Sarah Kent

Supervisor: Jane A Schulz

Project: Knowledge of pelvic floor disorders in newly arrived Canadian immigrants

Degree program:

Medicine & Dentistry-Obstetrics & Gynecology

Lay abstract:

Urinary incontinence (UI) and pelvic organ prolapse (POP) are two of the most common pelvic floor disorders (PFD) affecting the quality of life of millions of women worldwide. Although a variety of treatments are available for these conditions, women are failing to seek help and lack of knowledge has been identified as a major barrier. Studies in the United States found that the knowledge deficits are greater among non-white women as compared to white women. Since Canada is ethnically diverse, we aim to assess and compare UI and POP knowledge among newly arrived female immigrants and women born in Canada. Our target group is immigrant women over 18, which will be compared to Canadian women over 18. A broad age group was chosen, because despite PFD being most common among parous and post-menopausal women, evaluating the knowledge level of all women is important to create comprehensive and inclusive health policies. We also know there are preventative measures that can be taken to prevent the development of PFD. We hypothesize that immigrant women are less knowledgeable about UI and POP than women born in Canada, therefore warranting the development of a public health program addressing better accessibility to care for PFDs in that population. We will conduct a cross-sectional written survey to assess the knowledge of UI and POP in Edmontonian women. The PIKQ (prolapse and incontinence knowledge questionnaire) will be administered to female immigrants attending the Multicultural Health Brokers Cooperative. This data will be compared with Canadian-born women recruited from the colposcopy clinic at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women. Participants will also complete a brief demographic survey to assess for confounding factors. We plan to recruit 100 participants in each group based on our sample sizes calculation.

What motivated you to participate in this research?

As a medical student, I wanted to get involved in research to learn about the different aspects of starting and completing a project. I felt it would be beneficial to start learning these skills as a student and under the mentorship of physicians that are doing amazing work to close the gaps created in healthcare by the social determinants of health. Prior to medical school, I completed a Bachelor of Arts with a major in political science. I focused my degree on gender and politics, which lead me to learn how to dissect different scenarios and history through a feminist lens. Once in medical school, we learned about inequities in the healthcare system and I wanted to get involved in making actionable changes to lessen these. I’ve always had a strong passion for women's health initiatives, so when I learned about Schulz and Poirier’s work, I was motivated to get involved. I spent the summer of my first year with them, where I learned a lot about the initial undertakings of the research, grant applications and data collection. This summer I wanted to continue working on the project to see how the data analysis and paper writing worked. Additionally, this project led to an offshoot that aimed in addressing the knowledge gap we hypothesized existed. I wanted to get involved in this project as well as I’ve been learning a lot about knowledge translation, Edmonton's immigrant communities, and partnering with community organizations. This additional project aims to teach staff at the Multicultural Health Broker's Cooperative about PFDs, so that they can take this information back to their respective immigrant communities.

What are your career aspirations?

As a medical student going into my third year, I’m certain that I want to work in the area of reproductive and sexual health. Currently, I want to go on to do my residency in obstetrics and gynecology (OBGYN). A career in this field allows for so many different areas of medicine to be explored beyond residency. Based on my experiences shadowing, learning in the classroom and doing these research projects, the field of OBGYN seems fast paced, challenging and versatile. There are also so many aspects of medicine that need quality research, and after these two summers I want to make research part of my future career.

How has this studentship helped you toward those aspirations?

This summer studentship has allowed me to explore both the clinical and research side of a career as an OBGYN. Throughout the summers, I’ve spent time in the urogynecology clinic and operating room, but I’ve also see general obstetrics by shadowing the residents that I’ve met through this project. The resident I work with directly on the research project, Lina Roa, has also connected me with multiple other medical students across the country that have an interest in global health and surgery, which has allowed me to meet fellow medical students with similar passions to my own. I was also able to meet many of the other healthcare providers working in the urogynecology clinic, which helped me to understand the intricacies of a multidisciplinary healthcare team. Outside of the hospital, I volunteered with many of the clinic staff to help with the community garage sale they put on every year to raise funds for their women's health project in Peru. This experience showed me another opportunity that working in the field of OBGYN can bring. Working with Schulz and Poirier and the whole urogynecology team has been an unimaginable experience. The mentorship I’ve received around research and working as a career in OBGYN has really helped me grow as a medical student.