Helene Berman, PhD

Helene Berman
Research Scholar

Dr. Helene Berman is the Academic Director, Centre for Research on Health Equity and Social Inclusion.

Helene's formal education has followed a somewhat atypical trajectory and includes an undergraduate degree in Anthropology (University of Wisconsin). Following work as a VISTA Volunteer in a Community Health Centre in Wisconsin, she pursued a career in nursing, worked as a Pediatric Nurse for several years, and in various women's health care settings. She subsequently received a Master's Degree in Parent-Child Nursing from the University of Michigan. Upon completion of this degree in the early 1980's, she and her husband moved to Canada where she began teaching at Western University in the School of Nursing, thinking they would like to live in Canada "for a year or two". Several years and several children later, she returned to school for doctoral studies, receiving her PhD in Nursing from Wayne State University in 1996. Her combined interest in anthropology and nursing have influenced her work related to health and culture, and have been central themes in her research on violence in the lives of children. Her doctoral dissertation was a critical narrative study of two groups who had been exposed to violence in different contexts, children of war who had experienced war-related trauma and uprooting, and children of battered women who were witnesses to violence in their homes.

Helene is past Chairperson of the Alliance of Canadian Research Centres on Violence, a national network of community and academic researchers committed to feminist participatory research approaches. She has served on numerous local, national and provincial boards, was a member of the Task Force on Screening for the Health Effects of Woman Abuse, chaired by Marion Boyd, and more recently, served as an expert panel member for the development of the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario's Best Practice Guidelines, Screening for Woman Abuse: Early Identification and Initial Response.

In the past years, she has been the Principal Investigator on a national study examining how girls and young women are socialized to expect violence, its effects on their health, and implications for policy makers and programmers, funded by Status of Women Canada. She is currently PI on a newer study that is examining intersecting sites of violence in girls' lives with particular attention to gender, race, culture, class, sexual orientation, and ability. Other current research projects include a pilot study funded by CIHR called Uprooting, displacement, and health in the lives of girls , focused on homeless girls, Aboriginal girls, and newcomer girls in Ontario, and another study related to intimate partner violence within the Tamil community in Toronto. As well, she is co-investigator on a SSHRC-funded study related to homelessness and diversity among psychiatric survivors.

Helene presents her work nationally and internationally, has numerous publications and is co-editor, with Y. Jiwani, of In the Best Interests of the Girl Child . The theoretical and methodological perspectives she uses are informed by critical and feminist theory, participatory approaches, and narrative analysis.