June 8, 2021

Class of 2021: Patient survey gap inspired doctorate topic

Kyle Kemp returned for his PhD after years in the health-care field
Kyle Kemp
Kyle Kemp

Topics for PhD research can truly come from anywhere. For Dr. Kyle Kemp, PhD’21, it was survey data from his job that inspired the research for his doctorate in community health sciences, specializing in health services research.

Kemp was working for Alberta Health Services (AHS), where part of his role was overseeing a provincial survey program that asked patients about the care they received while in hospital.

“While I was there, I had the idea of looking at that data and I figured it would make a great PhD,” he says.

Kemp, who convocated in February, says his PhD project evolved over the years, but he finally settled on working with cardiac surgery patients to develop a survey for future patients. Kemp saw the need to develop a treatment-specific inquiry because the survey he previously oversaw asked all patients the same questions, regardless of the reason for their hospital visit.

“We were missing out on opportunities for additional clinically relevant questions to be asked,” he says.

Reach out for treatment-specific feedback

Kemp did his PhD across three projects instead of one big dissertation. His first project looked at the existing data, getting a sense of the questions and what data points might be missing. This informed the second project, in which Kemp interviewed Albertans who had undergone cardiac surgery about what was important to them during their hospital stay. Kemp then took his learnings from the first two projects to develop a new survey that allowed patients the opportunity to answer the questions and evaluate the survey itself.

“We had 90 participants complete the survey and received very positive feedback,” he says.

During his PhD, Kemp authored 11 manuscripts and 44 abstracts relating to his work. He says the writing process was great and he was able to capitalize on his existing knowledge from his previous work at AHS. Kemp also won peer-reviewed funding awards from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, including the Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship
 – Doctoral Award.

“These awards were a huge endorsement of my research and the need for it,” he says. “To be recognized and singled out was a really nice testament to my work.”

'Pay-it-forward mentality'

Kemp also won many conference awards, including those from the International Society for Quality of Life Research, International Population Data Linkage Network, and the Canadian Association for Health Services and Policy Research. He says it was a huge accolade to be acknowledged, particularly due to the high-quality research and novel research programs presented at these conferences.

He served as a peer mentor during his time as a PhD student. He says he has had excellent mentors during his academic and professional career, including his PhD supervisors, Dr. Maria Santana, PhD, and Dr. Hude Quan, PhD’98, and his committee members, Dr. Elizabeth Oddone Paolucci, BA’93, MSc’95, PhD’98, and Dr. Merril Knudtson, MD’75. It was important to him to help by offering his own expertise to others.

“It’s that pay-it-forward mentality,” Kemp says.

This mentality also carries into his work as a peer reviewer for more than a dozen academic journals and conferences. Kemp says this work is a way to provide a public service, and it also allows him to keep his finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the research world.

Kemp works with the Health Quality Council of Alberta, whose mandate is to promote and improve patient safety, person-centred care and health service quality. He is excited to bring his knowledge and skills from his PhD to his work on the council.

UCalgary convocation

Congratulations, Class of 2021!

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