Dr. Sarah de Leeuw reappointed as Tier 2 Canada Research Chair

Media Release
Women in long sleeve shirt stands in front of wood and glass background
UNBC professor Dr. Sarah de Leeuw joined the UBC Northern Medical Program in 2008.

Art allows for expressions of unique and sometimes difficult thoughts and feelings. For Dr. Sarah de Leeuw, a UNBC professor in UBC’s Northern Medical Program (NMP), art opens lines of communication between patients and health providers.

Reappointed as the Tier 2 Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Humanities and Health Inequities, Dr. de Leeuw will continue to examine how arts-based health research can help improve patient care and address disparities in healthcare.

“I have always been interested in the art of health and medicine, and this area of research has seen an increased emphasis around the world,” says Dr. de Leeuw.  

In her next phase of study as a Tier 2 CRC, Dr. de Leeuw will focus on internationalizing her research. She will enhance her relationships with global teams that investigate health humanities and arts as a means of humanizing medicine and healthcare.

“Over the next several years, my work will help ensure the incredible strengths in health humanities in Canada are shared with the world. In Canada, we have a lot of anticolonial and critical health knowledge. I hope to develop an expanded evidence base regarding arts in healthcare. I will build open access teaching tools for people in healthcare who want to combat bias. I hope these arts-based tools will serve those who want to expand anti-colonial way of knowing and being. 

“We want to nurture new generations of highly trained researchers and educators rooted in health humanities. We need a new generation of health professionals who take seriously the importance of humanity and arts in health care. These people will ultimately help patients experience a more humanized healthcare system.”

When Dr. de Leeuw first started as a faculty member with the NMP in 2008, pursuing health research through an arts lens was mostly unknown. As a social scientist, creative writer and poet, she remains passionate about ensuring personal narratives regarding illness and the human experiences within health care are not forgotten.

“It’s about understanding that health professionals and patients have complicated and often messy stories. Everyone, on all sides of the gurney, so to speak, needs to be kind to each other. We don’t always know everyone’s full story but understanding that stories are innate to both patient and providers means there’s more room to connect and to empathize with each other. It’s an opportunity to think creatively and in fresh ways about relationships within health care.”

The Canada Research Chairs program is a federal initiative to attract and retain exceptional scholars in fields spanning engineering and the natural sciences, health sciences, humanities, and social sciences. Tier 2 CRCs are awarded to exceptional emerging researchers, who have been acknowledged by their peers as having the potential to lead in their field. Each award is funded for $500,000 over five years.

“Dr. Sarah de Leeuw shines an important light on the critical need for humanities-focused health research,” said Dr. Paula Wood-Adams, Vice President Research and Innovation at UNBC. “Her ongoing dedication to mobilizing knowledge on this key issue is helping to build a foundation for local and global change in patient care delivery.”