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(Class of '81) Melanie Barwick - Psychologist and Associate Scientist

The winner of the 2012 Judy Elder Alumna Award is Dr. Melanie Barwick '81

Melanie Barwick is a Registered Psychologist (McGill 1993) and Associate Scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto Canada, were she is recognized as one of Canada’s experts in knowledge translation and implementation science.  Dr. Barwick attended The Study from 1969-1981, Sports Captain for Kappa Rho and ‘lifer’ from kindergarten through to grade 11, and still has fond memories of her time here, including her favourite: “Singing in the choir and the holiday concerts. To this day, I get teary-eyed when I hear those old hymns!”

As an Associate Scientist and Scientific Director of Knowledge Translation for Child Health Evaluative Sciences in the Research Institute, her research focuses on how best to bring research evidence into schools, health and mental health practice, so that all Canadians can benefit.  Traditionally, and to this day, the preponderance of researchers channel their findings to academic publications that are inaccessible to a broader audience of people who might benefit.  Knowledge translation means working to share the relevance of these discoveries more widely, in formats that are desirable and accessible, so that they might be known and applied.  The field of Implementation Science is relatively new and important because it seeks to close the gap between what we know through science, and what we apply and utilize in our daily lives to affect health and overall well-being.  Melanie’s expertise has led to contributions in a variety of areas, including children’s mental health, booster seat safety, paediatric pain assessment and management, and more globally, with maternal, newborn, child health work in Africa, Asia, Bangladesh, and India with non-governmental partners (Care, World Vision, Save the Children, and Plan).

Melanie leads the outcome measurement initiative for children’s mental health for the Ontario Ministry of Child and Youth Services, which supports mental health providers in assessing whether children and youth improve as a result of the services they have received.  She consults to government and service providers in the children’s mental health sector to help them realize their policy initiatives.

In the realm of professional development, she provides training in knowledge translation internationally and has been a contributor to Weekly Check Up on the CBC Health website. Her training is designed to help scientists better communicate the impact of their findings to multiple audiences. It currently takes an average of 17 years to turn health-science discovery into practice, but “If you’re the mother of a very sick baby, 17 years is too long to wait. We have to find ways to shorten the time lag.”

She holds appointments as Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, and contributes to a number of working groups and committees in the health/mental health sector and academia.   She contributes her expertise to research review committees for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research - Canada’s funding body for heath research, and to the National Registry of Effective Programs and Practices in the USA.

Asked how The Study prepared her, Melanie shared, “for me, the key elements were my teachers, the quality of the education I received there, and that I felt grounded at The Study; I felt at home.”  And her word of advice to today’s Study students?  “Above all, be kind to everyone you encounter - in a way, kindness is the most fundamental leadership skill of all.”