Research Appreciation Day: Introducing Dr Leslie Johnson

On 5 July, MQ Mental Health Research are marking Research Appreciation Day. This is an opportunity to take one day to look at just how incredibly important research is in our world and therefore just how incredible the people behind the research are. To pull back that veil and reveal those brilliant minds, we’d like to introduce you to some of our recent MQ fellows.

Research Appreciation Day – Introducing Dr Leslie Johnson

  • Name: Leslie Johnson, Emory University USA
  • Current research: how an integrated care model developed for people with type 2 diabetes can improve the health of people with type 1 diabetes.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I do a lot of qualitative and community-based research, so my favourite part of any study is actually getting to meet with people who are affected by the issues we are working to address and to have their voice represented in the solutions we seek to implement.

For my current study, for instance, I spend time in the clinic space interacting with clinicians and staff to better understand the systems in place that help and hinder supporting patient’s mental health needs. Through one-on-one interviews with these clinical actors and group discussions with people living with type 1 diabetes we will have a full picture of where there are gaps in service delivery and how we can create acceptable and sustainable solutions that meet both patient and provider needs.

What’s an average day like working in research?

Every day is completely different and for the most part you get to pick the type of work you choose to spend your time on because you must identify the research topic and apply for the funds to support the research. I also have a global research portfolio and it is exciting that I am now getting to apply what I’ve learned from studies in the global south to work we are conducting in the US.

What’s the biggest challenge of working in research?

My biggest challenge working in research is having finite time to dedicate to all the work I want to pursue. There are so many public health challenges that need addressing and research funds and timelines are always limited.

I have several areas of research interest including mental health, diabetes prevention and control, and maternal health, and when I’m lucky I’m able to work on the intersection of these areas in ways that are meaningful to affected communities.

What advice would you give someone wanting to go into research as a career?

If you don’t have any research experience but are interested in exploring this career path, then I would recommend volunteering with a research group or finding a short-term internship that can provide you with a sense of whether research is the right fit for your skillset and interests.

Research culture can vary widely within and between institutions and disciplines though, so it’s also worth seeking out work with different research groups to explore the full range of opportunities within your field.

If you find yourself wanting to pursue a research career, then work on building a diverse team of mentors who can support you and help advocate for your career advancement. This group of people can help guide you when it comes to finding research funding, provide feedback on research ideas, or even give you tips on how to manage the many responsibilities that come with this line of work.



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