Congratulations to Ms. Chanté De Freitas

The Paradis Lab is delighted to announce that Ms. Chanté De Freitas successfully defended her Master’s Thesis on August 15, 2019.

Ms. De Freitas’ thesis, titled “Aspiring physicians from low-income backgrounds: experiences of barriers and facilitators to a career in medicine,” is a qualitative interview study with 15 participants at various stages in their undergraduate, master’s, and non-medical professional education with an interest in a career in medicine. It identifies several barriers and facilitators on students’ journeys. Barriers included social, identity-related, economic, structural and informational dimensions. Facilitators in turn included motivation, self-confidence, attitude, and strategic dimensions.

Ms. De Freitas’ thesis shows the complex path taken by young people as they aim to make their dream of studying medicine a reality, and provides a nuanced portrait of what gets in the way of low-income students’ success. Her thesis contributes to the literature by exposing pre-admission barriers to the success of low-income students in accessing a career in medicine, and will be useful to medical school’s admissions professionals who aim to support underrepresented groups, including low-income students.

Ms. De Freitas had worked with Dr. Paradis on an ethnography of teamwork in a Toronto-based family health team for over a year. We wish her all the best in her upcoming career, and well-deserved success.

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Congratulations to Dr. Arija Birze

The Paradis Lab is proud to celebrate the successful defence of Dr. Arija Birze, which occurred on August 14, 2019.

Dr. Birze’s dissertation aimed to answer the following very ambitious question: How does gender—a social marker—become a determinant of health? In other words: how do social phenomena make their way under the skin as biological phenomena, and influence health?

Her dissertation, titled “From Behind the Scenes to Under the Skin: The Social & Bodily Experiences of Stressful, Gendered Work in Police Communicators,” contains three empirical chapters, which will be published individually soon, and expertly combines physiological, survey, and observational data. They each study the interdependence of gender and hormonal processes, and show how actively gender is experienced. More than a dichotomous variable that classifies a person, gender is a structured experience that has important bio-hormonal consequences, which is measurable using the concept of allostatic load.

Dr. Birze forces us to think more dynamically and socially about health and gender, and we are certain that her innovative approaches will soon be expanded beyond the stress experienced by police communicators and to other populations of healthcare workers.

Her committee was composed of Dr. Gillian Einstein, Dr. Vicki LeBlanc, Dr. Cheryl Regehr, and Dr. Elise Paradis.

Congratulations Arija! We wish you all the best for the rest of your career. We are so proud of you.

Dr. Gillian Einstein and Dr. Arija Birze celebrate a successful defence.

Dr. Gillian Einstein and Dr. Arija Birze celebrate a successful defence.

Congratulations to Dr. Leigh Chapman


Congratulations to Dr. Leigh Chapman for her recent successful defence of her dissertation titled "Separate Estates: A case study analysis of competency assessment processes among clinicians in a Canadian academic hospital.”

The Paradis Lab is proud of the amazing research that Dr. Chapman has conducted on competency assessment in a Canadian teaching hospitals. Her findings will help hospitals and health professionals improve processes and pay greater attention to the structural and cultural problems that constrain the assessment of competence.

The date of her defence—July 31st, 2019—was serendipitously also the date that the Wettlaufer Inquiry Report was released to the public, with calls to improve patient safety and the monitoring of the health care workforce, particularly in Long-term care. Elizabeth Wettlaufer has been accused of murdering 8 patients and has injured others, yet she was only found guilty after she confessed to the murders.

We wish Dr. Chapman an immense success disseminating her research and influencing policy in the future.

Dr. Brian Hodges, Dr. Sioban Nelson, Dr. Sheri Price, Dr. Leigh Chapman, Dr. Lianne Jeffs, and Dr. Lisa Cranley. Dr. Elise Paradis on the phone from San Francisco!

Dr. Brian Hodges, Dr. Sioban Nelson, Dr. Sheri Price, Dr. Leigh Chapman, Dr. Lianne Jeffs, and Dr. Lisa Cranley. Dr. Elise Paradis on the phone from San Francisco!

Congratulations to Dr. Andrea Carson!

The Paradis Lab is thrilled to announce that Andrea Carson, one of our lab members, can now be called Dr. Andrea Carson!

Congratulations Dr. Carson for work really well done.

Dr. Carson’s work, which focuses on access to fertility services, use critical theory and research methodologies to challenge the status quo when it comes to the treatment of vulnerable couples and women. Her work was supervised by Dr. Fiona Webster (see photo below).

Her successful defence happened on July 22nd, 2019.

We are sorry to see her leave and will miss her thoughtful and diligent contributions to the lab, but are very happy for her to start her postdoctoral work in Halifax.

Dr. Andrea Carson and her supervisor, Dr. Fiona Webster.

Dr. Andrea Carson and her supervisor, Dr. Fiona Webster.

Graduate supervision and lab culture: How do we build psychological safety and nurture high-quality outputs?

A few days ago my colleague Dr. Fiona Webster asked me to share my approach to my research lab meetings, after one of our joint students shared how much she enjoyed them. After our discussion, Dr. Webster encouraged me to write about my supervisory approach and how I run my lab. Given how many young faculty members struggle to build their own successful labs, I thought I would follow her advice and answer a few questions on this topic, from my (albeit limited) perspective: What is good graduate supervision in the health sciences, with a focus on the social sciences? What kind of lab structure encourages the best possible scholarship?

What is good graduate supervision in the health sciences? 

I believe that good teaching is about fostering a passion for social scientific inquiry, encouraging curiosity about the social world, and nurturing strong relationships built on trust, respect, and the acknowledgement of the difficulties associated with research. I thus see myself as a guide for students embarked on a journey of self-discovery and apprenticeship into a particular intellectual tradition.

As a social scientist in the health sciences, I am a minority presence, and most of the students I supervise have had limited exposure to social scientific knowledge. My role is thus to socialize them into one kind of health scientific research: (mostly) critical qualitative health research, or research that investigates power structures using theory-informed qualitative research methods. Several before me have written about the challenges of nurturing such scholars in a space that values the randomized controlled trial over everything else. What I share here is a perspective on how a positive lab culture can help with this socialization, and counter the messages dominant in the health sciences about the low-value of qualitative research.

What kind of lab structure encourages the best possible critical scholarship?

As a social scientist who has studied teamwork for about 7 years, and as someone with a background in education, I used what I know about the academic journey, psychological safety, and feedback to design a lab culture that would help with the following objectives:

1.    Flatten hierarchies in a way that makes everyone, from undergraduates to advanced PhD students, feel welcome and comfortable together in the same space;

2.    Develop a culture where people can take risks, and successful do research in areas that are not in the mainstream of health research;

3.    Encourage productivity without alienating people and making it seem that I care more about the output than the people.

I was inspired by research Google has done on teams, and by the key principles they have identified which maximize team effectiveness. Their five principles—psychological safety, dependability, structure and clarity, meaning, and impact of work—have resonated with me and my lab, and so we have built structures to support one-another along those lines.

Some might want to push back: a graduate lab is not a team, and ask: why would we want to think of a lab as a team? A team, for me, is a group of people who come together to meet a collective aim while also having their own needs met. My lab, therefore, is built to feel like a team: we do come together every week, except on holidays; and we share a commitment to the best possible critical scholarship. Moreover, it is a space where everyone’s needs has to be met. We all matter, both as individual scholars—since this is what graduate research is about—and as a team of scholars invested in one-another’s success.

Core functions of the lab are to help students read and engage with key texts and key ideas in the social sciences (we do this weekly during our lab meetings), and to help students develop a research project that is at once meaningful to them and that aligns with disciplinary standards of excellence. I believe that these functions help provide students with structure while maximizing both the meaning they find in their work and its downstream impact.

Establishing a productive and supportive lab format and culture

When I started my lab, we were a very small group, and I imitated the format espoused by my PhD supervisors: one or two people present their work every week, after circulating something with the group a week ahead.

I modified two things, however: I made the format more flexible and set explicit and clear group norms from the onset. 

Lab presentations as self-directed, flexible time

Since lab members—myself included—are all at a different stage on their academic journey, I wanted to ensure that presentation times were maximally useful and not too stressful. Advanced PhD students can often present their work easily, as they are wrapping up projects and gearing up for the job market. For less advanced students, especially at the beginning stages, there aren’t always concrete things to present, or writing to share. I therefore included many different things under “lab presentations,” so that everyone could decide what would be the most useful to them at the current point in time.

Things that “count” as a lab presentation include:

·      a formal presentation, with slides, as a rehearsal for an upcoming presentation, defense, or to meet objectives of course work;

·      a discussion of a published article by someone in the lab or in our broader intellectual community;

·      a question about theory or methodology to be discussed jointly;

·      an informal presentation of an article in progress by the presenter, for feedback.

The only requirement for lab presenters was to share something a week before the lab meeting when they had signed up to present, and to come prepared to discuss it.

During lab, everyone is then invited to share thoughts or provide feedback on whatever is discussed, within the bounds of our shared group norms. All questions or comments are acknowledged as valid, and answers are brainstormed together.

Setting and maintaining group principles

To make sure that our lab culture was productive and met the goals I had set for myself as a supervisor and for the group, I discussed core values with my students—graduate and undergraduates—early on. We brainstormed ideas for what might work for us all, and came up with the following three core group principles:

We recognize that academic work is a difficult journey, and that everyone is somewhere different on this journey. 

We start with very few skills and build them along the way. Nobody starts knowing everything, and nobody’s writing comes out perfect from the onset. Learning how to be a researcher takes time, iterations, and a lot of practice.

I always emphasize the difficulty of our shared endeavour because I know how I, as a junior scholar, assumed that others—my supervisors in particular—found academic work easy. This made me feel that I must be doing something wrong whenever I myself struggled. When in recent years I realized that my juniors and students similarly perceived me to be doing science effortlessly, I decided to make my struggles explicit and to verbalize it. In lab, we share successes and failures to normalize both. I share how my PhD advisor suggested a drawer for successes, and the recycling bin for rejections, so as to build resilience. Such sharing creates a psychologically safe environment where students can be pushed to do the best work they can while also knowing that they are not alone, that I understand that what they are doing is really hard, and that I have their back.

Feedback should be targeted to the person who is receiving it, and where they are on this journey.

Because academia is a journey, we shall therefore consider where every lab member is on their own journey in providing feedback, with the aim of being helpful and kind in helping others along. If during a meeting a lab member’s tone is inappropriate, or the comment too harsh, I see it as my responsibility at the PI to moderate it and rephrase in a more constructive manner. Aggressive or demeaning contributions are never accepted and never go unchallenged, so that they do not become legitimated through silence.

We are all committed to one-another’s growth.

It is a fiction to think that academic work is done by lone geniuses. Instead, when we work together we make everyone better. Because we are committed to one-another’s learning and journey, we all contribute to everyone’s development.

In practice, honoring our group principles meant several things. It meant exposing everyone to feedback on their work early and often, within a very positive, supportive environment. It meant that I, as the PI, also shared my work often, to demystify my own process and the very iterative nature of all articles. Students saw how my work evolved over the months, from outlines to early drafts, and towards publishable manuscripts. It also meant that whenever anyone joined the lab—be it a new lab member or a visiting scholar presenting their work—we reiterated these principles. Setting the tone and maintaining it over time has been, I believe, a core reason for the success of our Lab. 

Changing the lab format

In May 2017, a Twitter conversation with colleagues forced me to reconsider my lab and its success. As critical scholars and supervisors, it is important to know that our own power is often invisible to us. As PIs, we always have authority over our students, and our support is fundamental to their success. My colleagues forced me to ask: Was I blind to myself? Did I think that my lab was a positive space when it in fact wasn’t?

I ran a short 9-question survey with my lab members (n=7) to ensure that I was actually running a lab that concords with my values as a supervisor. Students responded that they found lab extremely or very useful, lab presentations somewhat, slightly or not at all stressful, and all said that they received the kind of feedback they would like during lab presentations.

Because I care deeply about how my students and employees find my supervisory relationship and how I use my power and authority with them, I asked the following question:

“As you know, power dynamics influence our relationships and behaviour, as well as how comfortable we are speaking up and speaking to authority. What do you think of Elise's (my!) use of power? Do you feel that you can speak up and talk back? Is there something she (I!) could do better?”

 They answered the following:

I get the sense that everyone, including myself, are in awe of Elise's expertise. This can be intimidating, but Elise has done a great job of reinforcing that this is a learning experience, the research and academic process is extremely difficult, etc. I really enjoy coming to lab, the people, and the conversations we have. I personally feel like I have come away from the meetings feeling much better about my research project. I appreciate the support and resources that have been made available to me by the lab group and by Elise. I don't see anything major to change or improve on (Lab Member 1).

She's perfect! I'd like more personal stories about her own issues or struggles throughout the entire process of becoming an established researcher at her stage now (Lab Member 2).

I think it has been clearly articulated by Elise and other members in the group how difficult the research process is and that has helped ease the anxiety :) (Lab Member 3).

Clearly, my students appreciate the way we run the lab, the manner in which I deliver feedback, the group dynamic we have created. The expressed need for more personal stories about my journey led me to become more candid about the struggles I have experienced in academia.

I shared the data back with my lab and together we made two decisions. We first decided to do more non-work-related activities together to spend time together and get to know one-another in a less structured context, and we have subsequently gone out for lunch and to visit different galleries across campus. We have also changed the format of the lab, away from the two 45-minute presentations per lab format to one 45-minute presentation, followed by a joint writing session. Students are expected to join others for the presentation time, and can stay as long as they can to co-write for three hours afterwards.

Thoughts on this experience? On how you do things differently? Things that have worked well or less well in your context? Join me on Twitter to discuss: @ep_qc

Paradis Lab Lunch, Spring 2019

Lab Lunch, May 2019. From bottom left: Madison Brydges, Chanté De Freitas, Andrea Carson, Elise Paradis, Tori Whyte, Daniel Miller, Arija Birze, Patti Leake.

Lab Lunch, May 2019. From bottom left: Madison Brydges, Chanté De Freitas, Andrea Carson, Elise Paradis, Tori Whyte, Daniel Miller, Arija Birze, Patti Leake.

Lab lunch this spring was bitter sweet: Dr. Paradis will be in California for two months!

Lunch was an opportunity to celebrate the hard work the Paradis Lab has done this year. Arija Birze, Andrea Carson and Leigh Chapman are all gearing up for their PhD defence this summer, and while we are super happy for them, we’re also sad to see them go.

Chanté De Freitas is focusing on her MSc work at McMaster, and we wish her the best of success.

Daniel Miller and Dr. Paradis submitted an article for review.

Madison Brydges and Dr. Paradis published a book chapter and submitted an article on ethnography with Guusje Bressers, from Maastricht University.

Tori Whyte finished her first year of Midwifery School and is looking forward to time writing this summer.

Patti Leake really loves her new job at the Michener Institute.

Dr. Paradis and colleagues from Germany published their edited volume on interprofessional teaching, learning, and working with Beltz Juventa.

In sum: we’ve been busy, we’ve done good work, and we are proud.

New partnership between Singapore’s National Neuroscience Institute and Paradis Lab

Dr. Paradis met Drs. Nigel Tan and Kevin Tan for delightful Thai food on January 17, 2019 to discuss a partnership to improve team dynamics and education for collaboration at Singapore’s National Neuroscience Institute. The NNI IPECP project will use insights from the work done by Dr. Paradis and colleagues to design interventions that mobilize insights from social science and improve care. Dr. Paradis will be back in Singapore in May and October to push the project forward.

Cheers to the new partnership!

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Dr. Elise Paradis presents lab research at the Asia Pacific Medical Education Conference, wins two presentation awards

On January 10, 2019, Dr. Paradis presented recent research to a packed room at the 16th Asia Pacific Medical Education Conference in Singapore. In her free communication, she discussed work done with Dr. Christen Rachul, Dr. Mahan Kulasegaram, Brett Hevenor and Daniel Miller to understand how pharmacy students are socialized into their professional identity. Using politeness theory, this study repeats a previous study by Bruce Lambert (1995) to answer two questions: 1) are 3rd-year pharmacy students more polite now than they were in 1995 when answering a mock interaction with a physician? And 2) Is the curriculum at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy making students more polite? To learn the answer, you can download her slides here. 

In her short communication presentation, Dr. Paradis presented work done with Dr. Cynthia Whitehead to critically examine what our community defines as teams, teamwork, and education for collaboration.

Both presentations received a lot of enthusiastic questions, and each won a Merit Award for the best presentation of their session. Congrats to all.

Patricia J Leake graduates with an MSc

On November 7, 2018, Ms. Patricia (Patti) J Leake convocated and received her MSc Degree from the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto. Her thesis, titled “Nursing, power and gender in interprofessional collaboration,” had been accepted by her committee and external appraiser only a few months earlier. It explores the presence of nursing in the literature on interprofessional collaboration, as well as the nature of this presence. In the photos below, she is seen with Dr. Paradis at the University of Toronto’s fall convocation, and afterwards with her degree in a family celebration. 

A first article from her thesis should be submitted for publication early in 2019.

Ms. Leake will put her interest in the health professions and in education in her new role at the Michener Institute, where she will be working with Dr. Nikki Woods and Dr. Ann Russell.

Congratulations Patti!

Patti and Elise, Convocation
Patti and Elise with Degree