Postdoctoral fellow studies sleep and caregiver-family relationships

Meet one of the School of Nursing’s newest postdoctoral fellows, Dr. Jelena Komanchuk. Jelena is passionate about the health inequities experienced by children facing adversity and is interested in conducting research to support children’s health.


“As a paediatric registered nurse, I observed developmental and health inequities experienced by children exposed to early adversity, such as neglect and abuse, but felt limited in my capacity to effect change,” says Jelena. “This led me to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of Calgary under the supervision of Dr. Nicole Letourneau and Dr. Judy Cameron, a neuroscientist at the University of Pittsburgh.”


For her doctoral research, she evaluated the effectiveness of the First Pathways Game—an online parenting program developed by Dr. Cameron—on children’s developmental outcomes and parent-child interactions. “The game has potential for widespread, sustainable use because it is freely available online,” says Jelena.


In her doctoral longitudinal study, Jelena retained 99% of a sample recruited from Calgary community organizations providing various services, such as support after experiences of family violence. Since comparable studies have reported 40% attrition, Jelena led a publication  on the recruitment and retention strategies utilized in her research. “These successes seem to be in large part due to the flexibility that I could offer with digital data collections and the knowledge and relational skills that I have developed as a paediatric nurse,” Jelena explained.


“I hope that this research encourages community agencies, health-care professionals and other researchers to utilize digital strategies to increase their reach to families who are underserved by traditional, in-person services,” says Jelena.


For her postdoctoral research fellowship, Jelena has joined Dr. Elizabeth Keys at her SLUMBER lab to learn about the sleep health of young children and their caregivers in foster and kinship care and how sleep relates to the caregiver-child relationship. “Research has shown that sleep is important for health and development, but we’re lacking information on the sleep of families in foster and kinship care,” explained Jelena. “It’s particularly important to prioritize this research as we have seen that children in foster and kinship care often experience other health and developmental inequities.”


She is in the early stages of this research and has been engaging with community partners in British Columbia to develop an advisory panel to receive feedback on the study plan. Jelena conveyed that she is “hearing from individuals who work with families in foster and kinship care that sleep is coming up frequently in discussions with these families and that this research is timely.”


If undergraduate students are interested in learning more about Jelena’s research or volunteering on the project, please reach out to her at



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