Deirdre Rose Dawson, PhD, OT Reg(Ont)
Dr. Dawson is a senior scientist with the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest in Toronto, an Associate Professor in the Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy at the University of Toronto and a member of the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario Centre for Stroke Recovery. Dr. Dawson's research combines her training in rehabilitation science, epidemiology and neuropsychology in order to best understand how cognitive processes in healthy aging, stroke and other acquired brain disorders impact on people's abilities to be autonomous in community living and to develop effective interventions that promote optimal participation in every-day life. Her work spans from ecologically valid assessment of cognitive impairments to occupationally based cognitive rehabilitation approaches to music-supported rehabilitation approaches to investigating the benefits of community support programs. (Retrieved on March 18, 2015 from http://www.ot.utoronto.ca/faculty/faculty_directory/dawson_d.asp.)
Q and A
Identify three words that others have used to describe you.
I asked my graduate students to assist with this first question! Supportive, thoughtful, collaborative.
How do you hope to make a difference in the world through research?
My research is ultimately about enabling people to engage in the occupations they care about - those that they need to do and/or want to do. In 2012, Dr. Liz Townsend wrote about occupation as a "central force in human existence and the organisation of societies." Research that inspires and guides practice to enable occupational performance at individual, community and systems levels will make a profound and positive difference in the world.
What is one piece of advice you have for individuals considering a career in science and research?
I encourage people at the 'considering' stage to talk to as many scientists and researchers as possible so that they find a good home for their ideas and who they are in their supervisor's lab. One's supervisor is foundational in so many ways - as a role model, mentor, support, constructive critic and as someone who can provide opportunities. The lab environment is also very important - having a good fit between one's self, one's supervisor and their lab will provide great start in a research career.
Beside your own areas of inquiry, what is one research priority that you believe is important for the future of occupational science and occupational therapy?
I believe we have essential work to do in the area of occupational justice -- broadening and deepening our understanding of the role our profession of occupational therapy play and can play in relation to issues of social justice and human rights as it intersects with issues of human rights seems to me a critical research priority. I'd love to do post-doctoral fellowship in this area!
Describe the most important role that mentors played in your professional journey.
One of my key mentors taught me by example not to lose sight of the people - that is the why of the research - this person is always extraordinarily respectful and deeply cares about the difficulties faced by individuals whom we encounter as research participants. This attitude is woven throughout their grants, papers and day to day work - a tremendous example for me.
Identify a favorite occupation that renews you outside of your work.
My favorite occupation outside my work is being a mother! I have 14-year-old twins (a boy and a girl) - the ideal is when we can as a family being cross-country skiing or wilderness camping -- being in nature, off-line is something I find amazingly renewing.
What has been the most surprising or rewarding aspects of a career in science and research?
The most surprising and rewarding aspect of my career is that I have developed wonderful, dynamic, stimulating and engaging collaborations with other scientists with whom I've also developed great friendships -- I am enormously grateful for these relationships.
Bottari, C, Wai, Shun PL, Dorze, GL, Gosselin, N & Dawson D. (2014). Self-generated strategic behavior in an ecological shopping task. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68, 67-76.
Dawson, DR, Anderson, ND, Binns. MA, Bottari, C, Damianakis, T, Hunt, A, Polatajko, HJ & Zwarenstein. M. (2013). Managing executive dysfunction following acquired brain injury and stroke using an ecologically valid rehabilitation approach: a study protocol for a randomized, controlled trial. Trials. 22;14:306.
Skidmore, ER, Dawson, DR, Butters, MA, Grattan, ES, Juengst, SB, Whyte, EM, Begley. A, Holm, MB & Becker JT. (2014 Dec 11). Strategy training shows promise for addressing disability in the first 6 months after stroke. Neurorehabililitation and Neural Repair, pii: 1545968314562113. [Epub ahead of print]