Heather Burt '15 to Complete her MSc with a Focus in Mental Health

Heather Burt ‘15 is completing her MSc at UBC School of Population and Public Health with a research focus on mental health. Before UBC, she went to Colgate University and was exposed to many different research projects. “I was fortunate enough to connect with Dr. Quynh Doan, a pediatric emergency doctor at BC Children’s Hospital and an active researcher in youth mental health,” said Heather. “She is the most passionate researcher I have ever met and, skip forward in the story, I am lucky enough to have her as my thesis advisor.” 

What led Heather to UBC was the opportunity to work with, and learn from, Dr. Doan. She found a mentor, a lab and a project that allows her to work directly with patients and health care professionals in a hospital that serves as a first point of care for the province’s critically ill children and youth. “The research opportunities that UBC has, in any field, are second to none,” said Heather. “I would definitely recommend UBC to any up-and-coming or established researcher.”

Young adults in postsecondary education experience many challenges and stressors moving away from their support networks while still cognitively developing. According to Heather, research has shown that young adults are also among the most likely to benefit from the use of digital technologies in mental health (MH) assessments, diagnosis, and treatment. However, digital tools are rarely used in postsecondary health systems. To address this gap, Heather’s lab developed HEARTSMAP-U, a digital psychosocial assessment and guidance tool aimed at improving students’ ability to self-identify their need for MH treatment, and to connect them with timely care. “In my thesis project, I aim to evaluate the inter-rater reliability of HEARTSMAP-U,” she said. Following its evaluation, her team intends for HEARTSMAP-U to be accessible to postsecondary students across the country as a downloadable app.

“Through my experiences at both Colgate and UBC, I have gained more respect -- and, to my initial surprise, love -- for research,” said Heather. “I definitely want to keep research as a part of my career following my MSc, and my current plan is to pursue an MD or an MD/PhD.”
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