Dr. Sharon Straus is a geriatrician/general internist/clinical epidemiologist and Director of the Knowledge Translation (KT) Program at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s and the Division Director for Geriatric Medicine at the University of Toronto. She holds a Canada Research Chair in Knowledge Translation and Quality of Care. Moreover, Dr Straus serves as the Principal Investigator for KT Canada- Strategic Training Initiative in Health Research (STIHR). Her contributions include development and evaluation of strategies to bring evidence to the point of care, and the evaluation of other interventions to facilitate knowledge translation and promote quality of care. She has created a transdisciplinary research team which includes colleagues from human factors engineering, computer science, health informatics, and clinical epidemiology amongst others. More than 25 graduate students have been involved with research in this program which focuses on developing and evaluating strategies for effective knowledge translation. She is the co-author of a best-selling book on Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM), “Evidence-Based Medicine: How to Teach and Practice EBM”.
Questions and Answers
We are working on a few projects focused on implementation science or knowledge translation. I tend to work on projects that target interventions aimed at health care professionals or patients. For example, along with Post Doctoral Fellow Monika Kastner, we are implementing an osteoporosis self management tool in several family practices to determine impact on use of osteoporosis medications. We are planning on using the results from this interrupted time series to inform the development of a randomized trial of a suite of self management tools that our team has created. We are currently testing the usability of the web portal and the data collection system. Other projects include an initiative with PhD student Laure Perrier to develop and test a more ‘user friendly’ format for systematic reviews. We hope to determine if we can increase the usability of systematic reviews and make them easier for clinicians to read and use in practice. A more recent project involves working with the newly reconstituted Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care to develop, implement and evaluate KT strategies for each of the national guidelines that are produced by the Task Force. This is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and represents a tremendous opportunity to develop and evaluate strategies at the national level which we’ve not been able to do previously.
An area of research that I’m particularly proud of is the work we’ve done in mentorship. It’s a ‘side interest’ which led from my experiences with mentorship. I was fortunate to benefit from wonderful mentorship from Dr. David Sackett when I completed my research fellowship in the UK and it stimulated my interest in mentorship. I’ve been able to collaborate on this with wonderful people like Dr. Mitch Feldman who is Director of Mentorship at UCSF. It’s the only university that I know which has a position like his with responsibility for mentorship across the faculties. We’re in the midst of analyzing the results of a large qualitative study looking at mentorship at the University of Toronto and UCSF. We’re planning to use the results to refine our mentorship strategies.
Surround yourself with great colleagues and collaborators. Follow your passion –you have to love what you’re doing and feel joy when you go into work; if you aren’t, you need to change what you’re doing. And, it’s ok to take a ‘non-traditional’ career path and not stick within a disease area; as a geriatrician/general internist I like answering different questions arising from the patients that I see or the trainees with whom I work.
I found the recent article by Cecil and Williams on understanding causes of the under representation of women in science to be fascinating. It provides insight into where we need to focus efforts on building research capacity. Proc Natl Acad Sci US 2011;108:3157-62.
An article that I read at least every 6 months is one by Richard Smith which provides his thoughts for new medical students at a new medical school (BMJ 2003;327:1430-3). While he intended this for new students, I find it’s useful to read no matter what stage of training or career. It outlines how important it is to admit when we don’t know the answer to something because that’s where our learning starts. Sometimes we can find an answer to that question from the literature but if there is no answer, that could be our next research question. It highlights to me what a privilege it is to work in academic medicine and to be paid to ask and answer questions – there is no better job!