What is Catherine Doing?

Me with a reproduction of Klimt’s Hygiea in Vienna. Hygiea is the goddess of good health, and has been adopted by UBC’s School of Environmental Health as a logo/mascot. Shout out to my hygiene homies and public health peeps!

When I was back for Christmas, a lot of people asked me how work was going, and a few more or less pointedly asked me: what is it that you DO?  For those who didn’t ask, feel free to skip this post and go on to the next one to hear about Swedish cats, weather, and/or food.

For those of you still with me, I am now working as a Guest Researcher at the Centre for Musculoskeletal Research (Centrum för belastningsskadeforskning or CBF in Swedish).  The mission of the CBF is 3-fold: explain the mechanisms causing work-related musculoskeletal disorders (‘mechanisms’ stream), prevent such disorders (‘interventions’ stream), and when they do occur, limit their consequences through effective rehab (‘rehabilitation’ stream).  The rehab stream has lots of physiotherapists, the mechanisms stream has lots of lab studies about blood flow and muscle chemicals, and the interventions stream (in which I work) has mostly worksite-related research.  I like the structure of CBF; it is fairly unique to have all of these types of researchers work together on one problem, even though the methods they use are so diverse.  We get a lot of opportunity to hear about and think about other aspects of the problem through informal chats and group seminars.  This allows for real breadth when considering new projects, and there is a great range of expertise to draw on when you have a question about something or would like to find a collaborator with expertise in a certain area.

Here is an account of what I have done so far in my first months here:

  • I applied for a Post Doctoral Grant which would allow me to work on projects here for another year (Sept 2010 – Sept 2011), although some of that time would be spent in Vancouver at UBC.  I should find out about that in the summer, although it is a competitive award so it seems like a bit of a long shot.
  • I completed and submitted (or re-submitted) three papers based on my PhD work (remember the UBC Back Study?)  It is really important for a young researcher to publish her work, so I am lucky to have some time to do that here.  I’ll post when they finally get published.
  • I submitted some abstracts to conferences. One is for the CARWH conference in Toronto which I don’t plan to attend but at which Mieke said she would hang a poster for me as a co-author.  The other is the PREMUS conference in Angers, France and Graham and I both plan to travel to that one and then travel around a bit.  I’ll see if my rusty anglo-canadienne Français goes very far there (I navigated the Eastern townships of Quebec a few years ago with mixed success).

Now that I have finished up with a lot of these things,  I am looking at starting some new projects.  My main focus will be cost efficiency, especially cost efficiency in running epidemiological or intervention studies.  The main questions are things like: if you need to measure the risk factors of a group of workers and have only a set budget, how do you get the most information?  or conversely: If you need a certain level of measurement precision to conduct your study, what is your least-cost option?  My first foray into this will (still!) use some UBC back study data, looking at the costs and precision of three ways of measuring back posture.  In case you want to ask, I am not sick of using the Back Study data yet. I spent a lot of days (and nights) running around mills and logging sites and lots of people took the time to participate, so I would like to ask as many questions of that data as I can. (I may have said ‘squeeze it dry’ at some point, but I’m not sure that’s possible.)

1 Comment

  1. i really like it when you talk about your work – thank you for giving this update.

    Congratulations on the publishing credits!

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