Everyone has their own skills and knowledge, and learning from each other is something I appreciate. And as a department, we tend to help each other out quite a bit.
Carolina Aguilar

Support staffer recognized for making BETTER team better

For Carolina Aguilar, supporting research in the Department of Family Medicine means fostering a strong workplace family.


(Edmonton) While researchers in the University of Alberta’s Department of Family Medicine are busy with their crucial discovery work, Carolina Aguilar is just as busy in the background, quietly ensuring that the everyday operations of those scientific studies run smoothly.

In Aguilar’s case, that means looking after the many details of a program aimed at improving how health care is delivered.

For her work, Aguilar is the 2015 recipient of the University of Alberta Support Staff Research Enhancement Award. The award recognizes support staff who make a positive contribution to the research success of their faculty and the university. Aguilar is among outstanding faculty, staff and students being honoured at the annual Celebrate! Teaching, Learning and Research event being held Sept. 23. All are welcome to attend.


Aguilar has worked in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry since 2011, as part of a team that runs a program called Building on Existing Tools to Improve Chronic Disease Prevention and Screening in Primary Care (BETTER). Funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer during its first two phases, BETTER is focused on improving chronic disease prevention and screening for cardiovascular disease; diabetes; colorectal, breast, cervical and ovarian cancers; and their associated lifestyle factors. The program involves a network of research, policy and practice members in Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador, and Aguilar has multiple duties including co-ordinating various study sites, liaising with funders and keeping tracking of finances.

Her minute attention to detail and multitasking are skills Aguilar is glad to be able to contribute to the team she enjoys working with. “What I really appreciate is that my input is valued. Everyone has their own skills and knowledge, and learning from each other is something I appreciate. And as a department, we tend to help each other out quite a bit. I just like doing my job well—that’s my reward. My job is to help others and if that means stuffing envelopes, then that’s my job as well.”

That team spirit is also fed by Aguilar’s eagerness to contribute to a happy and healthy workplace. She invites co-workers to attend after-hours fitness classes and take part in charitable team-building activities such as Habitat for Humanity builds and Santas Anonymous.

“Because we all get along so well, it’s really easy to spend time together. It makes us a stronger team at work because we get to know one another in a different way.”

Aguilar holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees in economics from the U of A, and a master’s in health research methodology from McMaster University.

Her current job taps into her affinity for numbers—and a passion for health research, which she discovered while working for a time as a research assistant in a palliative care study. It was this work that spurred her to earn a graduate degree in health research methodology, to supplement the technical abilities she’d gained through her economics studies.

“I wanted to learn how to go from an idea to executing it and getting the outcome you want.”

Today, she’s proud to be part of a team that is making a difference to people at risk for chronic disease. “The BETTER program has the potential to impact how health care is provided. It focuses on keeping people healthy, as opposed to reactive management.”

Aguilar is grateful to have won the Support Staff Research Enhancement Award, but is quick to credit her co-workers and colleagues, noting that she considers herself one of a successful team.

“I’m really honoured by having been thought of for this award, and the only reason I have this is because of them.”