Fellows Feature: Stephen Ogbodo & Tara Henry

The 2023-24 CAnD3 Fellow cohort is composed of 22 accomplished individuals competitively selected from our partner higher education institutions. The new cohort comes from diverse backgrounds, with eight in master’s programs, 13 in PhD programs, and one completing postdoctoral training. They bring a range of disciplinary training from political science and geography to gerontology and medicine.

Here, we feature two of our new Fellows, Stephen and Tara, who share the paths that brought them to CAnD3 and how they hope to use the training to make a positive impact.

Featured image: Stephen Ogbodo (left), Tara Henry (right)

Stephen Ogbodo (he/him)

Stephens’ research takes a population aging perspective to explore the treatment and prognosis of breast cancer, particularly among postmenopausal women. More specifically, he plans to use large population-based datasets to assess the effect of adjuvant hormone therapy on breast cancer survivors’ risk of developing type-2 diabetes. Adjuvant therapy is treatment given after the main treatment to reduce the chance of cancer coming back. Stephen explains that his research is important on several levels.

For one, type-2 diabetes is a comorbidity that worsens the prognosis of breast cancer. Further, according to Statistics Canada, breast cancer remains the most common and deadly cancer among women, with 83% of cases occurring among women over the age of 50.

“Fortunately, breast cancer survivorship has improved lately due to early detection and more effective treatments. This means that after successful surgery, more survivors are taking adjuvant therapy for up to 10 years to prevent the recurrence or spread of cancer.” So, as women around the world live longer, they are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer and become survivors undergoing adjuvant therapy. And given the length of the treatments, Stephen wants to understand if prolonged adjuvant medications are safe for postmenopausal survivors of breast cancer.

When asked about why research on adjuvant therapy matters to him, he answers, “My motivation for this research is simply promoting healthy population aging. I hope to identify specific adjuvant therapies that reduce the risk for comorbidities and improve the aging experience.”

Stephen recently went karting during a trip with friends to Niagara Falls to celebrate passing their comprehensive exams. Outside of research, Stephen considers himself a chess fanatic. He currently ranks in the top 3% of global chess players J, but he says he’s unfortunately not good enough to make a lucrative career of it.

Stephen is completing doctoral studies in epidemiology at McGill University with general research interests in the drivers of health and disease in contemporary aging populations. Using the methodological and data training from his PhD, Stephen aspires to tell compelling stories that drive policy. This is where the CAnD3 Fellowship comes in with its emphasis on knowledge translation and data-driven decision-making. Stephen was the only Fellow from the newest cohort to take advantage of the opportunity to tell a data story at the poster session of the 2023 CAnD3 Keynote Address. He presented insights on the relationship between women’s autonomy, experience of domestic violence, and their risk of HIV infection using demographic and health survey data from South Africa.

“The increasing breast cancer burden reflects an epidemiological transition towards non-communicable diseases, not only in developed countries but also in developing countries that bear a double burden of disease (both infectious and non-communicable). HIV/AIDS remains an important health problem in Africa. Women In sub-Saharan Africa are currently twice as likely as men to be HIV positive.”

“A photo of me in my happy place. As a clinical pharmacist in my ‘previous life’, I loved to volunteer my professional services as a part of large health outreaches that took free healthcare to remote areas of Nigeria.”

Stephen considers his current public health research to be largely shaped by his experience as a clinical pharmacist. “For five blissful years, I discharged my patient-care duties as a pharmacist within diverse community settings.” He also volunteered his services as part of health outreach campaigns to rural areas of Nigeria – experiences which were formative in his desire to impact health on a grander scale and led him to pursue a Master of Public Health training at the University of Glasgow and now McGill. Stephen shares that in the not-so-distant future, he hopes to complete the cycle by mentoring the next generation of epidemiologists in sub-Saharan Africa.

Learn more about Stephen and connect with him.

Tara Henry (she/her)

Could beauty and beauty work be avenues through which gender and age discrimination manifest? This is the question that Tara’s research tackles within the broader umbrella of understanding and addressing gender-based health disparities across the life course. Her interest in this work began when she witnessed her friend’s 13-year-old daughter become distressed at the idea of going out without make-up. Tara began to think about how gendered beauty norms are and how this might be tied to mental and emotional health. Her master’s thesis found this to be true.

Tara then began to think more deeply about the relationship between beauty and health and the medicalization of beauty, such as dermatology, weight loss products, and cosmetic surgery. She is currently completing a PhD in sociology at Florida State University, and her dissertation focuses on the entanglement of appearance, health, and the work performed to maintain each. Tara’s goal is to incorporate beauty processes into the understanding of population health and aging to shape social interventions related to beauty norms.

On the left, Tara is pictured with her cat, Ravioli, and on the right, with her sister at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. In her free time, Tara likes to work on crafts, knitting, crocheting, and generally trying a little bit of everything. Some of her ongoing projects are building and decorating a dollhouse, knitting a sweater, sculpting and painting clay bookends, and sewing quilted stockings. She wants to learn stained glass next!

Before pursuing graduate studies, Tara worked as an Advocate at the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. There, her role was divided between working with survivors and research. “As a researcher, I helped create county-level demographic reports and infographics, a database of community resources available across the state, and reports on survivor needs. These materials were used by stakeholders including policymakers, advocates, and survivors themselves.” Tara valued the ability of her work to impact policy, something that drives her research and ambitions to work in the applied sector after her studies.

The experience also reaffirmed her commitment to data-driven decision-making. “Our decisions shape the lives of real people, so we need to ensure they are grounded in evidence and best practice.” As a CAnD3 Fellow, she hopes to learn more about data visualization and computational skills and improve her communication and networking abilities to more effectively influence decisions.

Learn more about Tara and connect with her.

About the training program

The Population Analytics in an Aging Society Training Program is a rigorous one-year fellowship hosted by the Consortium on Analytics for Data-Driven Decision-Making (CAnD3), funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and based at McGill University. The program upskills rising researchers in Master's, PhD, and postdoctoral programs in the areas of population data science and computational population social science from a multidisciplinary lens. It also connects Fellows to experiential learning opportunities, which include hands-on research projects and internships with government, not-for-profit, and private sector CAnD3 partners. Since the first year of the program in 2020, CAnD3 has trained 52 Fellows and welcomes 22 new Fellows for the 2023-24 Academic Year.

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