Carolyn Steele Gray

Scientist & Assistant Professor, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute & the University of Toronto

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You need to stay curious, passionate, and trust that your questions are worth asking.

What do you do?

I lead a program of research that studies how we can use digital technology to improve how we deliver health care services.

Why did you choose this field?

I went to university thinking I was going to be a medical doctor - in particular I wanted to be neuro surgeon because it seemed like the best way to help people while simultaneously doing the hardest thing I could think of.

While doing my undergraduate in Kinesiology, I worked as a personal trainer at the gym at McMaster University and held summer jobs at the rehab clinic on campus. I kept seeing challenges people faced when trying to achieve their goals related to their health and well being. Challenges in gaining access to services and supports stood in the way of the most motivated and well intention people.

I decided then that I could may help more people if I instead tackled these systematic and institutionalized barriers. My minor in sociology put me on the course of understanding these barriers from a social perspective leading to my graduate degrees in public policy and health policy. It was through my post-doctoral work that I saw the power of technology to tear down and erect those same barriers I saw as an undergraduate.

Today I focus on the role technology plays in shaping health care interactions, relationships, and patient outcomes. My aim is to generate knowledge that will help health systems to leverage these tools to deliver better care to their patients and communities.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

I'm not sure. As a kid I thought you could pick one thing and work hard and be great at it, but that you'd have to give up on a lot of other things. I didn't think I'd be able to excel in multiple areas.

I didn't think I'd be able to be in a fulfilling career that makes a real difference in peoples lives, while having my own family (2 kids aged 8 and 4), and competing in a sport I love (I am a standard distance triathlete and one of Team Canada's age group athletes for the ITU 2020 World Championships, although this event has been postponed due to COVID). I always thought I'd have to choose.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love the ah-ha moments. That spark, when a new and exciting idea comes to life, begging to be tested, probed, shared, questioned, and rebuilt. Even better is when those moments are shared with a team that lights up your brain and works together to discover something incredible.

Best advice for next generation?

You need to stay curious, passionate, and trust that your questions are worth asking - worth the long nights, worth the missed parties and events, worth the anxiety and the worry. If you're passionate about your questions and believe in them, they will fuel you and make you stronger than you thought possible.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

“We can do anything we want to if we stick to it long enough." - Helen Keller

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