Saskatchewan Polytechnic researcher receives prestigious academic and professional recognition for pioneering paramedicine work
Lindsey Boechler no longer actively works as a paramedic, but the Saskatchewan Polytechnic researcher’s innovative work in health research has recently received national recognition by the Paramedic Association of Canada for the benefits it will bring to both the profession and the communities it serves. Boechler learned of the award the same day she received notice she is to be one of an elite few recipients of the prestigious federally funded Vanier scholarship. Boechler is concurrently pursuing her PhD while serving as research chair of Cultural Empowerment for the Centre for Health Research, Innovation and Scholarship (CHRIS) at Sask Polytech.
Boechler began her career as a paramedic in northern Saskatchewan where she served rural and remote communities for twelve years. “These years were formative,” says Boechler, who credits her early career experience with igniting her passion for research. “The impoverished living conditions, and battles with addiction and trauma occurring within these communities left me longing to find a way to support the vulnerable and marginalized Indigenous populations as they sought to reclaim a sense of agency, purpose and fulfillment.”
She transitioned from her work as a paramedic to paramedicine educator when she joined Sask Polytech as faculty in 2015. Moving to a program head role in 2017 was another step in her journey to advance her contribution to the field. In this role, Boechler was able to guide the paramedic programs towards a focus on service, innovation and student-centred program delivery. A strong interest in leadership led her to pursue a Master of Arts in Leadership (MAL) from Royal Roads University in 2019, and she has since begun her PhD in integrated studies at the University of Saskatchewan.
Boechler’s pursuit of advanced education and research is unusual within the paramedic profession and makes her a natural mentor and role model for colleagues and other leaders in paramedicine. “Compared to other health professions, there are very few paramedic researchers,” says Boechler, “so I am honoured to be in a position that provides the opportunity to lead the way and have a positive influence on professional practice, but more importantly, in a position that allows me to mentor and guide other paramedics, students or community partners to see their own potential and grow personally and professionally.” Her peers describe her as a ground breaker—a group of five who wrote in support of her Paramedic Association of Canada award nomination noted, “She is making her mark as a leader in our profession.”
Boechler’s contributions toward applied research made her a standout for the Paramedic Association of Canada award, which recognizes innovation. “Historically,” describes Tom Zajac, chair of the awards committee, “hospital based medical evidence has been applied to guide treatments and procedures in the out-of-hospital environment. While that body of research has been slowly expanded, it is relatively new to have paramedics take on lead roles on research projects. It is because of innovators and paramedics dedicated to research, such as Lindsey, that we have taken ownership as a profession of the knowledge base in the field of paramedicine.”
Applied research is now Boechler’s primary focus, and her three-year Vanier scholarship is added incentive for the busy academic to complete her doctoral research while continuing in her role as research chair at Sask Polytech. Sask Polytech’s associate vice-president of research and innovation, Dr. Susan Blum, has no doubt that she will manage both roles. “Using technology, Lindsey managed to lead a team of six paramedics working rotating shifts across two countries and five time zones through three ethics approval processes. Lindsey is solution focused and a big-picture thinker who is willing to take initiative and produce extraordinary results.”
Boechler’s transition to teaching, leadership and now applied research roles at Sask Polytech has taken her down a path that ultimately brings her experiences as a paramedic in northern Saskatchewan full circle. Working closely with the partner community of La Loche, Saskatchewan, Boechler’s current research team is empowering adolescents as patient partners throughout the research process with the goal of developing virtual-reality-delivered resources that are appealing to those who are experiencing mental health and wellness difficulties.
Key to most of Boechler’s work is a strong focus on equity, diversity, inclusion and indigeneity, or EDII. Taking a predominately qualitative, community-based research approach allows Lindsey’s research to be adapted to the needs of participants while embracing diversity and ensuring inclusivity. Says Dr. Madeline Press, director for CHRIS, “As a researcher, Lindsey takes responsibility as a principal investigator but actively shares leadership with the community and patient voices.” Blum agrees, noting that Boechler is inclusive yet strategic in building her research teams. “She brings together experts from multiple disciplines and people with varying life experiences to generate a dynamic and diverse approach to problem solving.” Her current work demonstrates this, interweaving patient-oriented research (POR) and community-based participatory action research (CBPAR) methodologies.
“I feel very privileged in receiving both awards and the experience has been somewhat surreal,” says Boechler. “It’s actually quite difficult to put into words because oftentimes when you are doing the work, you don’t fully realize the impact it is having.”
“I am very lucky to be surrounded by great mentors,” adds Boechler, “and could never have achieved what has been accomplished on my own. The Centre for Health Research, Innovation and Scholarship (CHRIS) and Office of Applied Research and Innovation (OARI) at Sask Polytech offer endless support and my colleagues are incredible as there are many experts among us from very diverse walks of life, always willing to share their knowledge and support one another.”
Boechler received her award at the Paramedics Association of Canada Expo (PACE) Gala on Saturday, September 10 in Saskatoon. The Vanier scholarship public announcement followed on November 28.
Launched by the federal government in 2008, the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship (Vanier CGS) program helps Canadian institutions attract and retain highly qualified doctoral students. Vanier scholars demonstrate leadership skills, academic excellence and a high level of research potential in graduate studies in the social sciences and humanities, natural sciences and engineering, or health-related fields. The program supports up to 166 scholars annually.
Learn more about Sask Polytech’s Centre for Health Research, Innovation and Scholarship at saskpolytech.ca/chris.