"In the summer of 2019, I was employed full-time at Canada's only community-driven rural health research organization in Goderich, Ontario. During my time at Gateway, I worked on a qualitative research project about food insecurity among seniors in Huron, Perth, Grey and Bruce Counties. My research partner and I recruited and interviewed 77 participants in seven weeks - a task that our supervisor anticipated would require the full 16 weeks of our contract. Resourceful and imaginative planning was the key to our efficiency. I took the initiative to attend community events and introduce myself to representatives from health units, local government and home care organizations. These stakeholders created a lot of "buzz" in the community on our behalf, and spread the word about our research project.
Through July and August, my research partner and I were invited to write four different articles in local newspapers, and were interviewed on LOCALone, the TV guide channel for Hay Communications. During the latter half of our contract in Goderich, we completed a thematic analysis of our data, benefiting from my experience using online software to facilitate coding and data management, while working independently from our supervisor, who was situated in Guelph. We wrote a feature on our project for Boomer Magazine, which serves a readership of more than 11,000 citizens aged 60 years and older. Our 35-page report was shared with stakeholders and will be used in a textbook on rural food insecurity by Dr. Allan Lauzon.
Although I had participated in seven different quantitative and qualitative research studies before this summer at Gateway, I took away some unexpected lessons. It was rewarding and humbling to return to the community where I grew up, but especially meaningful to be able to devote my research to improving the health of residents who had been my neighbors, and who in many instances supported and shaped me in my early years of life: at church and concerts, and in the figure skating arena. It also confirmed for me that research and rural medical practice can be productive partners, and that my aspirations to build a medical career in an under-served area, working as both a dedicated clinician and innovative researcher, are logical and possible."
- Valerie Steckle (Gateway Student 2019)