Interview with an MD/PhD Candidate: Introducing Lianne Cho

We chat with third-year MD/PhD Candidate, Lianne Cho.

Tell us a little bit about your research project.

I am studying mood disorders in a homeless and precariously housed sample using an epidemiologically-informed approach. The larger study I am a trainee with is the “Hotel Study”, which is a community-based longitudinal study that works with participants living or working in an impoverished neighbourhood to learn about their experiences with multi-morbidity and health service use. Specifically, I am seeking to understand the characteristics, risk factors, and protective mechanisms that may be associated with mood disorders in this sample. Ultimately, the goal of my work (and the Hotel Study overall) is to contribute to the development of sustainable solutions that support vulnerable populations.

What do you find interesting in this field of research?

I find everything interesting in this field of research! The data collected in the Hotel Study ranges from self-report questionnaires to clinician-rated interview-based assessments to biological measures such as bloodwork and MRI brain scans. This all contributes to a multifaceted database that can help answer a vast amount of research questions, which I find both interesting and clinically meaningful. In line with that, I am highly motivated by the advocacy inherent in this research. My prior experiences led me to develop an appreciation for how social marginalization and its associated stigma contribute to psychological suffering. I see my education as a privilege and opportunity to help shape a society that facilitates and supports both mental and physical wellness.

What advice would you give another student interested in this area of research?

Have an interest in learning from those with lived experience (this is just as – if not even more – essential for an epidemiologist/statistician!), with a readiness for having your assumptions challenged. It is useful to keep in mind that there is no universal approach to wellness, and that this is particularly important when considering the mental health of those who historically have not been able to tell their own narratives.