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IN CONVERSATION WITH: Dana Hart, Research Assistant

Nov 21, 2019

Dana Hart

Q: How long have you been with the School of Nursing?

I joined the school part time in August 2018 and then went full time in November 2018. Before coming here, I worked as a housing navigator at a harm reduction centre in Whitehorse, Yukon. I have an undergraduate and masters’ degree in anthropology from McMaster. 

Q: What is the purpose of your role?

I work as a research assistant for Dr. Bernice Downey and manage her Indigenous Early Career Women's Heart and Brain Health Chair project. It is a five-year project funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). 

Q: Can you break down the types of work you perform?

My work on the project is diverse, including submitting funding proposals, writing ethics, activity planning, participant recruitment, supervising students who are working on the project or through courses, and working on funding, budget management, and expenses. Our community partners include two First Nations and an urban Indigenous health centre, so I’m liaising with them and balancing their objectives with that of the funders and the university.

For the first year it was about relationship building with our partners and submitting ethics and going through the set-up phase. Now we are in the activity phase. We’ve completed our initial research activity which is a community storytelling research circle with each of our partners. Next, we will be working with health care providers that work with the community members. The ultimate goal of the project is to develop a training module for those health care providers and then seeing the impact of that in their relationship with their Indigenous women patients. In addition, we are developing a workshop for young Indigenous women in a preventative initiative around heart health and stroke. It’s a big project. 

Q: What are your favourite parts of your job?

Two things. One is the diversity of the role, the many different tasks I get to do. And then the other part is our community activities. When we’re with community members and talking about wellness, it reminds me why we’re doing all this. So far, the community participants have been excited to share their stories and have commented that community discussions of health are something they think would be beneficial to do more often. 

Q: What did you learn in your education that you use in your role?

I completed my undergraduate and masters’ degrees at McMaster in the anthropology department. Those programs taught me a lot about cultural humility, which is key to working for culturally diverse community partners. I think it’s an invaluable tool, especially in the health field, where Indigenous worldviews around health and wellness aren’t often represented or valued in mainstream western healthcare and education.  

Q: What are some of the rewards of working at McMaster University?

First, from the professional perspective, I really like the fact that the Faculty of Health Sciences is dedicated to supporting the Indigenous Health Initiative that is led by Dr. Downey. I enjoy being part of her team and working with inspiring people who are making change for more Indigenous voices in the university. Second, from the personal wellness perspective, I appreciate the workplace yoga that is offered by the university and also the proximity of the campus to Cootes Paradise and the trails. It’s important to remember when your work revolves around health and wellness that it includes you and your well-being! 

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