Professor | Director of the School of Social Work
School of Social Work
Department of Health Aging & Society
Area(s) of Interest:
No human being, no matter how rich, advantaged or powerful they might be, is immune from cancer.
Cancer might well be one of life’s great equalizers, but cancer care is another story. Health and social justice researcher Christina Sinding studies how social marginalization affects how people understand, navigate and receive cancer care.
She works directly with people who have been diagnosed with cancer and who belong to marginalized groups of many kinds – women over the age of seventy, lesbians, people diagnosed with mental illness. She also collaborates with front-line care providers, who can also provide insight into how cancer care can be made more equitable and inclusive.
In separate but related research, Sinding also studies the complex effects of an increasingly patient-centric model of providing health care. While encouraging patient to exercise individual choice and ownership over their own care might sound entirely sensible, it actually raises some difficult issues.
As patients are increasingly expected to choose well in the healthcare “marketplace,” it raises serious questions about whether the shift is really about empowerment, or about shifting responsibility from providers to patients.
Nothing in Sinding’s research suggests patients should not be involved in their own healthcare. But patients struggle to choose among treatment options neutrally laid out by a doctor or nurse. Cancer patients deciding on chemotherapy treatments have the worst time making calls with which they feel comfortable. And the pressure to take individual responsibility extends to the results of a decision – if the treatment isn’t effective, patients – more often than they used to - blame themselves.
When healthcare providers don’t offer counsel, privileged patients get advice from friends and colleagues in the medical system. But that leaves more marginalized patients at further disadvantage.
Taking personal responsibility for one’s care plays out very differently in different lives. Sinding’s research is driven by a passion to create a framework that serves all patients more equitably.
PhD, Social Science and Health Program, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto, 2002
MA, Social Welfare Policy, School of Social Work, McMaster University, 1994
BA Hons, English Language and Literature, University of Western Ontario, 1989
Health Studies 4C03 - Representations of Health and Illness
Social Work 737 - Critical Approaches to Social Work Knowledge
Social Work 771 - Research for Social Change
Sinding, C., and Barnes, H., eds. Social Work Artfully, Social Work Beyond Borders. In revision, Wilfrid Laurier University Press.
Gray, R., & Sinding, C. (2002). Standing Ovation: Performing Social Science Research about Cancer, Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
Contribution to Books
Sinding, C. (2009). 'Nurses can't do it. They have a hundred and ten patients': Health professionals’ working conditions and the experiences of informal caregivers. In J. Nelson, J. Gould & S. Keller-Olaman (Eds.), Cancer on the Margins: Method and Meaning in Participatory Research. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Sinding, C., Gould, J., & Gray, R. (2009). Making a Difference with Research. In J. Nelson, J. Gould & S. Keller-Olaman (Eds.),Cancer on the Margins: Method and Meaning in Participatory Research. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Sinding, C., Barnoff, L., Grassau, P., Odette, F., & McGillicuddy, P. (2009). The stories we tell: Processes and politics of representation. In J. Nelson, J. Gould & S. Keller-Olaman (Eds.), Cancer on the Margins: Method and Meaning in Participatory Research. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Gould, J., Sinding, C., Mitchell, T. & Fitch, M. (2009). Listening for Echoes: How Social Location Matters in Women’s Experiences of Cancer Care. In J. Nelson, J. Gould & S. Keller-Olaman (Eds.), Cancer on the Margins: Method and Meaning in Participatory Research. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Sinding, C. Gray, R., & Nisker, J. (2008). Ethical issues and issues of ethics. In J.G. Knowles and A.L. Cole (eds) Handbook of the Arts in Qualitative Social Science Research, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Sinding, C., Warren, R., & Paton, C. (2014). Social work and the arts: Images at the intersection. Qualitative Social Work, 13(2), 23-38.
Hunt, M. R., Schwartz, L., Sinding, C., & Elit, L. (2014). The Ethics of Engaged Presence: A Framework for Health Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Development Work. Developing World Bioethics, 14 (1), 47-55.
Sinding, C., Watt, L., Miller, P., Silliker, J., Lawson, L., Kislinsky, C., et al. (2013). Stigmas and silos: Social workers’ accounts of care for people with serious mental illness and cancer. Social Work in Mental Health, 11(3), 288-309.
Miller, P., Sinding, C., McGillicuddy, P., Gould, J., Fitzpatrick-Lewis, D., Learn, L., et al. (online 2013). Disparities in Cancer Care: Perspectives from the Front Line. Palliative and Supportive Care.
Hunt, M. R., Sinding, C., & Schwartz, L. (2012). Tragic choices in humanitarian health work. Journal of Clinical Ethics, 23(4), 338-344.
Sinding, C., Aronson, J., McGillicuddy, P., & Rochon Ford, A. (2011). The right to be involved: Contexts and contradictions.Canadian Social Work Review, 28(1), 69-88.
Sinding, C., Miller, P., Hudak, P., Keller-Olaman, S., & Sussman, J. (2012). Of time and troubles: patient involvement and the production of health care disparities. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine 16(4), 400-417.
Sinding, C., Schwartz, L., & Hunt, M. (2011). Staging ethics: the promise and perils of research-based performance. Canadian Theatre Review, 146, 32-37.
Sinding, C., Hudak, P., Wiernikowski, J., Aronson, J., Miller, P., Gould, J., et al. (2010). "I like to be an informed person but…" Negotiating responsibility for treatment decisions in cancer care. Social Science & Medicine, 71(6), 1094-1101.
Sinding, C. (2010). Using Institutional Ethnography to Understand the Production of Health Care Disparities. Qualitative Health Research 20 (12), 1656-1663.
Schwartz, L., Sinding, C., Hunt, M., Elit, L., Redwood-Campbell, L., Adelson, N., et al. (2010). Ethics in humanitarian aid work: Learning from the narratives of humanitarian health workers. American Journal of Bioethics Primary Research, 1(3), 45-54.
Sinding, C., Hudak, P., Wiernikowski, J., Aronson, J., Miller, P., Gould, J., Fitzpatrick-Lewis, D. (2010). "I like to be an informed person but…" Negotiating responsibility for treatment decisions in cancer care. Social Science & Medicine, 71, 1094-1101.
Sinding, C., Schwartz, L., Hunt, M., Redwood-Campbell, L., Elit, L., Ranford, J. (2010). "Playing God because you have to": Canadian health professionals' experiences of rationing care in humanitarian and development work. Public Health Ethics, 3 (2),147-156.
Sinding, C., & Wiernikowski, J. (2009) Treatment Decision Making and Its Discontents. Social Work in Health Care, 48 (6), 614 - 634.
Sinding, C., & Wiernikowski, J. (2008). Disruption foreclosed: Older women's cancer narratives. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine, 12(3), 389-411.