In recognition of International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we are profiling women researchers who are doing important work in women’s health. We asked these researchers a few questions including Dr. Roopan Gill, a researcher focusing on sexual and reproductive healthcare including comprehensive abortion care and family planning.
Tell us about yourself.
My research focus is on stigmatized sexual and reproductive health issues, specifically abortion and post-abortion family planning. I do research for the purpose of co-designing and co-creating digital solutions with the communities who have identified the problem and are seeking a solution to facilitate safer and quality access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, at this point this is comprehensive abortion care, including family planning. I work in challenging contexts, with a specific passion for marginalized communities in Canada and humanitarian settings globally.
Provide a description of your latest research project.
I am currently working with my team on two digital solutions focused on abortion and family planning. myPostCare is a digital tool that was co-created with women in British Columbia to support them after a surgical abortion. We are currently working on expansion of myPostCare to include medication abortion and early pregnancy loss, while also including more voices of our First Nations populations and people of colour. The second digital solution is a mobile application to facilitate self-managed medication abortion and post abortion family planning for Venezuelan women and girls, living in Venezuela. This digital solution has been co-created with Venezuelan stakeholders, women and girls. Both solutions have utilized user-centered design and implementation research design principles including formative research, design, development and user-testing and finally pilot implementation studies to test for feasibility and acceptability.
Why did you decide to focus your work on women’s health research?
I have always been acutely aware of the inequities that women and girls face since I was very young. I went into Obstetrics and Gynecology as a specialty to gain the expertise as a specialist in women’s health but with an eye to do work as a researcher that would allow me to address the most difficult sexual and reproductive health topics, in some of the most challenging contexts globally. If we want to make progress for women’s health then we have to address the inequities in the most difficult places in the world, which means our marginalized populations, people of colour, First Nations, people living in rural areas and those in humanitarian settings.
How has your research or research funding been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
The Covid-19 pandemic required us to be agile. We are building our expertise as a fully remote team. We conducted all our research for the project in Venezuela remotely and were able to reach more Venezuelan women and girls and key stakeholders – with over 1,100 survey respondents with a 70% response rate, 12 interviews with Venezuelan women and 10 stakeholder interviews along with multiple virtual meetings with our fully remote team. There has also been major momentum for our work as the Covid-19 pandemic brought to light the already known benefits of virtual innovations for healthcare delivery. We were lucky to have funding from Grand Challenges Canada OPTions Initiative for our work in Venezuela and the support from BC Women’s Health Foundation to raise money for myPostCare. We are optimistic that the Covid-19 pandemic will provide opportunities for us to really rethink about how healthcare is delivered and to ensure that no woman or girl is left behind.
What impact do you intend to have on women’s health with your research?
I want to see no woman or girl be left behind in her sexual and reproductive health needs. Furthermore, no woman or girl should die from an unsafe abortion as this is entirely preventable. I also want to demonstrate that by taking the time to really engage communities to create solutions with them will lead to the successful implementation and scale of digital solutions and possible impact policy and legal changes that influence women’s access to safe sexual and reproductive health services, like safe abortion care.
We live in a world with many competing priorities right now. What excites you most about having others recognize your research as a valuable investment?
I am really excited by the passion and momentum we have received from the work we have done with myPostCare and now with the work we are doing in Venezuela. It has been overwhelming to have such an amazing team behind all of this work and moreover completely female-led. We are excited to show that because we use rigorous user-centered design research methodologies and believe in truly collaborative partnerships, our digital solutions will show impact at scale so that those who need an abortion, will be able to have a quality and safe comprehensive abortion experience.
You can double your impact this February and give researchers like Dr. Gill the support they deserve to study the unique health needs of women. From now until February 28, your gifts to the Women’s Health Research Fund will be matched by the Auxiliary to BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre, up to $27,500. This could mean two fully-funded Catalyst Grant awards to kick-start the research process and support the next generation of women’s health researchers in the province.
BC Women’s Health Foundation is BC’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the full spectrum of women’s health. The information shared is intended to educate, inform, and point readers to credible sources. It is not intended to substitute professional medical advice.
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