Student Chapter News: Interview with Meagan Keenan
Member Interview: Megan Keenan
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a public health researcher and System Dynamics consultant. I currently specialize in community-based participatory approaches using System Dynamics modeling, group model building, and qualitative research for building equitable social and health outcomes for young people. I will be joining the Dartington Service Design Lab, based out of the United Kingdom, as a Senior Researcher specializing in systems thinking in January of 2022.
I have a passion for working with community stakeholders to improve the development and implementation of social services to ensure that they are both empowering and impactful within the communities they serve.
I recently graduated from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis where I earned a Master of Social Work with a concentration in International Social and Economic Development and specialization in System Dynamics. During my graduate degree program, I collaborated with community partners to apply systems-based approaches to uncover barriers and develop interventions to improve access to HIV care for people living in St. Louis in the region. Before coming to the Brown School, I was a program coordinator for Health Equity International, working in the field of Global Health in southern Haiti. I also earned my Bachelor of Arts in International Studies at Boston College.
Can you tell us about your most recent System Dynamics project? What insights did you learn? Why do you think System Dynamics was an important tool in understanding that problem?
In continuation of my work in my Community-Based System Dynamics (CBSD) course, I collaborated with Fast-Track Cities St. Louis to implement a series of community-based group model building sessions to uncover some of the barriers to accessing rapid initiation of antiretroviral therapy for people living with HIV. The participatory sessions centered on the experiences and voices of community stakeholders living with HIV and healthcare providers in the region. Community-Based System Dynamics provided us with the tools and activities to guide the participatory sessions as well as help to uncover the system of HIV care in the region to find leverage points for creating sustainable change.
Through using System Dynamics and participatory group model building throughout the workshops we were able to break down some of the traditional power dynamics and barriers to system change for health equity. Centering community voices, we were able to gain greater insight into the dynamic factors impacting access to HIV medication in the region. Most notably, we were able to uncover dynamics in the system of medical care delivery that was being reinforced by current models of care and grant funding. This opened the space for dialogue about mental models surrounding care with healthcare providers and researchers that are a part of the Fast-Track Cities St. Louis collaborative. These sessions helped to lay the groundwork for continued community partnership for improving HIV care in the region—I am excited to see how the work is taken forward!
What advice would you give other students who are interested in doing either System Dynamics/Community Based System Dynamics (CBSD) related work?
First, I would suggest learning and applying your system dynamics skills to issues that you are particularly passionate about. System Dynamics, and particularly CBSD, can open so many possibilities for new understanding and insight. Something I love about community-based system dynamics is the opportunity for new discovery—you never really know what to expect when you start to build a causal loop diagram with a new group! I love how this challenges me as a practitioner to constantly be shifting my mental models. When you engage CBSD work in a topic you are passionate about, I think there are so many opportunities for personal and professional growth alongside the objectives of the project.
Second, ask for help/support/second opinions/collaboration, etc.—System Dynamics thrives on multiple perspectives and insights! I owe so much of my personal growth in the field of System Dynamics to my mentors, classmates, and colleagues. Whether it be for a quick consultation or help to facilitate a workshop, I have found the system dynamics community to be incredibly supportive and resourceful.
Nashon Juma Adero is a lecturer at Taita Taveta University, Kenya. Nashon was recently invited as a panelist at the 11th IREN East Africa Thought Leaders Forum on Megatrends: eHealth and Telemedicine in East Africa to talk about systems modeling in the health sector. Check out his recent work: Geomedicine and Health 4.0: New Frontiers with Geospatial Technologies
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