After graduating from the Master of Science Physiotherapy (PT) program at McMaster University in 2009, Jenna Smith went on to work at a private outpatient physiotherapy clinic in Hamilton, Ontario, before returning to the School of Rehabilitation Science in 2013 to pursue her PhD in cancer rehabilitation.
Jenna was first introduced to cancer rehabilitation as a student in the PT program, and this concise introduction to this particular sector of rehabilitation research ignited in her a desire to delve deeper in the topic. Naturally, Jenna continued in her research while working as a Physiotherapist, and discovered that exercise wasn’t a common component of cancer treatment. Furthermore, she was surprised that less than 30% of patients with cancer participated in regular physical activity. This growing desire to contribute to this particular field of research and make a difference in cancer rehabilitation ultimately led her to her decision of returning to school to pursue her PhD.
As she started on her journey to pursue her PhD, Jenna started looking for schools that would be an ideal fit for her and her research. With McMaster top of mind, she further investigated the possibility of completing her thesis here, and continuously found advantages to studying at McMaster. One of the biggest advantages was the opportunity to collaborate with professionals and apply her research at the Juravinski Cancer Centre, which offers one of the largest cancer treatment services in Ontario. Not only that, but she had previously benefited from the learning environment of SRS when she received her Masters, and wanted to once again take advantage from the noteworthy faculty that SRS fosters. “The RS program at McMaster University was a good match for my research topic and had well respected faculty in the physiotherapy field that I have gotten the opportunity to work with.” Jenna feels that she made the right decision, and is excited that she is able to do complete her research here. “It is so nice to have such a supportive environment to complete these studies in and be able to learn and work from others who have similar interests,” says Jenna. “I have been able to enjoy the classes offered in this program and have been given so many opportunities to grow as a researcher and instructor in the PT program.”
Studying under the supervision of Julie Richardson, Jenna is researching knowledge translation strategies in breast cancer rehabilitation, and will be looking at novel ways to put current research evidence, which shows the benefits of exercise for people with breast cancer, into clinical practice. The official title of her dissertation is, “Bridging the Gap: Incorporating Exercise Evidence into Clinical Practice in Breast Cancer Care,” and is already gaining interest from organizations around Canada, winning her two significant awards thus far.
Jenna was privileged to be the very first recipient of the Jean Crowe Scholarship, and the funding from this award has given her the opportunity to put a greater focus on her research. This new award was established in 2014 by Professor Jean Crowe, and is awarded to doctoral students in the field of Physiotherapy who have demonstrated academic achievement in their innovating research. Jean Crowe was one of the original faculty members when the Physiotherapy program was introduced at McMaster, and is also a pioneer in rehabilitation research. Her passion for and success in the field of physiotherapy have gained her a lifetime membership in the CPA, and have given her the opportunity to spread her success to the budding minds of doctoral students. Jenna was also the recipient of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship in 2014, which is a scholarship awarded to world-class doctoral PhD students studying at universities within Canada. With these awards already under her belt, Jenna is humbled and satisfied knowing that her research has the potential to make a difference in the cancer rehabilitation in Ontario.
With hopes to defend her thesis in early 2017, Jenna is looking forward to what the future has in store for her, and the future of cancer rehabilitation. If all goes well, she hopes to complete her post-doctoral studies and continue teaching within a PT program.