Network of Scholars summer students apply their learning in implementation science through Nova Scotia Health’s Innovation Hub

Karen Oldfield, Interim President and CEO, Nova Scotia Health, welcomed our undergraduate and medical summer students and spoke about the value of their work in supporting evidence-based decision-making across the organization.
Karen Oldfield, Interim President and CEO, Nova Scotia Health, welcomed our undergraduate and medical summer students and spoke about the value of their work in supporting evidence-based decision-making across the organization.

This summer, Nova Scotia Health is providing valuable learning experiences for seven summer students as part of the Innovation Hub’s Network of Scholars, where they are receiving training and mentorship from health outcome scientists and senior team members from the Implementation Science team, who lead the Network of Scholars.

The Network of Scholars brings together more than 80 emerging and senior health researchers to support priority initiatives and implementations of relevance to Nova Scotians and the province.

“The Network of Scholars is an essential strategy to enhance capacity for embedded research in Nova Scotia,” said Dr. Gail Tomblin Murphy, Vice President, Research, Innovation and Discovery and Chief Nurse Executive, Nova Scotia Health.

“The embedded support offered by the Scholars Network supports evidence-based planning and decision-making that creates better care and better value for Nova Scotians and is laying a strong foundation for our Learning Health System strategy in the province.”

The students are engaged in embedded scientific activities such as rapid reviews, rapid evaluation, and the implementation of priority initiatives that continue to enhance the health system’s capacity.

 “Many of the students involved in the Network of Scholars are pursuing careers in healthcare and view their learning and experiences as a hands-on approach to gaining insights into Nova Scotia’s health system and health systems more broadly,” said Dr. Tara Sampalli, Senior Scientific Director, Nova Scotia Health.

“Additionally, it has been shown that healthcare professional recruitment and retention is improved through access to a diverse array of professional development opportunities, including research, which we know is important as we work to attract individuals to these roles in our province.”

“Students are matched with mentors based on their interests, experience, and desired learning outcomes” said Dr. Jennifer Murdoch, one of the Scientific Leads for the Scholars Network.

The student mentors are PhD Health Outcome Scientists who support the learning of students within the program throughout the summer.

Enhancing research skills and health system understanding

Arriving from all over the country, students come to Nova Scotia Health to gain a better understanding of health system priorities and innovative projects that have wide-reaching impacts.

“Being close to completing my undergrad, I wanted to develop and expand my research skills to prepare me for a career in health sciences,” said Gohar Zakaryan from McMaster University. “I’ve noticed the level of diversity of Nova Scotia Health collaborators and how important it is to have researchers with different skill sets come together to improve Nova Scotia’s healthcare system. They have made my transition into this work environment incredibly smooth and are helping me build my skills as a new researcher.”

Madeline Kubiseski, a medical student at Dalhousie University, sees the variety of experiences as key to her learning. “Everyone has unique backgrounds and experiences and being able to learn from and work alongside health outcomes scientists, clinicians, and other students has made the last four weeks very enjoyable,” said Kubiseski.

Intersection of health systems research, policy, and practice

Originally from Powassan, Ontario, Samantha Lavallée is completing her Masters in Epidemiology and Applied Health Research at Dalhousie University. During her experience as a student in the Network of Scholars this summer, Samantha has observed the connection between health policy and practice in a new way. “This was the perfect team to help guide my learning and fill a very important gap, and has allowed me to explore my interests in primary care and health policy in a practical way, which I felt I was not obtaining through my current course work.”

Providing valuable learning for future clinicians in Nova Scotia 

Kate Mason hails from Muskoka, Ontario and is working as a palliative care nurse while completing her studies at Dalhousie University’s Masters of Health Administration program. “As a nurse, I have been interested in big picture questions about how to deliver the best quality of care for my patients and how to foster and sustain quality work environments for my fellow nurses,” said Mason. “The combination of research and innovation ensures that there remains a commitment to best practice as we embark into new models of care.”

“Working with this team has allowed me to see healthcare from a very unique perspective,” said Niket Sampalli, an undergraduate student from McMaster University, originally from Nova Scotia. “I have worked on rapid reviews tackling a diverse array of healthcare disparities and have seen firsthand how our reviews have influenced the implementation of improved practices in Nova Scotia.”

Impact on the health system

Tavin Sharp, another undergraduate student from McMaster University in Ontario said that his experience has informed his understanding of how decisions are made: “It has been extremely rewarding to work on a team that is directly influencing decisions made in the healthcare system.”

Ultimately, working with other students on a team committed to achieving a culture of continuous learning sparks a sense of optimism. “I have never worked in a team so closely knit that showed the outcomes and impact of our work”, said Sarah Sutherland, originally from Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland and Labrador and currently studying at Dalhousie University.  “The future of Nova Scotia Health looks very bright as it is already making innovative changes to the system in order for patients to receive the best outcome, and that is very remarkable.”


Top left to right: Gohar Zakaryan, Madeline Kubiseski, Samantha Lavallée, Niket Sampalli
Bottom left to right: Tavin Sharp, Kate Mason, Sarah Sutherland