Breaking the Boundaries of Communication

Breaking the Boundaries of Communication

By: Chloe Scott | Communications Student
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Communicating Science

As I entered my first Co-op workshop,  I envisioned myself working as a not so glamorous magazine intern.  It was only on a whim one evening that I decided to apply for a position at St. Paul’s Hospital.  After the initial interview, I was hooked. Fascinated by the link between Communication and Science, namely Public Health and Medicine, I felt blessed to have discovered a hidden industry for those who have skills in the sciences but who also want to pursue a creative discipline such as Communication.

Science Communication is in demand and relied on by many to help understand everything from sports to illness to environmental sustainability.  Quantitative studies, internationally collaborated research, and medical jargon are all commonplace in our day to day media, from your twitter feed to the headlines of your local newspaper. Despite its ready availability, we rarely stop to think about the vast amount of health and medical knowledge we gain from mass and social media.  What many fail to realize is the demand for communicators to ‘translate’ science into a language that is accessible to the lay person.

My first experience within the Health Communication field was with the organizing committee for a medical conference held in March.  From the Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Harvey Fineberg, to Duke University’s Chancellor for Health Affairs, Dr. Victor Dzau, I had the privilege of making connections with some of the greatest minds of our time.  The Communications team worked not only on planning the event, but also in developing accessible interviews and sessions with the speakers.  I worked alongside the Education Coordinator to help students communicate their research projects in a way that was accessible to scholars in other fields, as opposed to solely Cardiology, for example.

It is people like Dr. Fineberg and Dr. Dzau who have helped to push the importance of Science Communication through the world of Academia.  Many universities are now offering graduate programs for students who are passionate about helping the local and global communities achieve better health through awareness, prevention, and education.  There are many NGOs and in-hospital programs that offer patients the resources and aid that they require to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle, all of whom rely on a variety of communication methods to promote and support their cause. 

 There is a new epidemic among hospital staff and patients, and that is the fear of the digital revolution infiltrating the privacy of the health care system.  As a result, many doctors and administrative boards have to evaluate their usage of media to communicate medicine and health related issues.  This presents many opportunities to communicators to act as mediators between the medical community and the public.  This is just the tip of the iceberg though! There are so many incredible avenues within Science Communication, and I encourage those with a passion for health and medicine to explore these avenues.  BC is on the pulse of revolutionary health care with world class researchers, practitioners, and organizations, including the Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, the BC Alliance on Telehealth Policy and Research, and InspireNET (Innovative Nursing Services and Practices).

I once dreamt of a career in fashion or independent filmmaking, surrounded by hipsters wearing skinny jeans and arguing about lighting schemes.  Although now I've found myself immersed in the world of Science Communication, and as a result, I have directed my Communications degree towards the Health and Medical sector.  I am doing something worthwhile and that makes sense to me, even though it wasn’t my original plan.  I am grateful to the co-op program for helping me shape my goals and push me off in a new direction.  My advice to new co-op students is to take a leap of faith – you just might end up changing your mind and finding your passion.

Posted on June 27, 2012