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angle-left Lashanda Skerritt awarded Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship

“I am constantly reminded that community involvement and advocacy are important drivers of scientific and medical knowledge,” says the RI-MUHC trainee

Doctoral student Lashanda Skerritt is a trainee in Infectious Diseases and Immunity in Global Health Program at the Research Institute of the MUHC
Doctoral student Lashanda Skerritt is a trainee in Infectious Diseases and Immunity in Global Health Program at the Research Institute of the MUHC

July 28, 2020

Source: Dept. of Family Medicine, McGill University. Lashanda Skerritt, PhD candidate in the Department of Family Medicine, McGill University, and a trainee at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI- MUHC), is among the latest cohort of Vanier Canada Scholars. The award is Canada’s most prestigious for doctoral students. Vanier Scholars demonstrate leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in graduate studies in the social sciences and/or humanities, natural sciences and/or engineering and health. Lashanda’s doctoral research aims to produce evidence to support high-quality reproductive healthcare for women living with HIV. Her work is supervised by Dr. Alexandra de Pokomandy, Research Co-Director and Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and a member of the Infectious Diseases and Immunity in Global Health Program at the RI-MUHC, and by Dr. Angela Kaida, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Global Perspectives in HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University.

HIV is no longer a death sentence

With advances in treatment, HIV is no longer a death sentence. “People are living longer, healthier lives with HIV compared to the early years of the epidemic. This has led to a shift in the reproductive health needs of people living with HIV, particularly women,” explains Lashanda, who was drawn to the field of HIV because of its rich history of activism. HIV positive women, who make up nearly a quarter of the people living with HIV in Canada today and over half of the people living with HIV around the world, have similar reproductive desires to HIV negative women. Medical and scientific advancements have been made, but healthcare practices have lagged behind.

A Canadian study designed by, for and with women living with HIV

To improve reproductive healthcare, Lashanda’s research aims to understand the existing gaps in care and how to address them. This work draws on data from 1,422 women living with HIV enrolled in CHIWOS, a Canadian study designed by, for and with women living with HIV. Integrating women’s perspectives throughout the analyses, Lashanda is examining whether women discuss their reproductive goals with their healthcare providers and how women prioritize their reproductive healthcare among other aspects of their HIV care. Results will support evidence-based recommendations to deliver care that meets the needs and priorities of women living with HIV in Canada.

“I am constantly reminded that community involvement and advocacy are important drivers of scientific and medical knowledge,” adds Lashanda. “Not only am I learning about patient engagement and patient-oriented research, but I am putting those approaches into practice in my doctoral research. I also have the privilege of being part of a research team that includes women with lived experiences with HIV, healthcare providers and epidemiologists. This amalgamation of different types of valuable expertise provides an incredibly enriching environment for me to build the foundation of my future research career.”

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