Why I’m a Health Scientist: Sahar Saeed
The challenge of going back to school after a decade in the workforce is not something most people take on. But most people are not like Dr. Sahar Saeed. She was working as a research manager in 2014 when she decided to change career paths to become an epidemiologist.
As an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences and health services researcher, she is deeply committed to social justice and health equity, and in improving the health of people from marginalized and racialized populations, including people living with infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, COVID-19, syphilis, and chronic liver disease.
If I had to describe my research to a random stranger, I would tell them…I'm an epidemiologist; I study healthcare inequalities by analyzing data from various sources and using statistical methods to identify associations and/or patterns. To conduct the type of research I am interested in requires collaborations between multiple disciplines that include medicine, biostatistics, social scientists, and public health, just to name a few! My results help to advocate for policies and interventions that promote fairness in healthcare delivery, ensure access to preventive and curative health services, and prioritize vulnerable populations often disproportionately affected by healthcare disparities.
If I could collaborate with any great scientific mind from throughout human history, it would be...Aristotle. I always seek to work with people I consider creative, curious and open-minded. Aristotle not only had a depth and breadth of knowledge (from natural sciences to ethics and metaphysics), but this was rooted in philosophy and logic (if that's not interdisciplinary research, I don't know what is). His emphasis on empirical observation and systematic inquiry would greatly influence any scientific methodology, particularly epidemiology.
I was inspired to become a researcher…by being exposed to influential researchers (who all happened to be women) throughout my training and career. I connected with their passion for discovery, contagious curiosity, and commitment to making a real-world impact. I hope, one day, my dedication to science will ignite a passion for the next generation. (Thank you to DR, MBK, EEMM, and GS in chronological order.)
My research has the potential to… make a meaningful difference in the lives of those often overlooked or ignored by society. The foundation of my work rests on a deep commitment to social justice and equity. One of the key goals of my research is to contribute to developing evidence-based interventions that address the unique needs of marginalized populations, including people at risk of infectious diseases or, more generally, people from lower socioeconomic status. This could involve developing targeted interventions, programs, or policies that promote health equity.
When I am engaged in research... I am challenged, which makes me feel invigorated and provides a sense of purpose.
The most misunderstood thing about research is... conclusions are always definitive. In reality, health research is a dynamic and evolving field constantly advancing based on new evidence and insight. The only constant in life is change.
Why I’m a Health Scientist is an ongoing series exploring our researchers' personalities, motivations, and inspirations. If you, or someone you know, should be profiled in an upcoming column, please contact us.
Sahar Saeed: Learn more
“Advancing Syphilis Elimination: Leveraging Public Health and Academic Partnerships to Build Capacity,” funded by a catalyst grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in September. This proposal will address a significant knowledge gap in the real-world effectiveness of rapid point-of-care tests to curb the spread of syphilis. Funding will catalyze a new cross-disciplinary research collaboration between our local Public Health Units (KFLA) and Queen’s University, leveraging methodological and substantive expertise in epidemiology, public health, infectious diseases, mathematics, and biostatistics. ($100,000)
“Bridging a Gap in Global Oncology Research: Building Capacity in Research Methods in Rwanda” was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research this past summer and is a partnership between Queen’s and five cancer-care providing hospitals in Rwanda. The proposal aims to address the lack of African representation in research done on the continent by building the capacity and knowledge of local researchers.