News at Medicine - September 2020 - PhD graduate is awarded for going beyond research

PhD graduate is awarded for going beyond research
September 16, 2020
Dr. Nathaniel Pollock is ending his educational career at Memorial on high note.
Dr. Pollock, who started as a graduate diploma student in 2009, graduated with his PhD in 2019. His work garnered him two prestigious convocation awards recently: The Governor General’s Gold Medal in Graduate Studies and the Dr. Sharon Buehler Community Health and Humanities Convocation Award.
After spending several years working as a social worker in mental health and child welfare, Dr. Pollock was interested in understanding the challenges his clients faced from a different perspective. He says the PhD program in Community Health and Humanities provided him with the fundamental knowledge and skills he needed to pursue some important questions in mental health research. Through some connections in Labrador, he was invited to get involved in research to support suicide prevention efforts in the region. The title of his thesis was The Social Context and Epidemiology of Suicide in Labrador.
Dr. Pollock started his studies in St. John’s, but moved to Happy Valley-Goose Bay where he lived for six years. He worked at the Labrador Institute and had the chance to visit many communities in central Labrador and on the North and South Coasts.

Gift of community

“My path through graduate school was probably a bit unusual, at least in part because I spent the majority of my time away from main campus, living in Labrador,” Dr. Pollock says. “For me, it was really important to start to understand and participate in life beyond the narrow focus of my research. The real gift was the community I found there, both academically and otherwise.
“I had generous and wise supervisors in Dr. Michael Jong and Dr. Shree Mulay, as well as an interdisciplinary group of scholars and colleagues at the Labrador Institute and the Northern Family Medicine Program. Together, they really encouraged and supported my involvement in the broader community, where I met some of my most important mentors. I think these mentors and the friends I made are the most memorable part of my experience.”

Highest achievement

The Governor General’s Gold Medal in Graduate Studies is awarded annually to the graduate student who achieves the highest academic standing in his/her graduate degree program. 
The Dr. Sharon Buehler Community Health and Humanities Convocation Award was established to honour the career achievements of Dr. Sharon Buehler during her 30 years of service at the Faculty of Medicine. It is given for academic excellence in Community Health and Humanities as well as demonstration of community involvement in extra-curricular activities and a commitment to social justice.
Dr. Pollock says he was both humbled and honoured to receive the two awards. “It has been a great privilege and a career highlight to have spent the past years learning from communities and colleagues in Labrador. Any success that I have had is really a result of the trust and support I was given by so many people.” 
Dr. Pollock is doing a postdoctoral fellowship in the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta, where he’s researching rural and northern health systems, along with teaching. He’s also working on several projects related to mental health and suicide prevention in NL including a project with Eastern Health, Labrador-Grenfell Health, and the Faculty of Medicine (Emergency Medicine and Community Health) on the epidemiology of suicide in the province with funding from NL SUPPORT.