“Never underestimate your passion and determination. If someone tells you that your dream isn’t possible, prove them wrong.”
That’s the advice Dr. Jennifer Shea has for young women and girls looking to pursue a career in the sciences.
As an assistant professor of Aboriginal health, Dr. Shea has been working with Indigenous communities in both Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador for many years.
“During my undergrad, I read two books that had a profound impact on me: John S. Milloy’s A National Crime (1999) and Maria Campbell’s Half-breed (1973),” said Dr. Shea. “Paired together they showed the importance of acknowledging our past as we move toward truth and reconciliation, while at the same time, celebrating and building upon strength and resilience.”
Dr. Shea has a PhD in sociology specializing in Aboriginal Health from the University of Saskatchewan, and currently teaches courses on Northern, remote and rural health as well as social justice.
“The health inequities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities are well established but can be improved and addressed. Collaborating with communities on health initiatives and research projects provides an opportunity to work towards closing the gap and ensuring that responses are culturally relevant.”
Dr. Shea’s research is community-based and driven by the community’s needs. She specializes in participatory approaches, such as photovoice, a qualitative method to document and reflect reality. Her research projects focus on wellness, food security, resilience, tuberculosis, cancer and mental health.
When asked to identify her role model, Dr. Shea has difficulty picking just one.
“I have been very blessed throughout my education and career to be mentored by amazing women. My master’s supervisors Dr. Linda Cullum, my now-colleague Dr. Natalie Beausoleil and my PhD supervisor Dr. Jennifer Poudrier had profound impacts on both my self-confidence and career path,” she said.
“I’m also fortunate to work closely with Indigenous government representatives working in health and research. All these women and more have showcased such passion and dedication to their professions, and they continue to help me learn and grow.”