University of Victoria doctoral student receives AGE-WELL’s Karen Kobayashi Memorial Award in Technology and Aging

Dr. Edith Munene

AGE-WELL is pleased to announce that Dr. Edith Munene, a PhD student at the University of Victoria in the School of Public Health and Social Policy, is the recipient of the inaugural Karen Kobayashi Memorial Award in Technology and Aging.

Dr. Munene’s research project takes a novel approach to examine how older African, Caribbean, and Black immigrant women in British Columbia (BC) face diverse barriers to accessing virtual care. Her work will address the health inequities among these underrepresented groups who have generally not benefited from the rise in virtual care since the pandemic. Through comprehensive stakeholder engagement, Dr. Munene will co-design a culturally relevant e-health tool to improve care access for these older women living in BC with the longer-term goal of implementing it across Canada.

“Researchers have seldom studied older African, Caribbean, and Black immigrant women’s healthcare experiences in the Canadian context; however, the limited data suggests they have increased adverse health outcomes,” explained Dr. Munene. “Current research has yet to honour their voices, a practice that replicates and reinforces exclusion. My research will fully engage these groups of women and their communities to develop a verifiable and effective platform for better virtual care access and health outcomes.”

New award honours legacy of AGE-WELL leader

AGE-WELL established the Karen Kobayashi Memorial Award in Technology and Aging to honour Dr. Karen Kobayashi, an eminent social gerontologist and a long-time AGE-WELL leader and investigator who passed away in 2022. The $20,000 award supports Dr. Kobayashi’s belief that research should make a positive, real-world impact. This award focuses on knowledge mobilization and implementation, given Dr. Kobayashi’s particular focus and extraordinary contributions in this area.

“We are pleased to support Dr. Munene’s research project that is in keeping with Karen’s focus of implementing culturally-appropriate solutions to remove barriers and improve health outcomes for underrepresented groups of older adults,” said Dr. Alex Mihailidis, Scientific Director and CEO of AGE-WELL, Canada’s technology and aging network. “With this award, we not only pay tribute to Karen’s enormous contributions, but we build on Karen’s work of inspiring future generations of researchers to make a real-world impact for older Canadians.”

Inspiration and support to drive research forward

Upon hearing the news about her award, Dr. Munene said: “I feel very honoured and humbled to be the first-ever recipient of an award that brings credibility and opens doors to new opportunities. Receiving a grant in honour of the late Dr. Karen Kobayashi ‒ a social gerontologist, and affiliated with the University of Victoria, like me ‒ motivates me to continue this great work.”

Dr. Munene added that her late mother’s experience as an immigrant woman in the healthcare system also inspires her research.

“My mother, Margaret, fuels me to advocate and work with individuals and organizations to address issues faced by older immigrant women,” said Dr. Munene. “As a Black female immigrant and a full-time international student, I am the first in my family to graduate from university, and I am excited to make great strides in my research career to impact the lives of others positively.”

The AGE-WELL award will provide Dr. Munene with the funding to continue her graduate studies in social gerontology and to focus on her research project, which aligns with AGE-WELL’s Challenge Area: Health Care & Health Service Delivery.

Said Dr. Munene: “The support of, and engagement with, the AGE-WELL network will help advance my skills and build connections nationally so I can become more actively involved in the healthy aging field.”

Dr. Munene brings extensive international experience leading and consulting for social and healthcare not-for-profit organizations to her current research. She holds an EdD in Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Vermont.

Learn more about the Karen Kobayashi Memorial Award in Technology and Aging here.