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Get to know SHARE: Meet two Sunnybrook education researchers

Dr. Lesley Gotlib Conn and Dr. Giovanna Sirianni

Sunnybrook’s Education Research Unit was recently renamed the Sunnybrook Hub for Applied Research in Education (SHARE), to better reflect the team, what they do and their research priorities. SHARE encompasses all clinician researchers and scientists who are involved in education research at Sunnybrook. Get to know two members of SHARE and what they’re working on below.  

Dr. Lesley Gotlib Conn

As a medical anthropologist working at one of Canada’s busiest hospitals, Dr. Lesley Gotlib Conn examines important aspects of health care delivery like communication and care transitions, and uses theories and methods from her anthropological training to improve care experiences and outcomes for patients, families, and health-care providers. She also examines the experiences and perceptions of trainees.

“We recently published the results of a study examining North American surgical residents’ attitudes toward the educational value of caring for injured older adults,” says Dr. Gotlib Conn, an associate scientist in the Tory Trauma Research Program at Sunnybrook Research Institute and Associate Director of SHARE. “A major finding of the research was that trainees reported less interest in learning about geriatric trauma care as they progressed through their training. This has important implications for the future of surgical training and care, since surgeons will be increasingly needed to treat the growing population of injured older adults.”

Dr. Gotlib Conn first became interested in education research while working on her PhD which explored the social construction of gender and sexuality in a psychiatric teaching clinic. Her research explored, in part, how learners and trainees in the clinic were socialized to think about gender and sexuality in medical ways. “The study of doctors’ and health professionals’ socialization has a long history in anthropology and sociology and that is what drew me into the field of education research,” says Dr. Gotlib Conn.

Now in her tenth year as a scientist at Sunnybrook, Dr. Gotlib Conn is proud to be advancing education research with SHARE. “At Sunnybrook we are fortunate to have a diverse and highly collaborative group of education researchers who are focused on understanding and improving learning, teaching and clinical training across many health professions. Every year I am more and more impressed by the caliber of the education research that is proposed to our grant competition and presented during rounds and at our annual symposium.” 

Dr. Giovanna Sirianni

As a family physician with a focused practice in palliative care, empathy is a core competency for Dr. Giovanna Sirianni.

Among her many education research interests, she is particularly focused on developing communication skills and the provision of compassionate care, which is in part why she co-created the About Empathy podcast, a healthCARE podcast that focuses on patient, caregiver and health-care provider stories.

“Podcast guests discuss their personal stories, while myself and my co-hosts reflect on those stories to help enable and support empathic interactions in the health-care community,” says Dr. Sirianni. “Our team has undertaken a qualitative exploration of the podcast’s role in education from the perspective of medical students, residents and faculty members.”

The podcast’s role in medical education is just one of many projects Dr. Sirianni is working on at any given time. “Whenever I’m developing a new curricular intervention, assessment method or project, I try to approach each initiative through a scholarly lens to help question, evaluate and eventually disseminate,” says Dr. Sirianni, who is also an Assistant Professor and Enhanced Skills Residency Program Director in the Department of Family and Community Medicine in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto.

Her passion for education research is inspired by many of the physicians, teachers and scientists she’s had the opportunity to work with throughout her career. “They modeled the importance of asking provocative questions about our approach to medical education and not accepting the status quo,” says Dr. Sirianni. “They also helped demystify the world of academia and made it accessible for me to feel like I had a place in education research too.”

Dr. Sirianni says that spirit is supported at Sunnybrook, in particular through Sunnybrook’s Education Advisory Council, via their yearly grant program that funds education research projects. “This is a tangible and practical way that we recognize and move forward the work of educators, scholars and researchers.”

About the author

Samantha Sexton

Samantha is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook Research Institute.

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