Samantha Lewis was working as a clinical speech pathologist when she realized she wanted to shift into a career in research. She knew she needed to develop key analysis skills, so she turned to Humber’s Research Analyst postgraduate program. Little did she know that her work placement through Humber at the University Health Network’s OpenLab would utilize skills from her previous career, and be exactly the type of work she was looking for.
OpenLab’s focus on creative solutions to improve how healthcare is delivered and experienced was a perfect fit for Lewis’s passions. “I wasn’t sure there would be an opportunity for me where the content is exactly what I want to be researching,” she says. “I didn’t expect that I’d get to directly measure people’s experience in healthcare."
Lewis first worked on a project aimed at improving after-stroke care. “It was a lived experience study,” she explains. “What are people’s experiences after a stroke? What’s been missing from their after-stroke care? What’s been really helpful? How did they achieve success? It was qualitative research, mainly.”
“I was able to take what I needed from the program to fit my unique situation. It’s very broad learning and practical skills that can be applied in many areas.”
She later contributed to a research project looking at whether calming virtual reality scenes could be used to reduce behavioural symptoms of dementia, and improve quality of life, well-being and communication with care partners. While these projects involved different types of data, Lewis leaned on her strong communication abilities and newly developed analytical skills for both.
Lewis credits her successful placement at OpenLab to the research skills learned at Humber — including qualitative and quantitative research and statistics, research technologies, project management tools and research ethics. “Knowing the questions to ask, especially in terms of qualitative research, how to formulate it well, and knowing industry best practices, gave me an advantage in knowing what to pick up on,” she says. “I was able to take what I needed from the program to fit my unique situation. It’s very broad learning and practical skills that can be applied in many areas.”
Her ability to take on a wide variety of tasks — planning, data collection, analysis, report writing, manuscript editing and revising, project management and more — served her well. OpenLab hired Lewis following her placement, and she’s continued working on the VR project, which has advanced from feasibility studies to randomized controlled studies in different settings, such as at home and in acute care. “It’s exactly right up my alley for what I want to do.”