Two FHS professors, Angela Kaida (left) and Meghan Winters (right), were named as College Members of the Royal Society of Canada for 2022.

FHS professors Angela Kaida and Meghan Winters named to Royal Society of Canada

September 06, 2022

By: Geron Malbas

Two FHS professors, Angela Kaida and Meghan Winters, were named as College Members of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) for 2022. Members of the College are recognized for their remarkable contributions in the arts, the humanities and sciences, and is Canada’s highest academic honour.

Angela Kaida

A leader in global health epidemiology, Kaida uses her exemplary community based research and masterful knowledge translation strategies to confront health inequities and transform health research practice and services for women affected by HIV in Canada and HIV endemic countries. She is a Canada Research Chair Tier II in Global Perspectives in HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health.

Recently, Kaida has worked on the Canadian HIV women’s sexual and reproductive health cohort study (CHIWOS), the first national study embracing a community based research model focused on women living with HIV that is by, with, and for women living with HIV. The CHIWOS study not only helped develop more research on HIV in women and priorities in sexual and reproductive health, but it helped transform the research environment in Canada towards a Peer Research Associate model across the four pillars of health research. Further to this work, she worked on the CARMA-CHIWOS collaboration (BCC3) study, which extended her CHIWOS research model into research questions that focus on healthy aging for women living with HIV, integrating biomedical, clinical, and social epidemiology approaches.

A point of fascination is how her research is shaped by socio-structural environments and political decision making. Her research findings reveal that HIV itself and the clinical features of the virus play a smaller starring role in influencing sexual and reproductive health compared with other social determinants of health.

“In our research, factors such as HIV related stigma, the experiences of poverty, isolation, racism, sexism, HIV criminalization, gender-based violence, and other features of women’s lives, have a profound influence on shaping  women's health outcomes. In this era of very effective treatment for HIV, these factors shape women's experience of reproductive health in ways far beyond the virus itself,” Kaida explains. “It’s a profoundly important line of inquiry in research because it changes who the key actors for change are, in terms of who needs to be at the table to advance sexual reproductive health and rights among women living with HIV.”

Kaida credits her work and research interest to many who helped her along the way, including FHS professor and RSC fellow Robert Hogg who introduced her to HIV research. She further credits her work in the HIV field to strong partnerships and research mentors in South Africa, Uganda, the USA, and across Canada. She also credits the expertise and contributions of Peer Research Associates (who are women living with HIV with research training), Elders and trainees. 

“The teachings from the incredible community of women living with HIV across Canada have been absolutely essential in my own growth as a scholar, and pushing the boundaries of what questions we need to answer, and how,” she explains. “The brilliant trainees, as well, that are part of our research program have pushed me to embrace new questions and research approaches, and influenced where we should be going in this field, to places I could not have done on my own.”

For Kaida, the RSC honour is not only an incredible privilege, but an appreciation of the community based research approach being recognized.

“The field of community based HIV research scholarship has much to offer other disciplines. This is an exciting opportunity for the people and community we work with to meet other scholars, share ideas, share learning across disciplines and methodologies, and expand the sphere of influence.”

Meghan Winters

A champion for healthy cities, Winters leads intersectoral scholarship advancing our understanding of how the built environment affects mobility, safety, and wellbeing for people of all ages and abilities. She is also the CIHR Applied Public Health Chair in Sex, Gender and Healthy Cities, and the lead of the Cities, Health, and Active Transportation Lab (CHATR). In her current work, she is taking a deeper look at issues of equity in our cities.

“We don’t always consider how the policies, programs, and investments in our cities affect the groups who have been less well-supported by our city design: for example, women, non-binary people, racialized people, people with low income, people with disabilities, older people, youth, as well as people with intersecting social identities,” she explains. “The voices of these groups aren’t often represented in city design decisions; their experiences aren’t always foregrounded in healthy cities research.”

A deeply curious researcher, Winters is fascinated by the choices people make within their city: how they get around , what they love about their communities, what changes they need, and why they make the decisions they do. She examines how different people experience and adapt to cities. “People make all sorts of choices to make the city work for them: a young worker walks an extra distance to avoid an extra transit zone charge; a woman that rides a bike at night because it feels safer than walking alone; an older adult chooses their daily walking route in order to pause at a specific bench with a view of a dog park,” she explains.

With her REsearch and ACtion for Healthy Cities (REACH-Cities) program, her team is looking at cities’ approaches to equity. More and more cities looking to develop and adopt equity frameworks, needing guidance. In particular, she is interested in how these overarching frameworks translate into changes in the day-to-day work policy and programming work on specific city departments, be it transportation, planning, parks and recreation.

Winters is grateful for those that inform and partner with her in this work: city staff, elected officials, and community organizations, many of whom she has worked with for more than a decade. She has been mentored by healthy cities researchers such as Kay Teschke, Heather McKay, Michael Brauer, and Lise Gauvin; and supported by collaborative partners such as Mobilizing Justice, INTerventions, Equity, Research, and Action in Cities Team (Team INTERACT) and the Child Active Transportation Safety in the Environment Team (CHASE), amongst others. She underscores that CIHR’s Healthy Cities Research Initiative has been instrumental in her career, by coalescing researchers and practitioners across the country around designing and implementing evidence-based interventions in urban contexts to improve population health and health equity. A huge joy for her is working with trainees, both students in her CHATR lab and those working with collaborators across the country. “I love to have students join in the meetings with partners; so often they have relevant research evidence, or can create a map or tool to answer a partners’ need. It is so rewarding to see them lead in sharing back to decision-makers, or hearing their voices in media.”

For Winters, the RSC honour is an amazing national recognition of the work that she does at the very local level of neighbourhoods or municipalities. She looks forward to sharing her work with others across the country, and thinking about ideas and solutions that provide better evidence that broadens the national conversation on the design of healthier and more equitable cities.