Top Row, L-R: Helena Nadem, Sophia Conradi, and Dawn Hoogeveen. Middle Row, L-R: Sadeem Fayed, Angel Kennedy, and Maya Gislason. Bottom Row, L-R: Christiana Onabola, Parsoua Shirzad, and Jocelle Refol.

Celebrating the RESET team: International Day of Women and Girls in Sciences

February 11, 2022
Maya Gislason

By: Geron Malbas

February 11th is International Day of Women and Girls in Sciences, a day to celebrate the women and girls who work as innovators, experts, and researchers in improving health and well-being for all. We spoke with the Research for Ecosocial and Equitable Transformation (RESET) Team, led by Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) associate professor Maya Gislason, to highlight the team’s projects and work of their female team members.

Since its conception at the end of 2020, the RESET team has developed several projects and programs that take equity-informed systems-level approaches in addressing pressing eco-social health issues. This contributes to efforts to build better evidence, decolonize health practices, and move society towards hopeful solutions that are informed by the principles of intergenerational equity, regeneration and resilience.

“We feel a deep sense of gratitude and admiration to all of the women on the RESET team, whose diverse living experiences bring rich and invaluable insights into the complex eco-social inequities we are trying to mitigate,” Gislason explains, “We feel proud that we are able to provide an environment where we don’t try to remove the ‘person’ from the ‘scholar’ and want everyone to bring their authentic selves to their work, celebrate their living experience – ranging from women in complex caregiving roles, immigrants, first generation scholars, etc.- and use [them]to guide our equity-informed work.”

Alongside her are a team of researchers and students working on diverse health equity issues. We spoke to some of the current female researchers on the team to hear about their work, and to discuss how important women in science are:

Angel Kennedy

Angel Kennedy, PhD student and RESET team Research Manager, helps to expand the work of the group, with her PhD focusing on advancing the TAKE NOTICE project, which aims to produce evidence useful for consolidating strategies for communicating about the climate crisis in ways that support the mental health and wellbeing of youth.

“A lot of this work depends on relationality (between ecological and social systems, generations, etc.), but also uplifting each other,” Kennedy says. “Uplifting the voices of those who haven’t been represented in the past is crucial, and including women and gender diverse people in work that they have been historically excluded from is essential to this.”

“The RESET Team aims to address many eco-social issues and inequities that have come about because of patriarchal, capitalist, and colonial systems and structures that have removed our care of each other, our environment, ecosystems, and other living non-humans. By bolstering, supporting, and prioritizing the voices of those who are experiencing intersecting inequities and who have various living knowledges and experiences we aim to root our research and thinking in ways that disrupt these inequitable systems and processes. It is so important that [these] voices are included meaningfully in work that affects them.”

Sophia Conradi

Sophia Conradi started with the RESET team as a practicum student in summer 2021 and soon after became an intern and directed studies student for a RESET/UBC/VCHRI joint project. Her work has focused on qualitative data analysis and knowledge translation regarding barriers and facilitators to the implementation of clinical trials during the pandemic. 

”In the historically male-dominated field of medicine and clinical trials, this work elevates the voices of powerful women leading innovative research,” Conradi says. “After analyzing and reporting on over 20 interview transcripts from Canadian blood services, public health, and the clinical trial research team, I have gained a deeper awareness of the factors at play in producing robust and equitable research; namely, that it is imperative to incorporate the voices of women and underrepresented groups.”

Helena Nadem

Helena Nadem worked on a directed study with RESET, exploring a research question related to the current frameworks used for operationalizing intergenerational partnerships around climate change, with a focus on climate justice and health equity for children.

“After working with the RESET team, I [found] my true passion: addressing health inequities for marginalized communities. RESET’s goals, driven by community and environmental health, and using principles of intergenerational justice, decolonization, and social justice, honour the continuous work and accomplishments women have contributed to STEM. Underrepresented groups bring forward a larger breadth of knowledge and deserve to have support and recognition.”

Dawn Hoogeveen

Dawn Hoogeveen, University Research Associate cross-appointed between FHS and the FNHA explores self-determined health and wellness indicators, building on one of the FNHA’s Population Health and Wellness Agenda objectives, to promote land-based ecological indicators.

“Promoting and supporting women in science is significant work. As a community, we also need to ensure we are promoting and supporting BIPOC women and gender diverse peoples into positions of leadership.”

Jocelle Refol

Jocelle Refol, an FHS undergraduate honours student for the RESET team, is doing a study called “Bahala Nah” to explore the stories of health and wellness among 1st, 1.5, and 2nd generation Filipino immigrants in Greater Vancouver with the support of local Filipino community organizations. As a second-generation Filipino immigrant, she intends for this research to be a step towards the representation and visibility of Filipinos in health literature.

“Women in science are important to this work because we bring a critical and insightful perspective that reflects our lived experiences, and potentially those of our respective communities,” Refol says. “With more women [who are] part of underrepresented groups involved, communities within science can be built instead of working in silos. I think that community is super powerful in science because it brings a lot of care and compassion to the research. Especially in a field [where burnout is common], being surrounded by a community can create more equitable and intentional ways to conduct research.”

Parsoua Shirzad

Parsoua Shirzad, RESET team researcher and SFU’s Master of Public Policy Program graduate, is researching the daily challenges Indigenous peoples in Canada face in accessing basic resources necessary to achieve a self-reliant and resilient standard of living centred on the goals, ambitions, and standards identified by Indigenous communities. She argues that re-establishing harvesting rights and building harvesting capacity are actionable areas of focus for achieving Indigenous food sovereignty.

“The need for more women in sciences goes beyond issues of fairness and ethics; women are imperative to researching ecosocial and equitable transformation because research is more accurate when gender is considered. Diversity enhances the collective intelligence of the research group, and is foundational to improving health and safety outcomes.”

“The reality that women do not have the same opportunities as men, is a loss for STEM. Social and scientific innovation cannot progress without gender balance in the division of labour and tasks. Not only will this contribute to equal opportunity to pursue and thrive in STEM careers, but it will also narrow the gender pay gap, enhance women's economic security, ensure a diverse and talented STEM workforce, and prevent biases in these fields.”

Sadeem Fayed

Sadeem Fayed is an FHS PhD student working as a research associate with pewaseskwan Indigenous Wellness Research Group on the Peers4Wellness project to support Indigenous women (cis-gender, trans-gender), Two-Spirit people and non-binary folks who have lived and/or living experiences with Hepatitis C and/or HIV. By introducing Indigenous-centred approaches to healthcare and health research, the program aims to respond to the community’s vision for Indigenous-responsive Hepatitis C and HIV care.

“Peers4Wellness is an Indigenous health research study that is driven by the calls of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Through Indigenous, matriarchal and communal leadership on Indigenous health, Peers4Wellness holds space within the STEM fields for prioritizing Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing while harmonizing with compatible Western sciences.”

Christiana Onabola

Christiana Onabola, a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Human and Health Sciences at UNBC, is working on research that draws attention to the potential use of the Sustainable Development Goals as a cross-sectoral platform for exploring how externalities of the land-water-energy nexus impact the equitable distribution of social and ecological determinants of health at a watershed scale.

Gislason concluded by saying “Issues that we work on, such as climate change or the links between human, animal and community health equity tend to be wicked problems that cannot be solved by using the same logic, tools and processes that created the problems in the first place. Big questions facing our world tend to be complex and require insights from a range of areas of experience and expertise, which includes traditional knowledges and insights gathered from people surviving, resisting and innovating within contexts of structural marginalization, including diverse groups of women, girls, and gender diverse people. We are excited about the world that we are imagining and about working together to build this future one project at a time.”