remember that your colleagues will be there to support your development and advancement.