Shawna Narayan, a third-year science undergraduate student, received a Faculty of Medicine Summer Student Research Program (FoM SSRP) award in the summer of 2017 to work with Dr. Nitasha Puri (physician with Fraser Health and clinical instructor with UBC’s Department of Family Practice) at the Roshni Clinic in Surrey. The Roshni Clinic is specifically designed to provide substance use and addictions services for the South Asian Community. Their project, The Lived Experience of Receiving Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder Among Punjabis in Surrey, BC: A Qualitative Study, aims to understand the lived experience of Punjabi people with alcohol use disorder who are accessing alcohol treatment services.
Based on the knowledge of these participant experiences, the project hopes to define a set of population-specific, patient-centered needs for treatment services. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a significant problem that can result in liver disease, heart disease, violence, and mental health issues. There is limited information in the literature on multicultural populations, especially with regards to alcohol use disorder. In Surrey BC, where South Asians make up 34% of the population, clinical cases from the area demonstrate greater morbidity from alcohol use among South Asian people as compared to other ethnic communities, and thus culturally specific interventions and policies around alcohol use may have great impact.
Their study focuses on the participant’s subjective experience using a phenomenological analysis of semi-structured, one-on-one interviews. Specifically, it explores the lived experience of being Punjabi, having an alcohol use disorder, and accessing the health care system in Surrey BC. Being involved in this research allowed the participants living with AUD the opportunity to explore their own experience of living with, and treating, their illness. The team hopes that the findings will benefit the South Asian community in Surrey and across Canada, eventually increasing access to effective treatment,, and providing health care professionals with greater understanding of alcohol treatment needs for this at-risk ethnic minority group.
Shawna’s interest in this project stems from her personal experiences in Surrey:
“Growing up in the community of Surrey, I gained great insight into the culture and lifestyle of South Asian people. I was excited to use my research and community experience to help people in the community that I grew up in. Through the Faculty of Medicine’s Summer Student Research Program (FoM SSRP), I was able to use my knowledge and skill set for the study where I had a valuable opportunity to learn more about alcohol use and its treatments in the South Asian population. Research connects my interest in health care, my knowledge in scientific analysis, and my commitment to helping others. This connection is why I am looking forward to finishing my undergraduate degree and continue researching through the Master of Public Health program at UBC. The FoM SSRP was a unique experience for me, which developed the necessary skills to excel in my education and career.”
During the project, Shawna developed her communication skills by interviewing patients using phenomenological methods, i.e. ones that focus on the participant’s subjective experience. She also played a key role in establishing new partnerships and collaborations with community organizations for further support with this study.
“My experience gave me better insight into what a research career looks like, and the different types of studies that can occur. I never had the opportunity to practice phenomenological interviewing skills, but now I have gained a lot more knowledge and practice using this method!”
Shawna would like to thank the UBC Faculty of Medicine for their time, support, and funding, Fraser Health Authority – Department of Evaluation and Research Services for providing funding, Dr. Nitasha Puri for her exemplary mentorship, and the patients and participants who made this study possible. From the connections she has made through her FoM SSRP experience, Shawna continues to work with Dr. Nitasha Puri on similar projects aimed at positively impacting the communities around her.