On November 28, 2022, the Canadian government announced the 2021-2022 recipients of the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships. The fellowship is the most prestigious award for postdoctoral researchers in Canada and is reserved for the top postdoctoral fellows across all disciplines who will positively contribute to building a stronger, healthier and more equitable Canada.
Among the 70 recipients of the 2021-2022 Banting Postdoctoral Fellows is Alex Kent—a gifted implementation scientist and soon-to-be UBC Okanagan postdoctoral researcher. Kent also received the Michael Smith Postdoctoral Award.
“This year’s recipients of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships and Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships represent the highest calibre of researchers in the health sciences, natural sciences and engineering, and social sciences and humanities. They will bring new voices and insights to help ensure that cutting-edge discoveries continue to propel Canada as a global leader,” says The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.
While completing her PhD research at Simon Fraser University, Kent has spent the past five years supporting efforts to build relationships and develop methodology with the Ktunaxa Nation through her ongoing work with the xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ (Many Ways of Working on The Same Thing) research team. For her postdoctoral fellowship, Kent will continue working with this team under the mentorship and supervision of Dr. Sana Shahram and Dr. Christopher Horsethief and the xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ research team and advisory. Kent‘s postdoc is hosted through the recently launched Science of Health Equity Learning Lab (the SHELL), which houses the PHAIRNESS (Population Health Approaches to Implementing Research (k)Nowledge for Equitable Systems & Strategies) Research Program at UBC Okanagan. Her research will continue in close partnership with xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ project partners.
xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ is a partnership between the Ktunaxa Nation Council, an Indigenous governance organization representing Ktunaxa communities in the East Kootenay region, Interior Health, UBC-O and UVic. All project activities are conducted under the leadership of Ktunaxa Elders and Knowledge Holders. The team is committed to amplifying the voices of Ktunaxa citizens and re-legitimizing Ktunaxa knowledge to bridge Ktunaxa systems to non-Indigenous systems with the aim of addressing colonial disconnection in the health system. Kent’s postdoctoral research will complement and extend the project’s work by leading a component focused on anti-colonial implementation science and knowledge translation.
“As a postdoctoral fellow, I will take a leadership role in co-designing, prototyping, piloting and evaluating interventions within the xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ project; this study will advance implementation science by centering Indigenous knowledge systems and ways of knowing,” says Kent.
Supervisor Dr. Shahram is thrilled to welcome Kent into her new role. The two have crossed research paths over the years and are connected by a passion for transforming systems to promote equitable health outcomes. Between 2014 and 2019 both were part of the Equity Lens in Public Health (ELPH) research team at the University of Victoria, while Dr. Shahram was a postdoctoral fellow herself and Alex was a master of public health graduate fellow.
“The Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship will contribute to Alex’s trajectory towards becoming a top-tier independent researcher. Alex’s investment of more than three years of foundational relationship-building activities with the Ktunaxa Nation is a testament to her authentic commitment to ongoing accountability and responsiveness to community needs, and is a necessary precursor to her involvement in this research project.”
As a Banting Fellow, the next few years will be pivotal in Kent’s career development. She will be supported by mentorship from Shahram and Horsethief, guidance from the xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ team, and the SHELL’s broader learning community. Coupled with the Banting Fellowship, and an accompanying Michael Smith Postdoctoral Award, Alex is well-poised to join the next generation of leaders transforming health, research and education systems to advance justice and equity.