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Chris Shortall

A Q&A about LGBTQI2S health and wellness

Campus and Community

By Lisa Pendergast

Chris Shortall is setting his research in motion.

Born and raised in St. John’s, Mr. Shortall graduated from Acadia in 2002 with a B.Sc.(Hons.) in psychology and sociology before coming to Memorial University to complete a master of science in medicine (applied health services research).

This program focuses on solving complex health policy issues in our communities. Mr. Shortall selected sexuality, gender identity and LGBTQI2S health and wellness, for his area of interest.

After receiving the Hacking the Knowledge Gap Trainee Award for Innovative Thinking to Support LGBTQI2S Health and Wellness (2017-18), he was invited to attend a Design Jam, which brought together teams of people to come up with innovative solutions to knowledge-to-action gaps.

Because of this experience, Mr. Shortall is creating an online educational module for nurses with the intention to upscale it to other health-care providers in Canada.

LP: What was your experience like with the Atlantic Regional Training Centre (ARTC) Program in the Faculty of Medicine’s Division of Community Health and Humanities?

CS: The ARTC program was a great experience to learn from well-respected and knowledgeable experts in their fields across Atlantic Canada about key knowledge translation and exchange issues in health services and gain experience with research activities.

The ARTC program had a small group of students from four universities in Atlantic Canada who took classes together via D2L [Brightspace]. I was the only student at Memorial in my year of the program, when the usual cohort was two or three students, but the small class sizes of teleconferences was great and convenient and some lifelong friendships were made.

We were granted the amazing opportunity to attend workshops and conferences in person to gain additional skills and network with health leaders and administrators. I did a wonderful work term placement with Eastern Health’s Department of Research.

LP: Why did you select sexuality, gender identity and LGBTQ2IS health and wellness as the health policy issue to research for your master’s program?

It’s more like it selected me.

After some coursework at Memorial in the areas of sociology, women’s studies and social work, I worked at the AIDS Committee of N.L. on a Public Health Agency of Canada funded project as the project co-ordinator for Gay Urban Youth Zone.

When that finished, I wanted to return to school to continue the work in the area. Dr. Diana Gustafson was my first supervisor in the master’s program and she helped me narrow down and develop the scope for the nursing curriculum.

LP: How did it feel to receive the Canadian Institutes for Health Research’s (CIHR) Hacking the Knowledge Gap Trainee Award for Innovative Thinking to Support LGBTQI2S Health and Wellness?

CS: Simply finding the call for expressions of interest was the most exciting part. I was amazed that there was funding — that I was eligible for — that allowed me to work with a team to develop and address some of the findings from my master’s research.

I am so very grateful that CIHR is funding knowledge translation activities. The grant allowed me to travel to Vancouver and network with people working in my research area, begin building relationships with researchers in my area and, on top of all of that, it has provided me with the amazing opportunity to have a modest operating budget to continue working in applied health services research.

I am fortunate to be set up as a visiting researcher at the N.L. Centre for Applied Health Research under the direction of Dr. Stephen Bornstein for the CIHR grant.

LP: You are creating an online educational module for nurses and other health-care providers in Canada in the areas of sexuality, gender identity and LGBTQI2S health and wellness. How did this project come about?

CS: My master’s thesis, Queering Baccalaureate Nursing Education in Canada: A Survey and Qualitative Content Analysis of Curriculum and Policy Documents, found that one of the struggles of Canadian nurse educators when addressing LGBTQI2S health and wellness in the bachelor of nursing curriculum was their lack of experience.

As they were mid-career nursing educators, they had not grown up learning about sexuality, gender identity and LGBTQI2S health and wellness issues in their own schooling.

“We came up with the details to develop a series of learning simulations, self-tests and educational resources.”

And they, like most educators, were taxed with trying to stay on top of career and life work and didn’t always have the time to search out and learn new topic areas in depth.

So, they asked for resources that they could use themselves to learn and resources that they could use in their classrooms.

At the CIHR Design Jam, I was partnered with two nurses and the executive director of Rainbow Health Ontario. Between the four of us, we came up with the details to develop a series of learning simulations, self-tests and educational resources that would provide professional development credit hours for nurses.

The online educational platform will have links to relevant resources, such as health fact sheets and templates for policy and institutional reform in Canadian jurisdictions. I’m hoping it will be useful for practising nurses and nurse educators, as well as nursing students to learn more information about LGBTQI2S health and wellness issues.

LP: What would your ideal outcome be for this research? How would you like to see health care change in the future?

CS: Ideally, more funding will be available to expand the project to other health-care professionals.

My next step is that I have a letter of intent submitted to the Public Health Agency of Canada for operational funding for a provincially mandated LGBTQI2S organization that would allow me to continue to work in this area. Other provinces already have these centres. If I get the grant I will hire staff and I’ll sit on the board of directors.

This passion project of mine — to educate health-care providers and address policy in this area — is a huge undertaking and, without sustained funding, as well as no personal income, it’s a “side of desk” project at the moment.

This work has very real effects on the provision of equitable health care services to LGBTQI2S people. That cannot be understated.

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