Toronto (Dec. 19, 2007) - Resilient and tenacious are the two words that best define Gail Kunkel. In the early years of her life, Gail struggled to overcome many personal, educational and financial challenges that threatened her dream of finishing high school and going on to university. But Gail had a strong desire to learn and, in spite of these obstacles, graduated from high school in 1978 and began her concurrent undergraduate degrees in Independent Studies and Psychology at the University of Waterloo in 1995. In 1999, Gail started her graduate studies at York University in the Clinical Developmental Program and in 2002 graduated with a Master of Arts degree.

Gail has a spinal injury, progressive spinal degeneration, and chronic pain. The experiences and lessons Gail has gained in her real-life classroom ignited her passion to pursue advanced studies in the field of women's mental health and rehabilitation. She is now a Ph.D. student in the department of Psychology at York University.

Her thesis is focused on gaining a better understanding of the factors that affect the reproductive health and psychological well being of all women during the course of their reproductive lives. Her primary focus is on pregnancy and the mental health issues that pregnant women with disabilities face. Gail is particularly interested in understanding the effects of early depression and trauma on subsequent developmental stages. She is looking at whether or not there is a link between depression and disability and trying to answer the question: do women reporting long-term disabilities experience more or less depression during their reproductive histories?

Her interest in depression and new mothers is a socially important one. Studies such as this contribute to mental health rehabilitation and prevention strategies. The importance of her research was recently recognized by Statistics Canada with its Tom Symons Research Fellowship. A strategic goal of Statistics Canada is to promote awareness of its data to future Canadian researchers. Gail's study makes use of their National Population Health Survey.

Gail is also interested in investigating developmental outcomes for persons with disabilities from a human rights perspective. She is currently contributing to a project, entitled, "The Landscape of Literacy and Disability in Canada", which explores the possible links between disability and literacy.

Over the past thirty years, Gail has provided leadership, group facilitation, and volunteer hours to several projects and community-based organizations. She has been the recipient of several awards, including two Ontario Graduate Scholarships and the Soroptimist Foundation Grant.

Her research background is complemented by clinical experience and training gained at a variety of clinical settings, including Surrey Place Centre, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and the Counseling and Learning Skills Services Centre at the University of Toronto.

Gail's ultimate goal is to become a clinical researcher in the area of mother-infant disorders.

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