My name is Christina Gorman and I have a passion for public health and epidemiology, specifically in the field of Aboriginal health studies. During the summer of 2016, I was employed as a research assistant under Dr. Earl Nowgesic and worked on the Community-based First Nations Environmental and Health study in Northern Ontario. Along with a team of Aboriginal partners and public health scholars, we investigated the cancer rates in a First Nation community near Kenora, Ontario. I had the opportunity to participate in training at Cancer Care Ontario to learn about cancer epidemiology, and Aboriginal strategies to help combat cancer, with specific application to this First Nations community.
In addition to this experience, I was later awarded a $3000 Discovery Fund scholarship, through the University of Toronto International Health Program, which ultimately enabled my ability to accumulate national level public health experience with the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN) in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. While at CAAN, I learned about leadership initiatives and advocating for Aboriginal Peoples’ priorities, I gained an understanding on the priorities for Aboriginal people living with HIV/AIDS, the strategies and culturally appropriate interventions supported by CAAN, and the direct action taken by CAAN to lower HIV rates in Canada. My experience at CAAN was an unforgettable placement where I have had intimate, impactful conversations with national Aboriginal health academics and Aboriginal People living with HIV/AIDS (APHA), who are leaders in HIV community education programs and community-based research. Every morning, we would set aside time for smudging, prior to beginning our day of research.
My research assistant-ship focused on a Leadership Intervention Initiative for APHA and Policy Guidelines for Aboriginal-Centered and Decolonizing health research. I also had the opportunity to visit Healing Our Nations, an organization that strives to educate Aboriginal people about HIV and AIDS.
From my experience with Aboriginal engagement in public health research, I have learned that Aboriginal research is based heavily on investing in a project that is beneficial to the community and provides research that has something to give back, something tangible that the community can understand, where cultural practices and traditions are a part of Aboriginal research methodology.
Under the supervision of Dr. Anita Benoit and Dr. Hilary Brown, I conducted a cross-sectional analysis of the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey at the Toronto Research Data Centre. My project was entitled: “Teenage Pregnancy and Poor Long-term Mental Health Outcomes among Aboriginal Women” We investigated the association between teenage pregnancy and poor long-term mental health outcomes among Aboriginal women in Canada. The main objectives were to examine the association between teenage pregnancy and psychological distress, mental health status, suicide ideation/attempt and alcohol consumption; and determine if involvement in traditional cultural activities and community support modified this association.
This research was conducted as a part of my practicum work for my Master in Public Health in Epidemiology. The project enabled me to gain a deeper understanding of multivariable regressions analyses, the social determinants of health of Aboriginal teenage mothers in Canada, and the importance of cultural factors, such as involvement in traditional activities, in this population.
Funding was provided in part by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, the Canadian Research Data Centres Network and Statistics Canada.
Banner photo: Christina Gorman (right) pictured with Julie Thomas (left), the Executive Director for Healing Our Nations in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. During Christina’s visit, Julie and Christina discussed how education, prevention and awareness are key factors to reducing the rates of HIV and other blood borne sexually transmitted infections among First Nations people in Atlantic Canada.