Arlanna Pugh has always had a strong interest in science, and in learning how we can change the way we view and understand the world through experiments and research. She carried these interests throughout high school along with her natural curiosity about human anatomy and physiology, disease, and how the various social determinants of health influence health and wellness.
The next step was an undergraduate degree in Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa, where Arlanna chose courses based on her developing research interests. In order to enhance her academic education, she used her summer breaks to experience different research opportunities that allowed her to apply the knowledge she had gained in class.
The turning point in Arlanna’s journey, and in her decision to pursue a Master’s degree in epidemiology, came when she was working as a Science Educator with Actua, a Canadian charity that delivers Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programming to youth across Canada.
It was during that time, travelling across Nunavut co-hosting science camps for northern youth, that she witnessed the challenges Indigenous peoples may face in accessing clean water, adequate shelter, and essential health-care services.
Arlanna chose Queen’s for her graduate studies in epidemiology so that she could work alongside Dr. Heather Castleden and Dr. Colleen Davison, two established researchers who have worked in partnership with Indigenous peoples across the country.
Palliative care can greatly improve the quality of life of patients with life-threatening illnesses by providing social, emotional, and spiritual support. Arlanna’s thesis explored health-care providers’ perspectives on barriers to rural palliative-care delivery in Canada and suggestions for improving the delivery of this care.
My time at Queen’s was informative and productive. While quantitative methods are more commonly used for departmental theses, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to explore this research topic primarily using qualitative methods, under the guidance and mentorship of my supervisors who helped me think critically and constructively throughout the entire research process. Incorporating a supplementary quantitative analysis also contributed a different lens in which to view and achieve my research objectives.
Arlanna’s experiences in the North sparked an interest in Indigenous health, and an enduring passion in improving health outcomes and policies for marginalized populations.
I hope that the thesis work I completed will not only highlight the growing importance of palliative care in rural settings overall, but also the importance of implementing cultural sensitivity and cultural competency training for health-care providers to ensure that Indigenous peoples feel safe and respected, whenever and wherever they choose to seek health-care services.
Arlanna is currently working as a Research Coordinator for the Inner City Health and Wellness Program at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta. This program strives to identify patients struggling with substance-use disorders, homelessness, and poverty (another marginalized population in Canada), and helps connect them to social support services and resources in the community.