5 Questions with CBR Practicum Student Joanna Mendell

Joanna is a former practicum student at PAN.

Joanna Mendell is a student at the University of Victoria currently working on her Master’s degree in Public Health and she’s conducting her practicum placement at PAN until April. Although public health has been an interest of hers for many years, up until last year Joanna was studying and working in biology. Joanna completed her joanna mendellundergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia in cell biology and genetics, and most recently was working as a research coordinator at an epigenetics lab that focused on reproduction and fertility. We asked Joanna 5 questions about her experiences and views on community-based HIV research.

1. What first piqued your interest in HIV research?

It’s hard to say what first piqued my interest, and to get here I followed a bit of a zig-zag path. After I finished my undergraduate degree I was lucky enough to do some travelling and volunteering around Asia and Africa. I spent two months working with a small community-based HIV/AIDS organization in Morogoro, Tanzania before coming home and starting my Master’s of Public Health. In between travelling and studying I was working in research in epigenetics. It seemed like a smooth transition to merge my interest in HIV and public health with my background in research.

2. What role do you think HIV/AIDS research plays in the “real world”?

Although I am new to HIV/AIDS research, it is easy to see how many motivated people and organizations are working in this field. The HIV/AIDS research community in BC seems like a cohesive and strong team, especially within PAN and its member organizations. I think as a “first stop” in working within public health, this is a great place to be to learn new research methods, program models, strategies for knowledge mobilization, and systems for integrating the community into each of these processes. I can’t say for certain what area I will be working in once my practicum is finished but I will be able to take these tools and apply them to the “real world” in whatever position I find myself in.

3. What has been your most memorable moment so far as a practicum student with PAN?

I’ve only been with PAN for about a month and half and have already gotten to be involved with putting on PAN’s Fall Conference, many meetings with the community-based research teams, and most recently getting to attend the Gay Men’s Health Summit. This year, the Summit focused on a life course approach to gay men’s health and there were a series of very motivating and inspirational presentations. What I found especially memorable were the exciting program models and research methods that can be applied to other areas of research as well.

4. If you had unlimited funds which areas of research would you invest in?

Tough question! There are many areas which I believe could benefit from more funding, especially with regards to some of the social determinants of health (income, social exclusion/support, mental health) and also rural health in Canada. But if I have to choose one area that could benefit from unlimited funding I would focus on researching methods of knowledge transfer to the community. I’m surprised by the disconnect between information “out there” and what people in the community know and pay attention to. I think this is a very challenging landscape and I would be curious to see how the knowledge channels could be opened wider and how to have people more engaged with issues in their community and country.

5.  If you were able to choose, what is the natural talent you’d like to be gifted with and why?

I’ve always said I would like to be able to teleport myself places. But after a sunny bike ride getting myself to work this morning I think I would miss travelling place to place. Although being able to fly would be pretty great!