My Path

As with all lives, a series of opportunities, choices and decisions have shaped my path. These experiences have led me to be committed to strengths-based/asset-based approaches to my work as a qualitative, social scientist within Indigenous and International health research.

When I was 16, I went to South Korea with school. I learned a lot about myself during this trip. This experience sparked my interest in global experiences and how beliefs and experiences shape the decisions we make. I also learned a lot about racism as I watched, shocked by the behaviours of both my peers and the chaperons. Global inequities were highlighted for me when the students from Korea were not able to come visit us in Canada because of issues of safety.

When I was in my 3rd year of undergrad, I went to Pangnirtung, Nunavut and took part in an experiential learning program. We learned about all of the Indigenous determinants of health. The experience highlighted how we have to both learn and understand the effects of history. We learned how if we focus on our collective strengths, we will start to see meaningful change.

I finished my BA the following year and went to India where I volunteered with Girl Guides at an international conference centre for a year. During my spare time I helped with the Missionaries of Charity, supporting women with TB, HIV and caring for children with disabilities who would otherwise be dead. I also volunteered with maternal and infant health programs in slum communities with the YWCA. I was able to learn Hindi, made life-long friends, and gained further appreciation of how culture and the determinants of health intersect. I have been back to India a few times since to both see friends, and to do research related to infectious diseases with local Indigenous communities.

​My MA training started in Religious Studies. I wanted to explore the impact of missionaries in the early-mid 20th century and the development of biomedical healthcare facilities. Many of the agencies I worked for as an employee caring for people with special needs had begun as religious institutions, later transitioning to government funded organizations. When I was in India, I saw a similar pattern of institutional establishment and organizational change. I was unable to do this work in Religious Studies, but there was space for this study in Native Studies. After completing all of my course work in Religious Studies, I changed disciplines, re-started my MA and completed a MA in Native Studies. My MA was called “Never say die” an ethnohistorical review of health and healing in Aklavik, NWT, Canada.

​I was fortunate to begin to work formally in health research as a research coordinator in Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba prior to completing my MA. During my tenure as a research coordinator and research assistant, I worked on a variety of projects driven by community priorities. This included work on pandemic planning and management, environmental health, sexual and reproductive health, vaccine development and management, chronic disease, aging research, suicide intervention research, and other important health research topics.

​During my PhD, I was part of an International Infectious Disease and Global Health training program, working with 35 other PhD and Post-Doctoral Fellows who lived and worked in Canada, Columbia, Kenya and India. We got to travel to the other countries to learn alongside our global peers. We participated in monthly teleconferences and co-led seminars using technology to collaborate across the oceans. We truly learned what it means to be an international health research and formed essential, and lasting partnerships. In addition, I completed a term in New Zealand through Massey University. I worked with SHORE and Whariki research centre, a global leader in interdisciplinary research groups who used a Indigenous partnership model to improved health and well-being around the world.

​My PhD work was conducted with urban Indigenous women and girls in Manitoba, Canada. I worked with girls and women in their families who love them over a seven week long period to explore their thoughts about what it means to be happy, healthy and safe. We did crafts, games, shared meals and talked about things that matter to them. Many of the findings from my doctoral work have been published. My Post-Doctoral work was  in British Columbia, Canada at the University of the Fraser Valley. During this time, I worked with Indigenous communities and Canadian newcomers to explore racism, colonialism, mental health, and health decision making.

 

In 2019, I began my position as an Assistant Professor in Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada. I continue to draw on my international and Indigenous research experiences with all of the work that I do.

© 2019 by Elizabeth Cooper.