PhD in Social Work 2004
Before coming to Edinburgh, I had just completed my MSW at McGill University in the School of Social Work. I was also working at the Women’s Health Clinic in Winnipeg, Manitoba as the coordinator of a program that provided feminist health education on a number of women’s issues including PMS, Menopause, Weight Preoccupation/Body Image issues and Post-Partum Stress. Upon moving to Edinburgh in 1997, I began working at the Pilton Youth and Children’s Project where I was responsible for developing and providing social work and community based support to young women. I chose to do my PhD at Edinburgh after having a wonderful experience supervising a social work student on placement and through that, getting to know Dr. Cree who would eventually become my PhD supervisor.
My time at Edinburgh? It’s a long time ago now! But what I remember most was the incredible support I received both financially (through a Commonwealth Scholarship and the University of Edinburgh Social and Science and Law Scholarship) and intellectually through my supervisor Viv Cree. The professors I had in my first year of study were also incredible and pushed me in ways I could never have imagined. I also remember meeting my beautiful friend Jennifer Turpie (now Crowson). That friendship sustained me throughout the process of doing my Phd – we continue to be friends today and lucky for us, only live an hour away from each other. However, I cannot forget the campus. I LOVED the campus and the surrounding neighbourhood. I felt a part of something bigger than me in the environment. It was a truly incredible experience.
Since leaving Edinburgh I have had two amazing children who are now 16 and 11. Motherhood is my favourite occupation but being an Associate Professor in the McMaster University School of Social Work is a very close second. I am currently the chair of our undergraduate program and teach both BSW and MSW students. I also have a wonderful assortment of PhD students that I now supervise, which is incredibly rewarding. My research focuses on women living with HIV. My work pays particular attention to the intersections of race, experiences of colonization and gender of women living with HIV in Canada within the child welfare, criminal law and maternal healthcare sectors. Most of my work is grounding in a community based research framework – women living with HIV and those who work on the front lines partner with me on all my research projects; women with lived experience of HIV are central to our work together in order to ensure that our research processes and findings benefit women living with HIV. My most current research project is funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR). It is a national study on Women, Art, and the Criminalization of HIV (WATCH). I am incredibly blessed to be doing what I do both as an educator, researcher and advocate for the rights of women living with HIV.
Social work education has the potential to support social work students to learn how to engage in political action. Social change and the macro level is critical; we need there to be a strong emphasis on that work and how it can be achieved with and for the very people who experience marginalization and social exclusion.
Source: own contribution.