Samuel (Suk-Min) Yang
Supervisor: Kate Storey
Project: Sleeping soundly: Strengthening school-based sleep education through extensive stakeholder consultation
Doctor of Medicine
Why did you choose the degree program you are in?
During my post-secondary studies, I was hesitant with what I wanted to pursue—while medicine was something that interested me, I was unsure if I wanted to become a doctor. To explore my different interests, I involved myself with various leadership, mentorship, and research opportunities. I even ventured beyond academics and focused on music to try something new. Nevertheless, from reflecting upon all my experiences, I realized I loved to make meaningful relationships; I enjoyed working with others and making an impact. Combined with my passion for science and health, I concluded that medicine was the program for me.
What did you get to work on throughout your studentship?
My lab colleagues have been outstanding in supporting my research project—they shared a great wealth of knowledge translation resources for me to go through and learn. This helped me understand the intricacies of the knowledge translation process and so that I could apply what I learned to create my summary product. With Comprehensive School Health being the central pillar of my project, I have gone through numerous papers and resources to familiarize myself with the approach. I am currently analyzing parent, teacher, and student interviews on sleep to create knowledge products—like infographics, newsletters and social media posts—that can be used to inform policymakers.
What's been the best part of your experience so far?
Coming from a basic science background, I have never had previous experience with qualitative research. With this project, I have gotten exposed to various qualitative research methods such as in-depth interviews and photovoice. I had an enjoyable experience analyzing the interviews as it allowed me to examine the raw data. I am incredibly keen to learn new qualitative methods as I have only learned about them in theory. Additionally, due to the pandemic, I have had little opportunity to connect and talk to my peers during the school year. With this research, I talk to my lab members regularly, so it's quite nice to have that social element back into my life.
What impact do you hope this project makes once completed? How will this contribute to improving the health of children?
I hope this research can influence policymakers to prioritize sleep education in the school curriculum. Sleep is such an essential part of everyone's lives—it affects our mental and physical health. This is particularly important for developing children as poor sleep has been associated with adverse physical and psychosocial health such as obesity, anxiety, and poor concentration. Based on current perspectives, sleep education is not prioritized in school settings. As sleep is a basic human need, school-based sleep promotion must be encouraged for children's health.
What has the support from WCHRI and the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation meant to you?
While I have a theoretical background in public health education, I lack experience with practical application. WCHRI and the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation have allowed me to engage in hands-on public health research to delve into the world of qualitative research. Many people cannot observe public health work—this is because when public health is successful, their efforts are invisible. I've been given the privilege to be directly involved with the public health effort in promoting sleep, and I hope to incorporate this experience into my medical education.
Sleep plays a critical role in maintaining well-being as it nurtures physical and mental development. Nevertheless, a consistent decline in children's sleep has been recognized as a public health concern with insufficient sleep predating poor overall health in youth. Poor sleep behaviour has been associated with negative impacts on children's physical and psychosocial health including obesity, diabetes, anxiety, impaired concentration, physical inactivity and poorer immune function. Hence, for the goal of improving children's health and well-being, sleep has been identified as a topic of health promotion interest in school settings. While previous findings have demonstrated the effectiveness of school-based health promotion programs on improving physical activity and healthy eating, minimal research exists for sleep.
This project aims to incorporate the perspectives and suggestions of stakeholders (students, parents and teachers) in improving school-based sleep education. The generated knowledge will be integrated into practice in hopes of impacting future policies and strategies in promoting healthy sleep behaviours. To summarize research findings from stakeholder interviews, infographics and corresponding mediums (i.e., videos, reports, publications) will be produced.
Complementarily, feedback from end-users (parents, teachers, school administrators, practitioners) of this knowledge will inform the summary product. Because stakeholder consensus is critical in establishing recommendations, a consequent workshop will be conducted to identify potential policy/practice suggestions that can be integrated into existing school-based sleep education.