Skip to main content

Gwen Healey Akearok

Executive and Scientific Director
Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre
Photo de Gwen Healey Akearok avec les cils givrés par le froid
Photo de Gwen Healey Akearok avec les cils givrés par le froid
Location Born
Location Now
Education Pathway
School Subject

Gwen Healey Akearok is the Executive and Scientific Director of the Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre.

About me

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 people’s 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.

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Geography
  • Math
  • Home Economics
  • Foods & Nutrition
  • Industrial Arts
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Sewing, carving and beading
  • Indigenous Studies/Languages
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Brought people together
  • Liked helping people
  • Organized activities for my friends
  • Enjoyed working with my hands
  • Liked being given free range to explore my ideas
  • Engaged in volunteer activities
  • Liked reading
  • Liked to design or build things
  • Engaged in activities such as fishing
  • Learned Best by Doing

Explore Career Profiles

  • Dr. Harpreet Kochhar at standup computer station in his office.

    Dr. Harpreet Kochhar

    President

    I am the head of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
  • Isabel Hilgendag in the fileld collecting samples in the Arctic

    Isabel Hilgendag

    MSc Student (Biology)

    I look for heavy metals, such as mercury, in Arctic marine animals, to ensure they are safe to eat.
  • Manpreet Kaur in her lab

    Manpreet Kaur (She/Her)

    Postdoctoral Fellow

    I work on research projects to discover drugs to treat infectious diseases.
  • Ryan Mitchell headshot

    Ryan Mitchell

    Hatchery Supervisor

    My job is to supervise the daily workflow at our salmon hatchery.
  • Daryl Lawes in front of one of Seaspan’s many tugboats supporting marine transportation.

    Daryl Lawes

    Environment Manager

    I am responsible for all aspects of environmental protection, performance, and regulatory compliance for Seaspan Shipyards.
  • Corie HOuldsworth headshot

    Corie Houldsworth

    Inspector

    I perform inspections of worksites where radiation is used, stored or transported.
  • Terra MacDonald at aquaculture site holding farmed salmon.

    Terra MacDonald (she/her)

    Veterinarian and Fish Health Manager

    As the veterinarian for Mowi Canada West, I care for the salmon at all life stages, from egg to harvest.
  • Isha Berry Headshot

    Isha Berry

    Epidemiologist

    I look for patterns in disease outbreaks and health outcomes in populations across the world.
  • Clair Poulin hiking near wetland area

    Claire Poulin

    Zebrafish Researcher/Pre-Med Student

    I am researching how Zebrafish respond to lower oxygen levels in their environment.
  • Jasmin Chahal headshot

    Jasmin Chahal

    Assistant Professor

    I teach in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at McGill University.
  • Lynn Henderson with German Sheppard dog

    Lynn Henderson (she/her)

    Veterinarian, Clinician, and College Professor

    I am a small animal veterinarian serving animal health in a variety of capacities.
  • Anastasiia Prysyazhnyuk headshot

    Anastasiia Prysyazhnyuk

    Science and Innovation Lead, Health Beyond Initiative

    I explore ways in which science and technology can provide solutions to healthcare problems in space and on Earth.
  • Hayleigh Conway laying on map of NWT and pointing to Inuvik on the map. Taken on GIS Day 2017.

    Hayleigh Conway (she/her)

    Geomatics Technician

    I make maps that help answer questions about the health of the environment in the Western Arctic.
  • Megan Katz headshot

    Megan Katz

    Prosthetic Technician

    Megan is a prosthetic technician who makes and repairs artificial limbs.
  • Dr. Jackie Dawson doing field research on Beechy Island, Nunavut.

    Jackie Dawson (she/her/they)

    Professor and Canada Research Chair

    I work with large teams of academics, Inuit knowledge holders, and decision makers to understand the risks and solutions to environmental change.
  • Katie Harris essayant une combinaison spatiale de simulation au Centre européen des astronautes.

    Katie Harris (she/her)

    Medical Student/Prospective Aerospace Medicine Specialist

    I am working towards a career as an aerospace medicine specialist - a doctor who works with astronauts and keeps them healthy for long missions!
  • Chris Derksen en train de faire ses recherches sur le terrain en Arctique.

    Chris Derksen (he/his)

    Climate Scientist

    I use satellite data and climate models to understand how climate change is impacting snow and ice across Canada.
  • Shari Forbes à l'extérieur du centre de décomposition humaine

    Shari Forbes (she/her/elle)

    Forensic Scientist

    I conduct research to understand how the human body decomposes in our unique Canadian environment.
  • Viviana Ramirez-Luna dehors en hiver

    Viviana Ramirez-Luna (she/her)

    Environmental Entrepreneur

    I founded (and run) a consulting company to help businesses, communities, and organizations reduce the waste they produce
  • Andrew Brereton travaillant à l'ordinateur

    Andrew E. Brereton

    Computational Scientist

    I write code that teaches computers how to design new drugs.