Highlighting CGSHE researchers for 2024’s International Day for Women & Girls in Science

February 11, 2024   |   Blog, News

International Day for Women and Girls in Science, observed annually on February 11, is a day to celebrate the women trailblazers in science and amplify the next generation. This year, we asked CGSHE researchers to share some insight into their work.

Kirstin Kielhold, PhD student in a joint doctoral program in Public Health at San Diego State University and University of California San Diego

Tell us about your research

I currently focus my research within the AESHA (An Evaluation of Sex Workers Health Access) study, a cohort of women sex workers in Vancouver, Canada. My work largely revolves around the ‘upstream’ factors which cause harm for this group of marginalized women. I have looked specifically into how stigma, discrimination, incarceration, and policing contribute toward outcomes such as elevated risk of sexually transmitted infection, HIV, and Hepatitis C, and less access to primary, mental health, and substance use services. I am interested in continuing my work on these concepts through a geospatial lens.

What change do you hope to bring about with your work?

My hope for my work is that I am able to improve the lives of as many individuals as possible. My previous jobs were as a harm reductionist, on the ground, working with people, trying to have as many positive one-on-one interactions with people as possible. Although I found this work meaningful, and is what motivated me to switch my career from medicine to public health, it also motivated me to work in a space where I could attempt to make larger structural changes. I hope that my research is able to inform policies, laws, and practices in a way that reduces harm for as many people as possible. As a researcher I hope to always keep people and communities at the center of my work and to make sure I disseminate my research in ways that will most benefit the communities.

Mika Ohtsuka, PhD student in Population and Public Health at UBC

Tell us about your research

My thesis concentrates on HIV-related stigma in healthcare settings, including primary care, dental care, pharmacies, and hospitals. Although major advancements have been made in HIV treatment and care, HIV-related stigma remains a substantial barrier to healthcare access and well-being. I aim to identify opportunities for healthcare systems and professionals to address HIV-related stigma in healthcare and contribute to safer and better care for women living with HIV.

What change do you hope to bring about with your work?

My goal is to improve awareness and understanding of HIV-related stigma in healthcare settings by outlining its occurrence and impacts on healthcare access. In this research, I plan to focus on healthcare professionals and systems as having the responsibility to address HIV-related stigma in healthcare at an institutional level. I hope that my research will inform future education and training for healthcare professionals that address the intersecting experiences of stigma and discrimination experienced by women living with HIV. Findings will also contribute evidence needed to inform policy and practice guidelines so that HIV-related stigma in healthcare can ideally be eradicated at the source.

Dr. Meaghan Thumath, Clinical Assistant Professor, UBC School of Nursing

Tell us about your research

My program of research integrates social science interventions in outbreak response, with a focus on gender and improving access to care for marginalized populations during public health emergencies.

What made you decide to get into this area of research?

As a clinician scientist I’ve had the great honour to respond to the Ebola outbreak in DRC, the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa and various public health emergencies in Canada and around the world. These experiences taught me the importance of risk communications and community engagement to empower communities to respond to public health threats.