I grew up in a home that highly valued the sciences, and some of my earliest memories are visiting Science World with my Mom (note: I will never call it Telus World of Science). I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in health sciences. In preschool I decided I was going to be a nurse, doctor, or dentist. By the time kindergarten rolled around, I had such an impressive understanding of the human body (including childbirth) that I’m surprised CPS never paid us a visit. This interest grew as I got older, and ultimately led to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

In short, I used to do cool science-y stuff.

Distilling water from “Trinity Lake” to grow e-coli.

Yet since my first day of grad school I’ve become increasingly pulled away from natural sciences towards the social sciences. Anyone who’s known me for a few years knows that my referring to this area of study as a science (and without putting quotation marks around it) shows how far I’ve come.

However, this week in Epistemology we were introduced to complexity science. And yes, it’s every bit as complex as the name implies. It isn’t that far off of the work I’ve done before; basically you’re just putting science back into it. Complexity science goes beyond the poststructural epistemology I’ve typically used and considers what my co-supervisor Dr. McMurtry (2008) calls, “the more-than-human world.” We are entangled in a number of interconnected and ever-changing complex systems, both small (e.g. cellular) and large (e.g. ecological and cultural).

I’ve realized how the sociological approach I’ve previously used largely ignores microsystems, namely within the human body. The human body is an incredibly complex system, which has many subsystems organized at different levels. Each of these systems is interconnected and constantly changing. Our bodies in all their complex glory are also connected to other systems beyond the boundaries of our body.

My attempt to recreate my discussion group’s chalkboard drawing of complexity science.

As healthcare professionals, we often talk about how we affect systems within the body, but I don’t think we reflect as much on how they affect us in terms of our work. Yet clinically they directly impact what kinds of procedures we can do and what medications we can prescribe. They even organize us into our specialties. In my work I’ve talked a lot about power and hierarchy impacting interprofessional education, but I’ve never really consider how microsystems (e.g. organ systems) impact the delivery of education and collaboration in healthcare. For example, how does the interconnectedness of the body systems impact consultations and collaboration between different specialists?

Don’t get me wrong, sociology is important. But in retrospect it seems silly to not consider things like biology in my work. So through exploring complexity science, I’m going back to my health sciences roots.

I’m bringing science back.


Helpful Articles on Complexity Science in Education:

McMurtry, A. (2008). Complexity theory 101 for educators: A fictional account of a graduate seminar. McGill Journal of Education, 43(3), 265-280.

McMurtry, A. (2011). The complexities of interdisciplinary: Integrating two different perspectives on interdisciplinary research and education. Complicity: An International Journal of Complexity and Education, 8, 19-35.

Osberg, D., Biesta, G., & Cilliers, P. (2008). From representation to emergence: Complexity’s challenge to the epistemology of schooling. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 40, 213-227.