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Inuvik student receives award to research language in medicine

Mallory Minerson. Aastha Sethi/Cabin Radio
Mallory Minerson. Aastha Sethi/Cabin Radio

A psychiatry student from Inuvik hopes she can positively influence medical practices in the North with her dissertation research.

“Even my small examination of clinical documentation in the Beaufort Delta has the potential to influence practise throughout the North,” said Mallory Minerson, who is pursuing a PhD at the University of Alberta.

Minerson was recently awarded the Įnı̀ Gomǫò Whehdıı̀ studentship from the NWT-based Hotıì ts’eeda research support unit.

Her research studies the terminology used when doctors write medical charts, and how that choice of words affects patients’ care.

“Every time we meet a new patient in the ER, or in acute care or in the office, we will often read what the physician or clinician prior to us has written, to get an idea about the patient’s history,” Minerson said.



“The language that we use can really influence our bias.”

As an example, Minerson explained that “non-compliance,” a phrase commonly used in medicine, doesn’t acknowledge complex issues that could affect a person when they don’t appear to follow a treatment plan.

She feels the phrase could be judgmental, as there may be many reasons why a patient would find it difficult to follow recommendations.

“Most people don’t just ignore the advice of their doctors, nurses, counsellors … It may not work for them, or doesn’t feel in alignment with their culture or values, or they don’t fully understand what they’re being asked,” she added.



Minerson said if a patient is “non-compliant,” it may be an indication for practitioners to ask more questions about what the patient needs, and understand how their situation can be taken care of.

Moment of reconciliation

For a year, the NWT government has recognized the territory is in a mental health crisis.

Minerson said changing the approach toward language in medicine, not simply using the same language taught in the south, could be a way to “meet a moment of reconciliation.”

A registered drama therapist, Minerson works full-time as a regional clinical supervisor in Inuvik.

She said there aren’t many Canadian scholarship opportunities for part-time students, and she wasn’t aware of the $15,000 Hotıì ts’eeda studentship until a colleague brought it to her notice.

Asked about her five-year plan, she said she hopes to remain working within the NWT’s health authority, “continuing to advocate for and support northerners in their mental health.”

By then, she said, “I hope we are not in the same crisis that we’re in today.”