Student Profile: Lucy Kervin

December 13, 2022

Lucy Kervin is currently working on her PhD degree in Gerontology. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Psychology at the University of Guelph. Lucy’s doctoral research will focus on the barriers and facilitators of care access and system navigation for older adults living without familial or informal support and overcoming health inequity through community and system-level approaches.

During her undergrad, Lucy completed a practicum placement as a live-in assistant at L’Arche  Canada, which provides community-based long-term care options for people living with intellectual disabilities. In this position, Lucy provided live-in care for four older women living with intellectual and physical disabilities as well as severe chronic illnesses. She continued working with older adults as part of dementia programming at a residential mental health clinic and as a residential and crisis respite support worker assisting individuals living with complex concurrent disorders. It became apparent to Lucy that  people who lack the support of family frequently experience the greatest disparities in access to quality health and social care services. This experience inspired Lucy to focus her research in this area and was also how her passion for connecting with older people grew.

While studying at the University of Guelph, Lucy worked with a few supervisors that were gerontologists who connected her with alumni of the gerontology program at Simon Fraser University (SFU). Lucy started in the master’s program in the Spring of 2020 prior to switching to the PhD program in the Spring of 2021. Her interest in research stemmed from the experience she had working directly in care work for older adults. Witnessing the inequities that they faced motivated her to pursue graduate school to eventually be in a position where she can facilitate systemic change.

As a first-generation student, transitioning into the PhD program was a steep learning curve for Lucy. Having a strong support system and mentors that were working in the health promotion sector was extremely helpful. Throughout this program, Lucy’s supervisor Dr. Theodore Cosco has supported her in her research and has helped her form her committee. A few notable mentors that have contributed to Lucy’s academic career include Stephanie Chamberlain, Laura Kadowaki, John Best, Janice Sorensen, Jennifer Baumbusch, Paul Holyoke, and Andrea Krombein.

Lucy’s dissertation will focus on barriers and facilitators of health and system care access and system navigation experienced by older people with limited familial and informal support.. She will be conducting interviews with older adults that fit this criteria. Furthermore, Lucy will consult clinicians and health and social care providers that have experience serving this population.

In addition to her doctoral research, Lucy is also involved in several projects. In 2021 Lucy was a Research Coordinator with the Fraser Health Authority where she co-led research activities related to pandemic response and preparedness in long term care. At the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) School of Nursing, Lucy is working under Dr. Jennifer Baumbusch, a Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) Sex & Gender Science Chair. With Dr. Baumbusch, Lucy is researching the experiences of people living with dementia in the community and how they navigate accessing formal care services. Lucy is also a  research intern at the Saint Elizabeth (SE) Health Research Centre and a fellow in McGill’s Consortium on Analytics for Data-Driven Decision Making (CAnD3) training program.

“In order to create systemic and sustainable change in healthcare systems, we need to have experience and exposure working within those spaces,” says Lucy.

After completing her PhD, Lucy wants to work in healthcare directly with older adults in the community. Pursuing more applied projects has driven Lucy to focus her efforts on opportunities that challenge her to further develop her skills as a researcher  in the context of care programming and policy.

Lucy’s advice for prospective students interested in Gerontology:

  1. It is important to be passionate about what you’re researching before committing to a specific topic.
  2. As you come into the program, advocate for yourself, and communicate with your supervisor.
  3. Connecting with peers is also helpful, especially if they have been in the program longer, because they will understand what it is like to be in your position.
  4. Networking can be difficult, but it is really important as you are developing your skill set as a researcher. Do not be afraid to reach out to people at the community, service, and organizational level!

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