Elaine Zibrowski: Integrating research methods

By Madison Scaini

Elaine's hometown: Brandon, Manitoba

Elaine Zibrowski is a PhD student who encourages others not to be afraid of struggling because it’s a part of every academic journey. “Everyone struggles. We’re supposed to.”


Elaine Zibrowski always knew her home base would be research regardless of the route she took to get there.

Elaine is currently in her final semester of PhD studies in Health Information Science at Western University. With an academic background that includes two master’s degrees in behavioural neuroscience and epidemiology, she wanted to shift her focus from quantitative to qualitative health research.

“I think it’s important for us to keep an open mind and realize the power that can come from people’s words, from hearing about people’s experiences, and from gathering knowledge by listening,” she said.

The joint program between FIMS and Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (Faculty of Health Sciences) has given Elaine an opportunity to continue to develop her skills as a qualitative researcher. She says that because her program emphasizes that health and medicine is centred on information exchange, students have the freedom to follow many different paths in their research.

"Never be afraid to admit that you don't know something. It's an opportunity to learn."
The courses Elaine took at FIMS encouraged her to expand her thinking. “Because we engaged with many different literatures and discourses in our courses, we’re encouraged to examine issues in health through different lenses,” she said.

Her favourite course was the PhD seminar where she and her classmates spent three hours every week discussing research. “It was a very different didactic model,” she said. “Our group was vocal and open to dialogue and hearing diverse opinions.”

Elaine’s dissertation focused on how quality improvement methods that were pioneered by the car manufacturing industry have been subsequently applied to healthcare. She examined how the restructuring of some Ontario emergency medicine departments using these methods impacted how nurses and physicians worked with each other, how they interacted with patients seeking emergency medical care, and how they perceived their physical, cognitive and emotional well-being was affected by the changes that were introduced.

Fun Fact

Elaine's beloved cat lived to nearly 23 years old.

Elaine says that she has always been interested in the health and well-being of nurses and physicians, and that when we make changes to patient practice environments we need to be mindful of the impact that changes have on individuals who provide front-line medical care. While interdisciplinary approaches are attractive, these ideas may not transfer fully or easily across different systems.

Elaine has been purple and proud since she first enrolled at the university. “Western gives very high quality education and research opportunities and I have been absolutely enriched with all of the people I’ve met and worked with,” she said.

Her favourite part about being a graduate student is the ability to cultivate ideas with others and the freedom to cultivate her own research.

Once she completes her PhD, Elaine will be beginning patient-oriented research during her postdoctoral studies, and also hopes to continue to be involved in medical education research.

Even though she’ll have a new title after completing the program, Elaine says she actually doesn’t feel like she needs to be referred to by “doctor.”

“I’m Elaine,” she said. “I’m the same person I always was.”


Profiles in the Meet Our Students section are written by students in the Master of Media in Journalism & Communication program, who are enrolled in MMJC 9604 - Professional Writing.