UNB Research

Creating healthier communities in health research

Author: UNB Research

Posted on Aug 17, 2021

Category: Research , Partnerships

University of New Brunswick researchers are organizing an institution-wide virtual Health Research Conference on August 19th, 2021. The event, co-chaired by Dr. Jon Sensinger, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Dr. Shelley Doucet, professor of nursing and health sciences, will feature presentations from more than 25 UNB research teams, showcasing the diversity of health research inquiry across the university and encouraging awareness and collaboration.

“As a field we are learning more and more how interconnected each of these areas are and how we cannot improve the health and wellbeing of New Brunswickers if we ignore any of those important elements, or even study them in isolation without some awareness of related factors,” says Dr. Sensinger.

Health research is a broad topic that includes everything from fundamental molecular science and engineering devices and solutions to detect diseases, to the psychological, community and socioeconomic aspects of heath. As a comprehensive research institution, UNB’s students, staff and faculty are exploring a range of health-related subjects and perspectives every day.

“We are fortunate enough to have a university in which many of these topics are researched by those with expertise in the field, and this conference will provide a great way for us to learn more about ideas and techniques within and outside our own field or lead to meaningful collaborations,” says Dr. Sensinger.

UNB’s size means that while it is small enough to facilitate agile collaboration between researchers across disciplines and campuses, it is also large enough that researchers may not know of others working in similar areas. The co-chairs hope that the Health Research conference can play a pivotal role in fostering this awareness and collaboration, not only across labs, but among external stakeholders as well.

Dr. Doucet explains that it is important to engage a variety of stakeholders such as patients, decision makers, clinicians, industry partners, among others, to provide a more diverse lens, to ensure the research is relevant and to make it more likely to inform policy and practice.

“Within our neighborhoods, we see how important health research is, and for many research projects, when findings are successful, they will be implemented within our communities by our colleagues in healthcare and government,” says Dr. Doucet. “So, if we involve community stakeholders early on in research, and throughout all stages of the research process, it is more likely the findings will be adopted.”

By inviting external stakeholders to the conference, they hope to both reflect their importance in research and create opportunities to engage them in the research, as well as giving them a sense of the activity taking place at UNB.

The idea of a UNB-wide health research conference was suggested at the Institution of Biomedical Engineering’s last ‘state of the institute’ meeting, in February 2021. With so much notable research that takes place across UNB’s campuses, Dr. Sensinger saw great potential for success; he speculated that there would be lots to share, and that there were likely researchers working in areas related to his of which he wasn’t aware, and vice-versa. He reached out to his colleague Dr. Doucet, who shared his enthusiasm, and they set to work organizing the conference.

The co-chairs are hopeful that the virtual conference activities will enable better awareness of research activities across UNB, foster curiosity about the field and encourage fruitful conversations between internal and external stakeholders involved in health research. Further, they hope that participants will find new ideas, awareness and perspective, regardless of how advanced they are in their career, as all researchers, Dr. Sensinger says “are still very much learners, given the complexity of health.”