News at Medicine - December 2009 - Creativity second nature to doctoral student

Creativity second nature to doctoral student
December 8, 2009
David Yetman, a doctoral candidate in the Division of Community Health and Humanities, is not a person who goes with the obvious solution. In fact, he recently received the President’s Award for Exemplary Service for the creation of Yaffle, just one of the creative tasks this manager of Knowledge Mobilization for the Harris Centre has completed since coming to Memorial four years ago.
Yaffle, a word from the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, means an armload of sticks or fish. “It was Janet Harron, the communications co-ordinator for the Faculty of Arts, who came up with the name,” said Mr. Yetman. “So we named our database of searchable Memorial activities, Yaffle. Amusingly, Mr. Yetman said he has seen international references to Yaffle as a woodpecker or a “small search engine at Memorial University.”

Small it may be, but it’s catching on. “We’ve had overwhelming interest – a lot of universities are involved in community engagement and they are interested in what Memorial has to offer. Memorial is undoubtedly leading the world in some of the ways it connects with communities”

Mr. Yetman’s background is in community development. He grew up in Red Bay, Labrador, and after a BA from Carleton University, a B.Sc. from Memorial and a master’s degree in science he returned to his rural routes and took an executive director position with a regional development board in Labrador, developing many innovative community projects, and leading the board in a provincial award for partnership development. Since coming to Memorial four years ago he has continued on the path of innovation.

“When I was first hired with the Harris Centre I was asked to develop a tracking template for community input. As a part of the Harris Centre team, I turned that into $1.2 million in funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Local Labour Market Development Agreement (LMDA).

“Now there is great interest from the Tri-Councils (SSHRC plus the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council) in using this device. “

Mr. Yetman likes to dream big. “If you don't dream big you won't achieve big things.”

His "dreaming big" eventually produced a search engine similar to Google that engages community groups and academics. University Affairs recently ran a national article on Yaffle titled Move Over Google.

“We have also been contacted by the Globe and Mail.”

As a doctoral student in Community Health and Humanities, Mr. Yetman is supervised by bioethicist Dr. Daryl Pullman. “I am looking at public engagement and the ethics of genetics in Newfoundland and Labrador. We want to find out public views on genetic advances – what are the issues? We need an accurate method to understand public views, opinions and beliefs – we are looking at on-line capabilities to come up with credible outcomes.”

Right now, Mr. Yetman is in the brainstorming stage. “What is a cost effective means of getting people truly engaged?”

Who knows what this creative mind will come up with next? 

Photo by: Chris Hammond - Image Services - Memorial University