Gateway is excited to have a new research associate join their team, Casandra Bryant.
Alongside the Gateway team, Bryant is advising on a research project investigating the impact of COVID-19 on the rural healthcare system with a focus on the well-being of healthcare workers and others employed in a healthcare setting. This research aims to clearly identify the impact of COVID-19 on rural healthcare workers and inform future support initiatives and resources for the immediate future and post-pandemic. This project is funded by Huron-Perth United Way.
The recent appointment of Jane Philpott as a special advisor to Ontario’s Minister of Health with a mandate to design and implement a health-data platform aimed to assist researchers and health-system workers, indicates the importance of gathering pandemic data. While it is unknown how and where this data will be gathered, most studies and reports have been urban-centric. Bryant is excited to be a part of a research initiative that solely focuses on the rural healthcare system in Huron county. She is advising on the research design and data analysis stages of the project.
“I am a first year PhD student in Rural Studies at the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development at the University of Guelph. My MSc in Capacity Development and Extension focused on rural connectivity, and communication media with rural radio broadcasters, extension workers and community development officers in Latin America, and Africa. I completed a consultancy at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome, Italy and conducted additional communication-focused research in rural Central America before returning to Canada.” said Bryant.
In addition to her academic work, Bryant brings 15 plus years of professional experience as a non-profit organization consultant, working with a number of national health-related organizations such as, Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, MS Society of Canada, Prostate Cancer Foundation, Renascent Foundation and Rethink Breast Cancer. One of her recent roles as a Strategy Lead in Program Development helped to create a leadership-coaching program for nurses and healthcare executives centred on creating leadership cultures that embrace relationship-centred care and personal development.
Her doctorate work will focus on rural women social entrepreneurs at both the community and policy level. She feels the role of social enterprise has been and will continue to play a role in addressing social issues such as gender inequality, mental and physical health, healthcare access, economic empowerment and community resilience. Bryant’s research will specifically explore female social entrepreneurs with the hope to learn more about the opportunities and challenges they face as women.
“We continue to attract and strengthen Gateway. We are delighted to welcome Casandra to our team,” said Gwen Devereaux, president, Board of Directors.
Gateway Centre of Excellence and Rural Health is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the health and quality of life of rural residents. To help achieve this mission, Gateway has partnered with 100 students over the last 11 years and will continue to help support youth retention in Huron County.
Even though things look different this term, Gateway lead research continues through the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are missing meeting with the students in person but with technology we are managing to move several projects forward.” said Gwen Devereaux (President at Gateway). Jay McFarlan (Vice President at Gateway) added “The students we employ at Gateway each summer, bring such tremendous energy to the organization. I am consistently impressed with their enthusiasm and dedication to improving the community in which they live."
In addition to getting exposure to the inner workings of a local not-for-profit, the students this term will partnering with Gateway to develop and promote research and rural focused projects such their Food Insecurity Project and their Farmers’ Mental Health & Resiliency Project.
“I am entering my fourth year at the University of Guelph studying Human Kinetics. This summer I will be working alongside Dr. Al Lauzon researching food insecurity among seniors living independently in rural areas. As a lifelong resident of Huron County, the opportunity to contribute to research that benefits rural seniors is an excellent learning opportunity. Once I finish my undergraduate, I hope to further my education through graduate studies in human kinetics/kinesiology or attending professional school for physiotherapy. I plan to return to rural southwestern Ontario after my schooling to contribute to the health and well-being of others.” said Jenna Schade, one of Gateway’s new summer students.
Jenna Schade will be partnering with Gateway and the University of Guelph to explore food insecurity among rural seniors living independently. “Last summer we interviewed service providers and this summer had hoped to interview seniors in Huron, Perth, Grey and Bruce Counties. Unfortunately, we have had to delay these interviews [due to COVID-19]. However, we are still moving forward by updating our literature review, mapping the food ecosystem in the four counties and hopefully work on publishing previous results of the study.” says Dr. Al Lauzon (Research Chair at Gateway).
In addition to Jenna, Gateway also welcomes Meghan Wild-Denys to the team. “How fortunate we are to have a student living on a farm and realizing first-hand the challenges in operating an agriculture business … Megan will be advancing our Farmers Mental Health and Resiliency project this summer with a focus on COVID-19 and the additional stress this places on our agriculture community” said Gwen Devereaux (President at Gateway). Meghan is going into her third year at Brock University and is majoring in Medical Science.
“I am passionate about empowering others to make our health care system the best it can be … My plan is to become a Naturopathic Doctor where I can help people live their healthiest lives through preventative, natural medicine. Having grown up on a farm in Huron County, I have great interest in rural health and supporting residents of our community, especially farmers. I am excited to have the opportunity to be supporting local farmers’ mental and therefore, physical health through the Farmer’s Mental Health project with Gateway” said Meghan.
Taylor Pratt, who has recently received her BA Honours Specialization in Psychology at the University of Western Ontario, will also be joining Gateway this summer. “I hope to gain new insights into the research field and have a positive impact on the surrounding rural communities” said Taylor. As Nancy Simpson (Chair of Gateway’s Sustainable Resource Committee and Board Director) shared “the research Taylor is working on will help benefit the lives of many rural residents. [Taylor will be helping Gateway explore] … how the health and well-being of health-care workers are impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic in Huron County. Understanding the main stressors will be vital in identifying the impact of the pandemic on health-care workers, help us to better understand the types of support available to them and identify key needs moving forward.”
Last but not least, Joel Hordijk will be joining Gateway this summer. “I am a second-year student enrolled in the Honours Bachelor of Health Sciences program at the University of Ottawa. Through my studies, I became aware of many challenges the rural communities face with personal health and access to care. With the opportunity to work at Gateway, I hope to use the research and resources available to develop an effective business plan further promoting the challenges faced by those in rural communities. In the future, I hope to study for a Medical Degree and later pursue a career in rural health.” said Joel. As Jay McFarlan (Vice-President at Gateway) put it “Joel's experience with various businesses in the agricultural sector, as well as his knowledge of health sciences has made him an ideal candidate”.
“Looks like [it will be] a wonderful summer again this year.” said Gwen Devereaux (President at Gateway). To learn more about Gateway visit their website: www.gatewayruralhealth.ca.