Susan Chunick, BC SUPPORT Unit Fraser Centre Lead, retired on May 3rd, 2019. This story was written to honour her overall career, and her work with the BC SUPPORT Unit Fraser Centre.
Susan Chunick at her desk in Central City, Surrey, BC.
Susan’s diverse career has included positions at the UBC School of Rehabilitation Medicine (now called Rehab Science), Manager for Customer and Market Research at ICBC and the UBC Clinical Research Ethics Board in addition to being a consultant for various policy and planning projects.
More recently, she’s been instrumental in the establishing of the BC SUPPORT Unit and BC AHSN. Until May, she’s serving as the Executive Director of the Department of Evaluation and Research Services at the Fraser Health Authority (her primary role since 2005) and as the Administrative Lead of the BC SUPPORT Unit Fraser Centre. She also had an advisory role on the Interim Governing Council (IGC) at the Unit’s Provincial Hub, helping to shape the structure and operations of the BC SUPPORT Unit as it exists today.
“[Susan’s] guidance has been invaluable to me and my colleagues as we navigated the world of clinical research.”
– Alison Orth, Unit Director, Clinical Trials BC
“I’ve been very fortunate to have been part of the development of the BC SUPPORT Unit as a member of the IGC,” she recounted in a recent interview. “I’ve seen [patient-oriented research] evolve and change from a largely theoretical concept (in Canada) to become a very real and substantive research approach.”
The research capacity-building experience she gained at Fraser Health provided invaluable knowledge for the BC SUPPORT Unit Fraser Centre.
Susan Chunick (centre) joined the BC SUPPORT Unit Fraser Centre team at the Unit’s Putting Patients First 2018 conference in October 2018.
With Susan’s guidance, the Unit’s Fraser Centre, which launched in 2017 and is one of five regional centres across the province, now provides specialized services for patient engagement, research navigation and knowledge translation for regional stakeholders located in the geographic area served by Fraser Health.
“The participation of patients as equal members of research teams is helping to ensure that research does meet the needs of patients,” she noted. “The relevance of research is therefore enhanced, as is the possibility that results could move forward for implementation. Involving patient partners as collaborators has been essential.”
Others in Susan’s network have noticed her achievements. “It’s been an honour and a privilege to work with Susan over many years. She’s built an exceptionally strong research department at Fraser Health – a group that fully embraces, and indeed is a provincial leader in driving the patient-oriented culture change in health research,” wrote Stirling Bryan, Scientific Director of the BC SUPPORT Unit.
“Over the years I have had the pleasure of working with Susan in a variety of capacities,” wrote Alison Orth, Clinical Trials BC’s Unit Director. “Her guidance has been invaluable to me and my colleagues as we navigated the world of clinical research, and the complexities of building capacity and supports for researchers both in the community and in health authority settings.”
Assisting in both the regional and provincial development of the Unit has given Susan a unique perspective on the burgeoning BC AHSN.
“I’ve seen [patient-oriented research] evolve and change from a largely theoretical concept (in Canada) to become a very real and substantive research approach.”
– Susan Chunick
Susan noted that for research to make a difference, there needs to be a very tight connection between patient partners and researchers who design and implement the research, and the health system decision makers who are involved with determining feasibility of implementation for studies with generalizable results.
In other words, the role of BC AHSN staff and stakeholders is clear; to be the entity that is aware of the ‘pulse’ of research and drives the process to change health-care policy and process through evidence-informed research – the essence of a Learning Health System.
“BC AHSN can help to ‘broker’ compelling patient-oriented research across sectors so that research findings can be used to improve practice and inform policy,” Susan said. “In addition, BC AHSN is illustrating that provincial solutions such as the Research Ethics BC and Clinical Trials BC are important ‘inputs’ that strengthen the ability of researchers to conduct research in the most efficient and effective manner.”
“It’s been an honour and a privilege to work with Susan over many years. She’s built an exceptionally strong research department at Fraser Health.”
– Stirling Bryan, Scientific Director, BC SUPPORT Unit
What does Susan plan to do after her last day at the Fraser Centre and Fraser Health?
“Well, eventually, I’d like to travel, but what I really want to do is to sleep in on the first Monday, go to a local coffee shop and read the New York Times – and maybe the Globe and Mail,” she replied. “And then slowly, very slowly, get together a new routine.” She added that she’ll be spending more time with her 15-year-dog, Sammy, so she’ll be close to home for awhile.
Wrote Stirling Bryan: “Susan will be sorely missed by everyone at the BC SUPPORT Unit and all engaged in health research in BC.”
Congratulations on your retirement, Susan!