A Brock MA student in Applied Health Sciences hopes to help people living with epilepsy “remove themselves from the shadows.”
Suzanne McGuire is a young researcher who is trying to understand the essence of what it means for young women, ages 20 to 35, to live with and to disclose their epilepsy in society.
McGuire was diagnosed with epilepsy three years ago while in the midst of completing her undergraduate honours degree at Brock.
“That’s what led me to my graduate studies at Brock,” she says. “For my research, I will be comparing my experiences with epilepsy to that of other young women’s experiences. My research participants will actually be my co-researchers through this study.”
In Canada, more than 300,000 people battle the seizures of epilepsy every day. Each year another 15,000 are diagnosed with this neurological condition. Epilepsy Canada, a national non-profit organization that supports research into all aspects of epilepsy, has designated March as epilepsy awareness month.
“Through this study, I really want to shed light on the injustices that people with epilepsy share in our society, so that we can work towards better epilepsy awareness and reduce stigma in society,” says McGuire.
She says some of these injustices include patchwork or inappropriate medical treatments, being excluded from activities out of fear that a person might have a seizure, or discrimination in the hiring process.?
“People living with epilepsy should live healthier lives and feel comfortable disclosing their epilepsy in public,” says McGuire. “I consider myself to be an epilepsy advocate. My goals are to try to raise awareness, work towards positive change in society, and to help other people cope with their medical condition.”
McGuire is working with Jarold Cosby, associate professor of Kinesiology, who studies physician and patient behaviors in his Qualitative Research Interview Laboratory at Brock. His research looks at how and why physicians and patients choose to use or ignore scientific evidence. Cosby was McGuire’s supervisor for her Fourth Year thesis, which gave her the opportunity to study her illness.
“The work she did was fabulous, so she decided to carry her work forward in my lab,” says Cosby. “Through her scientific work, and her advocacy with various epilepsy organizations, she is already having an impact on the illness in the community.”
McGuire’s advocacy work includes serving on the board of directors of Epilepsy Niagara. The organization is part of a global grassroots movement to mark March 26 as Purple Day and increase epilepsy awareness through community campaigns. McGuire will do her part for the campaign on March 25 and 26 by setting up an information table in Brock’s Walker Complex, near the change rooms.
She will also present her research on April 10 at Brock as part of the Mapping the New Knowledges Graduate Student Research Conference. The conference will be held in Plaza building from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.