Gwen Healey Akearok
I was born/grew up in: Iqaluit, Nunavut
I now live in: Iqaluit, Nunavut
I completed my training/education at: Bachelor's of Science (Physics) Queen's University; Master's of Science (Community Health and Epidemiology) University of Calgary; PhD (Public Health) University of Toronto
What I do at work
I am public health researcher and study diseases in human populations. Our research centre exists to answer the health questions of our communities. We work closely with communities all over Nunavut. We develop evidence-based programs and workshops that are delivered in schools and in communities. We work collaboratively to design and implement research and intervention studies that get us information we need to improve health for our families and communities.
My career path is
My mother worked in the hospital, so we sort of grew up in there. I changed career paths a few times. I wanted to be a physician but was told I was too squeamish for medicine. So, I studied physics because I was interested in medical imaging and the physics of those tools. I felt that it was too isolating a field for me and that what I really loved to was to be with people and to support them to feel well.
I also loved research and having and learning the tools to answer important questions for our community. As a result, I studied physics, then I did a masters in community health and epidemiology, where I could apply some of my math skills and focus on problem-solving. But I also use the opportunity to explore what makes our approach to health and well being different in Nunavut – and to articulate how what we do is different then what is taught in a traditional academic environment. To highlight our strengths.
I later did a PhD so I could focus on storytelling and creating a space where we could showcase the strengths of our communities. I also wanted to support Nunavummiut to share their successes with a wider audience – across Canada and in the Circumpolar world. I have been fortunate to be the recipient of tremendous support from my community members, elders (and they continue to guide and teach me), and have had wonderful guidance from people who mean a lot to me.
I am motivated by
My motivation is my love for my community and being able to put my strengths and skills to work for our collective benefit now and for future generations.
How I affect peoples’ lives
We are very fortunate in that we have the privilege of being in service to our fellow community members - using research and science as a tool for action to affect change for the better.
Outside of work I
I swim regularly, volunteer with my children's activities. I'm being trained as a fitness instructor to help promote fitness and mindfulness in our communities through a volunteer organization in Iqaluit. Promoting physical activity for all ages and abilities.
My advice to others
Follow your heart. You can do anything.