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Dr. Janet Jull

Why I’m a Health Scientist: Janet Jull

Dr. Janet Jull’s ultimate goal is to enhance opportunities for people to participate in their healthcare. 

Her collaborative work supports client-centred healthcare—much of it done in partnerships with urban Indigenous, Inuit, First Nations, and Métis communities. Her areas of expertise include design and conduct of research and knowledge translation. In Why I’m a Health Scientist, the Assistant Professor in the School of Rehabilitation reveals how a lesson in listening inspired her approach, and shares the most misunderstood thing about research.

If I had to describe my research to a stranger, I would tell them… I develop shared decision-making tools and approaches to support people having a say in decisions about their healthcare. The term research is not always viewed favourably because of concerns around ethics and equity and the way that a lot of research has been done historically. I tend to focus on using the term ‘build knowledge’ and work in collaboration with people to ensure our work is fair and inclusive. A lot of my work is about understanding how to do research in partnerships with people who will use or be impacted by it.

Research has the power to…. change societies. That's the point of research, isn't it? To build knowledge that is of benefit to everybody, and to give everyone the opportunity to live what they define as a good life.

I was inspired to be the sort of researcher I am by… a lesson in listening. I originally trained to be a healthcare provider – an occupational therapist – because I really wanted to visit people in their places and understand their lives. I was once visiting some children in a community and explaining why I was there to a parent. I was mindful of the fact that I was a stranger from outside of the community and wanted them to make an informed decision about allowing me to be there. I stopped talking for a minute to probably take a breath of air …. and this person said, ‘you talk too much.’ And I thought, ‘yeah, I do talk too much.’ So, I stopped talking. And I've had that in my mind for years. I think, as a researcher, it inspired me to be mindful and to find different ways of listening. Because I may think I have some good ideas but really there are many ways of understanding things. When you have many perspectives, it is possible to bring people together to work in partnerships, answer questions, and solve the issues. To me, that is good research.

My research has the potential to…. support people to have their say in decisions about their healthcare. I work in partnerships with the people who will use or be impacted by our work. Collaborative approaches to research have the potential to advance person-oriented care in our health and social systems.

If I could collaborate with any great scientific mind from throughout human history, it would be…. Dr. Paul Farmer, an inspiring leader in the field of global health equity, who understood the disparities in society that undermine opportunities for health.

The most misunderstood thing about research is…. that it’s boring. I hear that from people occasionally and I don't think it's true at all. Research is lot of fun and a great way to extend your thinking. It's an opportunity to work with other people on something that matters to you and others in the community or society.

What have you learned through your work with Indigenous, Inuit, First Nations, and Métis partners? To be a humble learner. There is so much to say and to be grateful for in the journey of learning. The Indigenous Community Research Partnerships training resource (a work in progress) is an effort to share some of the learning. It is possible to do excellent research to build knowledge and ensure ethics and equity are integral to the design and conduct of the research. For example, the work we did with CONSORT-Equity to improve reporting of health equity in randomized trials, and our current efforts to incorporate health equity and social justice into the STROBE (Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology) guideline.

Why I’m a Health Scientist is an ongoing series exploring our researchers' personalities, motivations, and inspirations.

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