KINREC CONNECT: Dr. Fiona Moola
Every so often, we will profile and highlight a person of interest from our faculty through an informal, off-the-cuff Q & A feature entitled KinRec Connect. This offers a chance to meet and learn about the catalysts behind our exciting and dynamic faculty.
Get to know FKRM assistant professor Dr. Fiona Moola a little better:
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Toronto, Ontario. I spent a few years in South Africa in the late 80s, when I travelled with my mom back to the place of her birth. I moved out of my parent’s home at the age of 18 and began my studies at the University of Toronto. No matter where I go, I still consider Toronto my home and am really proud of my heritage.
Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?
I completed my undergraduate degree in 1999 at the University of Toronto.
What teams, clubs, or groups were you a member of during your undergraduate years?
I was a volunteer at the Hospital for Sick Children through all of the years of my Undergraduate degree. Here, I worked on many different pediatric wards, such as transplant and congenital heart disease. This experience was important, as it helped me to understand the psychological and social impact of childhood chronic illnesses on children and families. This volunteer work also shaped what later became the focus of my research. I met amazing children and families that I am still friends with. I was also a part of the student council in my undergraduate years, helping to organize annual toy drives for the children’s hospital. I swam on the Varsity Blues University of Toronto swim team for one year. I also volunteered at a support centre for people with eating disorders which gave me early exposure to the field of mental health.
Where did you complete your master’s degree, what did you study, and what were your main findings?
I completed my Masters Degree at the University of Toronto in 2008. My research occurred at the Hospital for Sick Children where I studied the social barriers that children with congenital heart disease face in everyday life and physical activity participation. It was a very large thesis, which focused on children with congenital heart disease, their parents and health care providers. My main finding was “What I Wish you Knew”. That is, children with congenital heart disease were well informed about how their peers, parents, teachers and others see them. They wanted to deconstruct and limit the damaging stereotypes and assumptions that abound about their health and physical activity in culture and society. This work furthered a sociological understanding of congenital heart disease and the damaging impact of stereotypes. Now that I am in a role as a psychology professor, I am really grateful for the sociological foundation I acquired through my Masters.
Where did you complete your Ph.D. degree, what did you study, and what were your main findings?
I completed my PhD at the University of Toronto in 2011. My research occurred at the Hospital for Sick Children in the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic. My thesis was comprised of 4 studies. The first one explored perceptions toward health and activity in children with CF. The second examined how parents of youth with CF see their health and physical activity – while also exploring the concept of caregiving burden and burnout. The third study was a theory building exercise, in which I developed a grounded theory of activity in children with CF. The 4th study was a health and physical activity counselling intervention that we tested with 8 case families. My PhD was an amazing and exhausting journey. I was exposed to so many disciplines – psychology, health promotion, sociology, science, paediatrics, philosophy, and sociology – which greatly expanded the horizons of my thinking. I learned how to refine my academic writing skills and to defend my intellectual stances. I just grew so much as a person under the tutelage of an amazing advisor and forged relationships that profoundly impacted me. Looking back, it was one of the best experiences I have ever had and I would not change anything about it.
What is your favourite course to teach and why?
I love teaching inclusive physical activity and leisure. We talk about so many issues that are relevant to disability, such as the historical treatment of people with disabilities during the Great War, as well as religious views on disability. I feel like the students become less conservative and more liberal in their thinking as the term progresses – and that is the coolest thing ever! I also see some of the students really become advocates for those with disabilities. I am always really pleased to teach this course.
Who are your favourite musicians, performances, sports teams, etc.?
I grew up in Toronto in the 90s — so, I love all 90s hip-hop! Many people make fun of me for this, but I just love a beat that you can dance too. It energizes me and makes me feel alive. I love classical music and ballet scores to study to. I am more a fan of individual athletes than team sports. For example, I really admire Sara Mearns from the New York City Ballet and Sonya Rodriquez from the National Ballet of Canada, because they are beautiful and passionate dancers who give so much of themselves to every performance.
What are your hobbies?
I love yoga, running, creative writing and dancing. I also really love fashion. I think I have A LOT to learn in the world of fashion but I find it really fun to research designers and models and to study the way that they creatively see aesthetics. Drinking coffee is a hobby for me! I like to learn about locally made coffees and the stories behind how local coffee shops came to be. I love the aroma and taste, as well as the pleasure of reading to a good cup of coffee. I also love to travel. An amazing thing about my job is that it takes me to far off places where I can not only share my research with an international audience, but experience the sights and sounds of a new place.
If you could be or do anything else, what would it be?
I would definitely be a professional ballet dancer if I could be something else! I admire how much tenacity and discipline the dancers have and their total devotion to their art. I admire people who are really passionate. Thus, I am a huge fan of professional dancers who work so hard to attain their dream of performance. My favourite dancer is Sonya Rodriquez from the National Ballet of Canada and Sara Mearns from the New York City Ballet. I also love that in ballet, one can act out an embodied story — and that without words, it is possible to bring people to an emotional place. I think I would also love a career in journalism. I love the challenge of writing on the fly. When time permits, I also want to open up a private psychological counselling practice — this is a far off dream.
What one word would you use to describe yourself?
Resilient — I think I bounce back from adversity really quickly and learn from my mistakes (eventually).
What are you reading at the moment?
I am reading War and Peace by Tolstoy. I am painstakingly trying to make my way through all of the great classics. This book has its challenges! I have done some re-reading of sections but am persevering. My favourite character is Princess Marya who is sweet, devoted and kind. I am learning about Russia’s response to Napoleon.