Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX students receive NSHRF Scotia Scholars Awards for health research

April 7th, 2016
L-r, Nikki Bishop, Eibhlin Storey, Lana Phemister and Avery Carter
Four StFX students will engage in health research over the coming months, from investigating the benefits of regular exercise on mitochondrial lactic acid metabolism in the liver to exploring whether socio-economic status moderates the relationship between being “out” as a sexual or gender minority and one’s physical and mental health, as 2016 recipients of the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation (NSHRF) Scotia Scholars Award.
Lana Phemister, Nikki Bishop, Eibhlin Storey and Avery Carter have each received a $5,000 eight-month NSHRF Scotia Scholars Award, which provides financial support to high caliber students engaged in health research in Nova Scotia universities. The awards support the development of the next generation of highly qualified health researchers at an early stage of their career.
“This is an amazing opportunity. Not only am I able to begin my thesis throughout the summer, but I am also provided with an opportunity for collaboration and a more extensive look at research directly applicable to my area of interest,” says third year honours psychology student Avery Carter of Antigonish, NS. 
Ms. Carter says this past semester she was involved in a health promotion project in her health psychology course. They noticed many campus initiatives that promote health and well-being, but that they were not adequately utilized by students. One issue, she says, is that students are not fully aware of the many opportunities available. 
The purpose of her proposed research is to test the effectiveness of a unique promotion method for increasing awareness and uptake of campus health related activities. The proposed solution involves a pilot project of a health crew (H-crew), whose mission will be to promote the available campus resources to students in first year residences through face-to-face presentations. 
“We are at the forefront of developing new health promotion methods, and if successful, such a program could expand to other activities and raise important information applicable to a much wider population,” she says.

“It is an incredible opportunity as a student to be able to spend your summer working in your field of interest,” says Ms. Storey, a third year human kinetics student from Moncton, NB, who will work in the Mitochondrial Physiology Lab with human kinetics professor Dr. Dan Kane, looking at the health-related effects of regular exercise on mitochondrial lactic acid metabolism in the liver.

“It is not always easy as a student to find a good summer job, and even more impossible to find a job that gives you the chance to apply what you have learned in the classroom. These grants not only give us job opportunities, but they give us invaluable hands on research experience that will help us with whatever future endeavours we decide to pursue. I am extremely excited to spend my summer applying the things I have learn in my three years at StFX. I could not be more grateful for this opportunity.”
Ms. Phemister, a third year honours psychology student from Toronto, ON, says her research project will explore whether socio-economic status moderates the relationship between being “out” as a sexual or gender minority and one’s physical and mental health. 
“I am extremely grateful for the award as I believe the findings of this research project will have a positive impact in the LGBTQ community,” she says 
“By researching whether outness is universally beneficial, our findings will have implications for clinical practice and health policy in Canada and will help to identify the segments of the LGBTQ population whose health may be the most vulnerable as function of their sexual and/or gender identity. It is because of this award that we can finally see such ideas come to fruition,” she says.
The proposed research will analyze existing data collected across North America, including a large sample from Nova Scotia, as the greater number of rural communities in Nova Scotia may acerbate the marginalization of LGBTQ individuals, especially with respect to healthcare in towns with low anonymity, she says.
Ms. Bishop, a third year honours psychology student from Pickering, ON, will work with psychology professor Dr. Margo Watt.
Her research is interested in the Mayo Clinic’s Anxiety Coach smartphone app, a self-help app that uses cognitive-behavioural principles to treat anxiety disorders. Specifically, she is interested in the efficacy of the Anxiety Coach app in treating anxiety symptoms. “No other study testing the efficacy of smartphone apps like the Anxiety Coach on a university population has been conducted. Results of this research could be helpful for undergraduates who struggle with anxiety, and for anyone who struggles to access mental health care,” she says.
“It is very exciting to be receiving funding from the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation. I am very grateful to be receiving financial support that will allow me to focus my time and energy into a research project that I am passionate about.”

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