Sept. 14, 2022

Uncommon experience ignites passion for education

Matt Larsen's experience on patient advisory committee motivates him to pursue graduate training in community health research
Matt Larsen is pursuing a masters degree

Matthew Larsen’s journey to pursuing a career in research may be uncommon, but the master’s student has developed a passion that won’t be stifled.

Larsen began his foray into the world of community health research as a patient when he joined the Clients with Diabetes Action Committee (CDAC) in 2019. His involvement with the committee, which is made up of community members who have experienced homelessness while suffering from diabetes, was his first introduction to Dr. David Campbell, MD, PhD, a clinician-researcher in the Cumming School of Medicine.

For 12 months, the group worked with Campbell on several research related activities, including concept mapping and projects that showcase the experiences of individuals with lived experience of homelessness and diabetes. This research has now been presented to medical professionals, academics and the media.

The experience motivated Larsen to work as a patient partner and research assistant for Campbell on various projects related to homelessness and diabetes. He also became the CDAC’s peer facilitator, a role in which he works alongside Campbell with the goal of bridging the gap between academics and patient partners to create a safe space for discussion and learning.

Larsen’s research involvement recently led him to scholarly pursuits. He is now a master’s student in Community Health Sciences under the supervision of Campbell.

Larsen’s research interests are in how coping strategies can lead to positive or negative outcomes for individuals with lived experience of homelessness and diabetes. He is also interested in understanding resilience and an individual’s ability to improve capacity to endure setbacks.

Larsen has recently published an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal detailing some of his experiences as a homeless person suffering with diabetes. The experience changed him, but it didn’t define him.

“Dr. Campbell’s research groups have had a profoundly positive effect on my life,” says Larsen. “I am deeply honored to be able to share my journey and showcase the benefit of patient engaged research. The thought that reading about my journey may benefit others is truly humbling.”

Larsen received a scholarship through the Libin Cardiovascular Institute to pursue his master’s studies.