A conversation with retiring Professor Linda Carroll

    “I’d really encourage students to be adventurous and flexible, and to challenge themselves,” says Linda Carroll, professor in the School of Public Health.

    By Rachel Harper on December 15, 2016

    After 16 years with the School of Public Health, Professor Linda Carroll is retiring. Carroll joined the former Department of Public Health Sciences in 2000 as an associate professor and was promoted to full professor in 2009.

    During her time at the School, she has collaborated closely with the Injury Prevention Centre (formerly Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research), served as the epidemiology program director, and most recently as associate dean (education). Additionally, Carroll has received a Senior Health Scholar award and Health Scholar award from the former Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research and is a highly sought after speaker for psychosocial aspects of pain and coping. She is an adjunct professor with the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College.

    We had the opportunity to speak with Carroll about her career and her plans for retirement.

    Q: What inspired you to follow the path you took in academia? What is it that drew you to your area of research?

    A: After getting my doctor of philosophy, I practiced as a clinical health psychologist for about 15 years. As time progressed, I became more interested in doing research along with my clinical work. My clinical work led to questions that there were no answers to yet, so I wanted to be part of the process of finding these answers. I found myself gradually starting to do more research and less clinical work.

    Q: What has been one of your greatest accomplishments in your career?

     A: I have led and participated in several large, international, interdisciplinary task forces whose mandate was to produce and synthesize clinically relevant information for health care providers and health policy makers. We developed guidelines for clinical care of patients with such health problems as mild traumatic brain injury, neck pain and whiplash injuries. 

    One of these task forces was affiliated with a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre. Another was given official status by the Steering Committee of the Bone and Joint Decade, which is an initiative of the United Nations and the World Health Organization. The products of these task forces have seen international attention, and it has been exciting and stimulating to be part of this process.

    Q:  What would you like your legacy to be? 
    A: So often, the physical aspects of health are the main focus of researchers and clinicians and patients, but my work—and the work of many of my colleagues—has shown that psychological, social and societal aspects must be recognized and addressed along with these physical aspects. I hope the legacy of my research is the entrenchment of psychological considerations like expectations and coping in recovery of musculoskeletal disorders.

    Q:  What was the best piece of advice that was given to you as you developed your career? 

    A: Research should be fun—and it has been. A lot of that is because of the wonderful people that I've met and worked closely with in Sweden, France, United States, Denmark, Australia and other places around the world. 

    Q: What advice would you give students today as they embark on their own journey in public health? 

    A: I’d really encourage students to be adventurous and flexible, and to challenge themselves.

    Q:  What’s next for Linda Carroll?

    A: I am moving to West Kelowna where I will enjoy the Okanagan wine, make jams and jellies with the wonderful fruit and, of course, continue working on selected projects with colleagues who have also become close friends.