Building partnerships: Dr. Britney Benoit named the first Nova Scotia Health Health Sciences Research Chair at StFX Rankin School of Nursing

Dr. Britney Benoit, the first Nova Scotia Health Health Sciences Research Chair at the university’s Rankin School of Nursing and Dr. Gail Tomblin Murphy, vice president of the Nova Scotia Health Research, Innovation & Discovery team

Collaboration is at the heart of all of our research and Nova Scotia Health is working to expand both research and innovation initiatives across the province. 

“We are always looking for ways to enhance how we deliver care and one way we can do this is by supporting researchers in their innovative approaches to improve patient experiences and health outcomes,” said Dr. Gail Tomblin Murphy, vice president of the Nova Scotia Health Research, Innovation & Discovery team. 

A unique and exciting collaboration began to take shape between Nova Scotia Health and St. Francis Xavier University (StFX) in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. A key component of this partnership is the three-year appointment of Dr. Britney Benoit as the first Nova Scotia Health Health Sciences Research Chair at the university’s Rankin School of Nursing. 

Dr. Benoit holds a PhD in nursing from Dalhousie University, along with a MSc in nursing from McGill University and a BSc in human nutrition from StFX. 

As a registered nurse and researcher, Dr. Benoit works to improve care for patients, with a primary focus on maternal child health and care, assessing infant pain and finding interventions that have strong evidence for optimizing health outcomes. 

Her efforts have concentrated around parental intervention, such as breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact, and using these interventions to manage pain in infants. 

With extensive experience collaborating with clinical teams across the research spectrum and transitioning evidence into practice in diverse clinical care environments, Dr. Benoit is a perfect fit for this role. 

“I am so pleased to have Dr. Benoit in this important role,” said Dr. Tomblin Murphy. “This is an incredible opportunity to support research and collaboration across our province and to leverage resources and knowledge at a local level.” 

The role of the Nova Scotia Health Health Sciences Research Chair is to build capacity for research that is relevant to provincial health priorities. This feat can only be accomplished by fostering collaboration and leveraging expertise across academic and health systems. 

New to the position, Dr. Benoit appreciates the importance of collaboration to achieving her goals and those of Nova Scotia Health. 

“As a new health research investigator, this role has been integral to my building collaborative partnerships with health systems partners and generating relevant research questions and approaches to support health and health care in Nova Scotia.” 

According to Dr. Benoit, there is a wealth of health research knowledge at StFX, with many faculty engaged in relevant healthresearch. The university is also home to a rich interdisciplinary team of health researchers across multiple faculties, including nursing, psychology, human nutrition and human kinetics. 

“As the Nova Scotia Health Health Sciences Research Chair, I have the opportunity to bridge the gap between the health authority and StFX,” said Dr. Benoit. “With a rich, supportive culture at Nova Scotia Health for researchers, this partnership creates an innovative model for health authorities and academic institutions to effectively collaborate and build on larger partnerships.” 

Through this unique partnership, Nova Scotia Health and StFX are exploring an innovative approach to enhance mental health and addictions services in the Eastern Zone of Nova Scotia – Cape Breton, Guysborough and Antigonish counties. 

“In this role, I am able to collaborate across institutions and address research and innovation priorities within the Eastern Zone to meet the health care needs of the population and advance research priorities in that area,” said Dr. Benoit.

For Dr. Benoit, one of the key assets of this partnership is having access to expertise and resources from clinicians, administrators and policy makers. Building collaboration is key to really understand health care and system needs and priorities. 

“I have additionally been engaged in the Nova Scotia Health Community of Scholars. The goal of this new network – to bring together health scientists in the province – represents a crucial opportunity, particularly for new investigators, to build networks and establish productive research programs that are responsive to provincial health needs.” 

Dr. Benoit recognizes that, as with all research, funding is central to its success. She noted that a key funding opportunity is the QEII Foundation Translating Research Into Care (TRIC) program to support the immediate implementation of knowledge into practice to provide the best real time care to patients and families. 

In her position, Dr. Benoit sees an opportunity for mentorship and a chance for students to broaden their understanding of what they can do in health care after they complete their education. 

“This is a chance for students to experience diversity in the role of nursing and health science,” said Dr. Benoit. 

Through collaboration, the development of a Career Scientist Network is also underway to bring scientists together to support each other, share knowledge and expertise and collaborate on advancing research to meet health and health research needs and priorities across the province. 

Nova Scotia Health Research and Innovation is committed to supporting research that can lead to improvements in health care delivery and outcomes. As the organization is striving to create a world-leading research environment in Nova Scotia, this research will thrive through partnerships with the IWK Health Centre, Dalhousie University, StFX and the QEII Foundation, to name a few. 

“By coordinating our resources, we are giving researchers the tools to put their ideas into action and forge positive change within our health care system and communities,” said Dr. Tomblin Murphy. “In addition to our collaboration with Dalhousie and StFX universities, we hope to develop partnerships with other academic institutions in Nova Scotia to explore research and innovation opportunities, share knowledge and resources, and build capacity.”

This article was originally published in Nova Scotia Health Research and Innovation annual report 2020 (pdf)