I’m an anthropologist who studies how translational clinical research takes place in the U.S. I’m interested in how the national context shapes the social reception of technological innovation in medicine and where we fall short in supporting both patients and physicians. I bring comparative, international perspectives to our conversations about the U.S., to broaden the view and provide other practice models. For example, why are some evidence-based interventions and approaches stigmatized or not widely used in the U.S., but are implemented in other national settings? I moved into medicine because it’s here where I’ve felt I can have the most impact as a qualitative bioethics researcher who asks, “What work do we expect physicians to do, and what tools and resources do they still need to do their jobs?”
Anthropology has provided a remarkable foundation for becoming a translational researcher in medicine. My training in the biocultural approach has emphasized how institutions and social structures, such as policies, shape the health outcomes of humans as a species, in national settings and in populations. After finishing my PhD in anthropology, I moved into nursing research for four years at McGill University Health Centre and then did postdoctoral training in bioethics at University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University. I’ve collaborated with physicians and nurse scientists for 10 years, and I enjoy being the “outsider” who can bring different perspectives and considerations into the conversation—including social theory, which can provide an explanatory model for findings.
As a qualitative researcher, I’m committed to foregrounding the voices, perspectives and interests of different populations to identify blind spots in the clinical evidence we’re producing and assumptions we make about who will use the interventions we develop. I led the first qualitative study for the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction with Canadian family physicians to understand how they use fee-for-service billing codes and incentive schemes to care for patients with substance use disorders. Interviews indicated that most provincial codes and incentive schemes don’t adequately compensate physicians for their care of these medically and socially complex patients. We don’t talk about billing challenges and physician remuneration in Canada, to the detriment of both patients and physicians. I think our study opened the door to having important conversations about changes to billing codes within a policy and stigma framing. Our findings attracted interest from several national organizations to develop an optimal model of substance use care remuneration for Canadian family physicians.
In my spare time, I’m happiest when I’m swimming and kayaking in a lake or hiking.