Aboriginal health expert takes classroom expertise North

(Edmonton) Sangita Sharma, the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry’s endowed chair of Aboriginal health and professor in global and Aboriginal health, recently travelled to Inuvik, the Northwest Territories, and Arviat, Nunavut, to teach Northern post-secondary students how to conduct research and utilize data for community-driven wellness programs.

Sharma recently received a $130,000 grant from the Canadian International Polar Year Program, part of Indian & Northern Affairs Canada. The federal grant, which will be spread out over two years, is for Sharma to teach this course to students in Arctic Canada.

Right now, educational institutions in the Far North have few resources to offer students when it comes to training in areas of research design, methodology and information dissemination. 

Sharma recognized the need to teach a 25-hour, in-class research course so students could have exposure to research theory and practice, as well as have the opportunity to utilize data for locally based programs that will improve the health of their communities.

“There was a real need to build research capacity and training for Northern students and that’s what I hope to achieve with this grant,” said Sharma. “There is so much research going on in Arctic Canada that acquiring these skills will lead to employment opportunities for people living in Northern communities.”

The first session took place in March and will also be offered in September 2011 and February 2012, with support from Aurora College and Aurora Research Institute in Inuvik. Course content will complement coursework taken by Aurora College students in health care, education and social work programs. The course will be offered at the Inuvik campus, but some funding is available to bring students in from other communities in the North.

The program is based on a teaching manual and protocols developed by Sharma’s team at the U of A for introducing and training individuals in how to successfully engage and contribute to research activities, from proposal development through to dissemination of results. The material is being shared with the federal government, Aurora College and the research institute.