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About the Institute

Profile of Katherine Boydell

Dr. Katherine Boydell
Dr. Katherine Boydell

Dr. Katherine Boydell, PhD

  • Senior Scientist, Child Health Evaluative Sciences
  • Research Scientist, Community Health Systems Resource Group
  • Associate Professor, Psychiatry and Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto

Where are you from and where did you study?
I am actually from Toronto; I grew up here and went to school here. I attended the University of Toronto and York University.

What are you researching right now?
My research focus is on the use of arts-based approaches for knowledge translation. I am investigating how I can use the arts to communicate empirical research findings to a wide variety of audiences. I want to go beyond the scientific community to use the arts to share information with front line health workers, families, young people and others in the community who would benefit from this knowledge but do not have access to traditional resources.

I am currently looking at discoveries around first episode psychosis and the benefits of early discovery. My research team and I have partnered with a dance choreographer to use dance and movement to communicate the empirical research. In the past, I have also used theatre, mural art and photography.

Who is your all-time favourite scientist, and why?
Dr. Sue Estroff. She is a medical anthropologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a pioneer in the psychiatric field, undertaking ethnographic research out in the real world studying people suffering from mental illness. She is a beautiful writer and magnificent teacher and scientist.

What are your major interests outside the lab?
My personal interests have actually intersected with my work. I am very interested in the arts, and dance in particular. My three daughters dance and it was in watching them that I became inspired. I was able to see the power of dance to evoke emotions which got me thinking about how I might use that power to communicate my empirical research findings to a wider audience.

I am also into outdoor activities like hiking and walking. For me exercise is important because I believe it helps to preserve a healthy mind, body and spirit.

Why science?
I chose science because I felt that through science there was a potential to make a difference. I want to try to make a positive impact in the lives of children and their families. Being able to include the kids in my research process is just so exciting. They are actually involved in the research enterprise, not just as a subject or a benefactor. They advise me in my work -- what are the important questions to ask, what work, what doesn’t, how to effectively translate the knowledge in a meaningful way that has impact for them. And this experience impacts on their lives too. And as research advisors they become experts through communicating their experiences to me.

Why SickKids?
I have to say that it is the most amazing place I have ever had the experience to work. The passion that I have for my program, I see reflected in every other scientist and the work they do. There is an energy here, a synergy, and not just with the scientist. It exists with all of the incredible front line workers I have had the pleasure to work with in my time here.

What is the most controversial question in your field right now?
The ethics around identifying young people as a group that is at high risk for developing psychosis. There is a fine balance between identifying a group that is at risk, and stigmatizing that group. Mental illness and psychosis is a controversial area and just because a group is high risk, does not mean everyone in that group with be diagnosed with that condition.

November 2008