April 2016Research at the Lady Davis Institute

Developing social research to advance clinical practice

For Spyridoula Xenocostas, the practical applications of research hold abundant promise for healthcare users. That’s why, as Associate Director of Research for the Integrated Health and Social Services University Network for West-Central Montreal (West-Central Montreal Health), Ms. Xenocostas is intent on fostering innovation and maximizing the impact of social research on clinical care across the network.

“The research centres in our social and community sector focus on improving the care and well-being of vulnerable populations,” she says. “Our objective is practical: to ensure that the evidence-based and leading practices that emerge from our research can be incorporated into practice, whether in front-line services or in the community at large.”

As an example of this approach, she cites the creation of the Maison bleue, developed by the University Institute with Regard to Cultural Communities, where Ms. Xenocostas served as Director of Research Activities starting in 2001.

This unique, collaborative and community-based effort of doctors, nurses, midwives, social workers and psycho-educators provides comprehensive care to vulnerable and isolated women, from pregnancy through the critical first five years of the child’s life. This includes making house calls to reach those who might not otherwise seek proper medical or social services.

“We want our achievements to inspire other communities,” Ms. Xenocostas adds. “The first Maison bleue in Côte-des-Neiges was so successful at proving the concept that a second one was opened in Park Extension. It is now being examined as a model that might be applied to vulnerable populations across Quebec.”

Also being examined is the critical issue of elder abuse, spearheaded by the university-affiliated Centre for Research and Expertise in Social Gerontology in Côte St-Luc, home to one of Canada’s highest concentrations of elderly residents. With a basis in research, a training program has been developed that is being delivered across Quebec to help healthcare and social service professionals recognize and respond to elder abuse.

When West-Central Montreal Health was tapped to provide front-line assessments of the Syrian refugees who arrived in Montreal over the winter, a team from the University Institute with Regard to Cultural Communities supported clinicians and interpreters by developing specialized intercultural training sessions and multimedia tools. Although team members had only two weeks to prepare, they successfully contributed to a smooth welcome for the newcomers.

“In an ideal world,” says Ms. Xenocostas, “researchers will work in partnership with front-line workers to provide evidence-based answers to complex questions that arise during the care of patients and other clients. It’s a matter of devising the relevant research projects.”

Ms. Xenocostas’ extensive research experience includes establishing local and international partnerships with over 50 organizations in diverse sectors. She has secured two innovation-in-knowledge transfer grants as a principal investigator, and she has directly collaborated in numerous research projects, as well as co-authoring numerous scientific publications, presenting at conferences, and developing knowledge transfer tools.

Beginning in 2000, Ms. Xenocostas co-constructed and implemented a province-wide intercultural training program that has since been recognized by the Ministry of Health and Social Services as a leading practice. She is also an Associate Researcher at the Department of Social and Public Communications at the University of Quebec in Montreal. In addition, she is a member of provincial programs to foster research and training focused on front-line services in multiethnic settings, and to conduct research into migration and ethnicity in healthcare and social service interventions.

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