Trainee Spotlight: Q&A with Carly Whitmore

Wednesday, May 20, 2020










Carly is a PhD student and Vanier Canada Scholar in the School of Nursing at McMaster University.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Carly Whitmore and I am a PhD student and Vanier Canada Scholar in the School of Nursing at McMaster University. I am from a small town in Eastern Ontario and completed my undergraduate degree in nursing at Trent University. As a Registered Nurse, I practiced within the specialty of Forensic Psychiatry on units that specialize in the assessment of criminal responsibility and fitness to stand trial for individuals with diverse psychiatric illnesses. Building on my clinical experience and passion for mental health promotion, my dissertation work is focused on resilience and mental health in older adults with multiple chronic conditions. Outside of school and my work as a research assistant, I enjoy quilting and garment sewing. I enjoy the challenge, the creativity, and the opportunity to learn more about sustainability and the impact of the clothing industry on the environment. Over the past four years of teaching myself to sew, I have made many mistakes, but it has been fun to learn and share the pieces that I have made. 

What interested you about the CLSA? 

While there are several reasons why I was interested in using CLSA data for my dissertation work, I was most drawn to the comprehensiveness of the data. As someone interested in completing mixed methodological research, the comprehensive data available in CLSA, such as those variables related to health behaviour, permits me this opportunity. Through an iterative design where I use the quantitative analyses of my work to inform the qualitative inquiry, and vice-versa, I hope to be able to address a gap in understanding related to why some older adults adapt to the adversity associated with multimorbidity better than others.

What type of research are you doing with CLSA data?

Under the supervision of Dr. Maureen Markle-Reid and alongside a group of stellar researchers from across Canada, I was recently awarded a Catalyst Grant to support my dissertation research. This project will use CLSA baseline and longitudinal data to explore the role of resilience in shaping self-reported health among community-dwelling older adults with multimorbidity. 

What is the most interesting or surprising thing you have learned from your work with the CLSA? How do you think the CLSA will help you grow as a student or in your future? 

To date, my research experience has been using qualitative approaches. Although I was interested in using CLSA data to inform my project and work, I was nervous about the data and the analyses. What I have found surprising is how much I connect with the individuals in the dataset. Despite the participant data being anonymized, based on the variables collected I have found that I am able to connect my clinical experiences working with older adults to these participants and imagine their experiences. I look forward to learning more about longitudinal analyses and anticipate that using CLSA data in my dissertation research will position me well for my future career. It is exciting to think that, because CLSA is a 20-year study, that I may be following these same individuals throughout my career.

Do you have any idea about what kind of job you would like to do when you finish school?

I aspire to work as a health services researcher and educator in an academic faculty position. In this capacity, I hope to build a program of research to improve health outcomes for older adults experiencing mental illness. As a certified psychiatric and mental health nurse, my proposed program of research, focused on gerontological mental health, will offer innovative and necessary approaches for an aging population. I believe that my work with CLSA data will prepare me for this career.

What is a non-career related thing that you are grateful for because of your work with the CLSA?

For a trainee unaccustomed to large datasets and complex analyses, working with CLSA data can be daunting. I am grateful that I pushed myself to pursue this opportunity and to be connected to so many other trainees within the CLSA network learning together.


The CLSA is dedicated to establishing an innovative, interdisciplinary training environment for the ongoing engagement of new and emerging researchers, as well as maximizing the use of the CLSA platform as a rich resource of data for the next generation of researchers in health and aging.