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Posted by Terry Murray-Arnold with files from Ken Conrad on June 29, 2020 in Students

Earlier this month, the federal government officially announced the 2020-2021 recipients of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships. “The Vanier” is the federal government most prized awards for PhD students.

Two Dalhousie Faculty of Health PhD (Nursing) students were selected based on the potential impact of their research, academic excellence and leadership abilities.

Vanier Scholarships are valued at $50,000 per year for three years during doctoral studies.

For PhD in Nursing student Leah Carrier, who earlier this year was named a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, receiving the Vanier Scholarship means that she will be following in the footsteps of her fellow Dal grad students she respects.

“I’ve looked up to several Vanier Scholars since beginning my graduate studies, particularly Keisha Jefferies and her groundbreaking work exploring the leadership experiences of Black nurses,” says Carrier who researches health outcomes in Indigenous communities. “It feels very exciting to be awarded a distinction earned by someone that I look up to and learn so much from.”

Leah Carrier 

Improving the mental health and well-being of Indigenous children and youth

“Although Indigenous children and youth experience mental health disparities, Indigenous communities have inherent strengths and resiliency that promote health and wellbeing. We know that cultural activities and community connection can act as a protective buffer for mental health among Indigenous peoples, but the majority of the research in this area has been done with adults. More research is needed to understand how Indigenous youth conceptualize mental wellness and the role culture plays in promoting mental wellness with this group. My proposed research uses a “Two-Eyed Seeing” approach to address this gap and will explore the role of cultural connectedness and how culturally based interventions can be used to promote enhanced mental health for Indigenous children and youth.”

“It gives me hope to see large funding organizations supporting Indigenous research and Indigenous trainees to engage in community-based and community-driven work. I am grateful for the opportunity this funding provides me to focus on my dissertation work and to spend more time relationship building and engaging with community!” Leah says.

Leah is supervised by School of Nursing faculty and Indigenous Health Chair in Nursing (2020), Dr. Margot Latimer.

Rachel Olivier 
Understanding postpartum sexual health

“My research explores postpartum sexual health. Having a baby is a significant life event for most people and there can be many changes that accompany that, including to one’s sexuality and sexual health. Sexual health is a well-recognized component of overall health and wellbeing, yet it has not been comprehensively explored in the postpartum period. One reason for the gap in our understanding of postpartum sexual health is that sex is often considered to be a difficult, taboo or embarrassing topic to discuss. In addition, the published literature and research specific to postpartum sexual health has, for the most part, focused solely on physical symptoms and measures. Therefore, my research will aim to gain an in-depth understanding of how sexual health is experienced and defined by postpartum individuals so that we may better support their overall health and well-being.”

“This recognition means having a rare and exciting opportunity to focus on my doctoral research. Receiving support from the Vanier Scholarship will allow me to pursue my goals more fully, which is something I am very grateful for,” says Rachel. 

Rachel is co-supervised by School of Nursing faculty Drs. Megan Aston and Sheri Price.

In total, five Dalhousie PhD students and two incoming postdoctoral fellows were among this year’s recipients.