A week of interdisciplinary knowledge and expertise exchange: The 2018/2019 TUTOR-PHC experience
11 June 2018
Ryc Aquino (Below Centre), Research Associate, University of Cambridge
I was delighted to find out I had been awarded the NIHR School for Primary Care Research’s sole place on the Transdisciplinary Understanding and Training on Research – Primary Health Care (TUTOR-PHC) 2018/2019 programme. TUTOR is a yearlong pan-Canadian research capacity building programme with representation from the UK and Australia, and has been running for over 10 years. I sought advice about this training opportunity from my colleague Dr Ben Ainsworth (Southampton) who was the School’s 2016/2017 TUTOR-PHC fellow. He encouraged me to apply following his positive experiences. I later found out that some of my colleagues (Ben Ainsworth, Grace Turner, and Lisa Garland Baird (University of Alberta & University of Prince Edward Island, Canada)) are also TUTOR alumni, which was exciting!
There are 14 trainees in this year’s cohort, from various disciplinary backgrounds. We attended an intensive one-week symposium in Canada, and will participate in online interdisciplinary discussion groups and workshops throughout the year. This year’s venue, Wendake (just outside Quebec City), is a First Nations Reserve and this was central to the symposium activities (more on that later).
On Day 1, we got to know each other through an icebreaker where we had to match facts about the trainees and mentors to the right individuals. This was followed by a lovely 3-course meal. After dinner, most of the trainees (myself included) left the comfort of the hotel to spend the night in a longhouse, traditional lodgings of Hurons-Wendat before European contact. Our firekeeper and storyteller shared Wendat legends, got us to make bannock and concluded the evening with Labrador tea.
On Day 2, we participated in a smudging ceremony led by one of the community’s elders, formally starting the programme. We then dove right into a discussion of the definitions of ‘primary care’ and ‘primary healthcare’, which produced interesting insights into the differences between these (e.g. ‘primary healthcare’ being population-orientated, and focussed on public health promotion and disease prevention). The delineation between these concepts is perhaps less pronounced/clear in the UK. To set the scene for the rest of the programme, we also discussed interdisciplinary research teams and shared what our areas of expertise can contribute to such teams. It was a privilege to hear diverseperspectives.
Day 3 was devoted to various aspects to research, from methods to poster presentations. The highlight for me was when we were split up into our interdisciplinary research groups, and had the opportunity to develop a research question in response to a ‘Request for Proposals’ we were given. Our group, ‘International Transdisciplinary group A Primary health care research team (iTAP)’, will continue to work together on writing a mock grant application later on in the year. This exercise demonstrated how interdisciplinarity is a strength and should be encouraged in academia.
Day 4 was focussed on engaging with patients and the community, and policymakers. It was fitting to meet the Unité de soutien (EN: Support for People and Patient-Oriented Research and Trials) trainees on this day too, having discussed the characteristics of engagement and strategies for effectively communicating research messages. Besides developing an elevator pitch (i.e. 45-second pitch of one’s work that concludes with and ‘ask’ or an action), the main challenge was introducing myself and giving a brief overview of my research to a room full of people in French. Having no French language skills whatsoever, I’m grateful to everyone who’s taught me and practised with me the day prior. I’m definitely proud of myself for doing this!
To conclude the week with my fellow TUTOR (and Unité de soutien) trainees and mentors, we attended a workshop on indigenous community engagement. Together, we unpacked issues around the different levels of engagement and strategies for authentic engagement, through narratives and role play. Our workshop facilitators invited us to become both storytellers and listeners, using our own personal stories, and Leanne Simpson’s Islands of Decolonial Love. Whilst I teetered on the edges of my comfort zone, this exercise reminded me to always be open-minded and minimise judgemental thoughts.
Clearly, I had an overwhelmingly positive experience! I made new friends and connections, which I hope will become real collaborations in the future. Indeed, the days were long and seemingly never-ending, but as one of our mentors impressed upon us, being part of TUTOR means we have nothing to prove, only much to share, and much to learn.
I look forward to my continued active participation and engagement with my fellow trainees and mentors as we go through the rest of the curriculum.
Thank you to Rob van Hoorn, TUTOR-PHC project coordinator for his flawless organisation of the symposium and online course.
Thank you to my funders: TUTOR-PHC (Western University, Ontario) and NIHR School for Primary Care Research
Ryc Aquino, PhD MBPsS FHEA
The Primary Care Unit
University of Cambridge