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Laura Schummers

Killam Postdoctoral Fellow Research Prize recipient Laura Schummers' research uses methods from epidemiology and health policy research to determine impacts of health policy and clinical practice on reproductive population health. 

Laura Schummers standing in a hallway
Home town
Baltimore
State/Province
MD
Country
United States
Research location
BC Women's Hospital and Health Centre
Department
Family Practice
Supervisor(s)
Wendy Norman
Year PDF started
The postdoctoral fellowship phase is a key career moment, not merely an addendum to graduate school. My postdoctoral fellowship provided the opportunity to apply the methods I developed during graduate school to a wider range of research questions.

Research topic

Reproductive Population Health

Research Description

My research uses methods from epidemiology and health policy research to determine impacts of health policy and clinical practice on reproductive population health. I primarily analyze linked population-based health administrative data, or "big data" routinely collected from health care encounters. I collaborate with clinicians, policymakers, and patients to evaluate and inform improvements to policy and practice based on research findings. My postdoctoral research examines the impact of Canada's globally unique medical abortion policy on abortion access and health outcomes. Canada was the first country in the world to remove all supplemental restrictions on the abortion pill mifepristone, making the drug available as a normal prescription. This meant that the abortion pill could be prescribed by any doctor or nurse practitioner, dispensed by any pharmacist, and taken by patients when, where and if they choose. Recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, we found that prescribing the abortion pill as a normal prescription—without restrictions—is safe and effective. This study is a signal to other countries that restrictions on the abortion pill are not necessary to ensure safety and effectiveness. Following this, we are examining abortion access in Canada, including how mifepristone policy may have improved access and any changes during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Why did you decide to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship at UBC? Did you consider other opportunities?

After completing my master's and doctoral degrees in Boston at the Harvard School of Public Health, I knew I wanted to return to BC. My vision was always to bring my training to BC, with an aim of 'settling down' at UBC as my long-term academic home. My postdoctoral fellowship provided the perfect bridge after graduate school to realize this dream.

What specifically attracted you to your research group?

The close connections with health system leaders and health policymakers drew me to work with Dr. Norman in the Contraception and Abortion Research Team for my postdoctoral fellowship. The close working relationships between this research group and health policymakers and health system leaders enables research to have direct, real-world impact on the design of health systems and policies and the delivery of health care. In this multidisciplinary team, I was often the only epidemiologist, perhaps the only quantitative researcher. This kept me on my toes methodologically and broadened the way I approached my developing research program.

What advice do you have for new postdoctoral fellows?

The postdoctoral fellowship phase is a key career moment, not merely an addendum to graduate school. The postdoc period is a time for reflection and digestion of new technical and subject-matter knowledge from graduate school, but also a time to learn new methods, to be bold and daring, and to develop research partnerships.

What do you like to do for fun?

I love to explore the coastal waters of BC with my two kids and my partner on our family boat. These marine adventures have taken us all over the gulf islands, desolation sound, Vancouver island, and we've only scratched the surface! We love to fish, swim, and see the nautical sights BC has to offer. At home, I am an avid cook, love listening to podcasts and audiobooks, reading, and playing board games.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of your postdoctoral fellowship?

My postdoctoral fellowship provided the opportunity to apply the methods I developed during graduate school to a wider range of research questions related to reproductive population health and to map out my independent, cohesive research program. Beyond this, I designed my fellowship to include opportunities for extending my research skills. During my fellowship, I developed new methodological skills through two unique training programs: the CIHR Health System Impact Fellowship (focused on partnering with health system leaders and health policymakers) and CIHR Transition to Leadership in Patient-Oriented Leadership fellowship (focused on partnering with patients and health decision makers). These gave me an opportunity to work in multi-sectoral teams and to think carefully about how to ensure that my research is useful to knowledge users (clinicians, policymakers, patients). Perhaps most valuable (and enjoyable) was building a network of colleagues and collaborators that are fun to work with, that challenge my thinking, and that bring new ideas to our collaborative projects.

What does receiving this award mean for your career?

I am deeply honored and humbled to receive the prestigious Killam Postdoctoral Fellow Research Prize. I am just thrilled that the Killam committee sees value in the contributions I have made in my career thus far to reproductive population health.

What do you think the next step in your career will be?

I am thrilled to be joining the Collaboration for Outcomes Research and Evaluation team in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences as an Assistant Professor in Fall 2022. I will be launching my independent research program focused on improving reproductive population health through health policy and outcomes research. This environment will provide an ideal academic home for my research program, and I am excited for this next career step.