VIU Scholarship, Research, and Creative Activity

Michael Smith Health Foundation Research BC Scholar - Dr. Sharon Karsten

Sharon Karsten, PhD, is honoured to live, work and play on the traditional territory of the K'ómoks First Nation, and to have been welcomed intoDr. Sharon Karsten territories throughout Vancouver Island and beyond, including Kwakwaka'wakw, Coast Salish and Nuu-Chah-Nulth territories. Karsten is a cultural and community development researcher/practitioner. She completed her PhD in Communications through Simon Fraser University’s School of Communication (2019) – focusing on cultural policy, cultural mapping and cultural development. She then completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Vancouver Island University (2022), where she examined change-making and social innovation potentials within arts organizations throughout Canada. Karsten has played leadership roles in non-profit arts-contexts, most recently having served as Executive Director for the Comox Valley Art Gallery (2008 - 2019).  In 2019, Karsten worked with a team to create the Walk With Me project - a research and social change initiative centred on the toxic drug poisoning crisis in small communities. She is honoured to continue this work through the Michael Smith Health Research BC Scholar Program, and through an ongoing collaboration with Vancouver Island University, Island Health, AVI Health and Community Services, the Comox Valley Art Gallery, and others. She is honoured, as well, to work with the Walk With Me team; with Elders/Knowledge Keepers, Peers, and with many who have shared their stories and insights for change. Her work over the next 5 years involves story-sharing with Peers, Family members, Elders/Knowledge Keepers and Health System Workers within Island Health and Community settings; through this project, she hopes to create a learning health system model that foregrounds the voices and lived experiences of Peers, and that creates new ways forward for those at the heart of the drug poisoning crisis towards a reduction in mortality and improvements in quality of life. Karsten is grateful to those with whom she has walked on this journey, and to those whose memory lies at the heart of this work.

For more information about Karsten's research program, please visit: