“When your country is in war, when you have air alarms and rocket attacks, when the people who live there work to build the economy and go to the battlefield to fight for Ukraine, it becomes really complicated to leave your life, to leave your family, and to do research,” says Yaryna Tylchak.
About 11 months into the Russian invasion, Yaryna decided to come to Nova Scotia to gain new knowledge and experience here. She arrived in Halifax in January 2023.
“Many Ukrainian research community representatives tell us that Ukrainian research needs to be developed,” explains Yaryna. “We need to proceed investigating new things, gaining new experiences and bring it back, putting our impact and development of science in Ukraine.”
Yaryna had completed her studies in Ukraine to qualify as a dentist and is now participating in a research internship in the Faculty of Dentistry at Dalhousie University. Under the supervision of Professor Heather Doucette and Dr. Violet D’Souza, the goal of her research is to understand Ukrainians’ experiences with oral health services in Nova Scotia and in Ukraine prior to the war. Yaryna believed Prof. Doucette’s research in exploring newcomers’ experiences with access to oral health care and Dr. D’Souza’s knowledge of public health and dentistry would be invaluable and complement her research interests.
Yaryna received a Mitacs Globalink Research Award to come to Nova Scotia to begin her research. With support from Research Nova Scotia’s Ukrainian Emergency Research Support Program, she was able to extend her stay in Nova Scotia and continue her study.
“With the cost of living, it is difficult for someone to be involved in research and not be able to have full time employment,” explains Prof. Doucette. “This program has been so helpful in ensuring Yaryna can extend her time in Nova Scotia and be able to focus on her research.”
The oral health care systems in Ukraine and in Canada are very different, so navigating the system here can be challenging for Ukrainians.
Yaryna’s research project involves interviewing Ukrainians who have come to Nova Scotia during the Russian invasion and learning about the barriers they face when accessing oral health services. She explores their personal experiences with oral health services in Nova Scotia and how they compare to the care received in Ukraine, with the goal of providing recommendations for improvement.
A few of the barriers research participants have identified include the cost of oral health services, cultural barriers, and lack of understanding of how the health care system works in Canada, especially dental insurance. For example, some participants have secured a job with dental insurance, but don’t use it because no one has explained to them how it works.
“Yaryna’s research has the potential to have a positive impact on the oral health care system in Nova Scotia and in Ukraine,” says Stefan Leslie, CEO of Research Nova Scotia. “It is wonderful to know that the program has allowed Yaryna to extend her stay here and continue to gain valuable research experiences.”
Yaryna hopes her research will improve the experiences of future newcomers in Nova Scotia by sharing the knowledge gained from this research project as well as informing oral health policy and practice in Nova Scotia.
“I also want to bring new knowledge, new practices, and my experience in Nova Scotia to Ukraine and proceed developing public health and dentistry in my country,” says Yaryna.
The Ukrainian Emergency Research Support Program offers immediate research support funding for Ukrainian students and researchers who are relocating to Canada, either temporarily or permanently, as a result of the Russian invasion. Learn more.
Read next: Ukrainian Researcher Spotlight: Bohdana Bila