University of Calgary

Tapping into the power of curiosity

Submitted by tdroden on Sat, 01/15/2011 - 16:00.

Tapping into the power of curiosity

Author, scientist, filmmaker and physician 
Dr. Monica Kidd embraces many worlds
By Leanne Yohemas

Dr. Monica Kidd wrote, show and produced a short film on Amelia Earhart called the Aviatrix. (Photo by Steve Hunt)Dr. Monica Kidd wrote, show and produced a short film on Amelia Earhart called the Aviatrix. (Photo by Steve Hunt)

Dr. Monica Kidd is not what many would consider a typical scientist. In addition to holding two science degrees and finishing up her medical residency, she's the author of two novels, a work of non-fiction, a book of poetry as well as a number of films and award-winning radio documentaries.

Kidd, BSc'94, says she came to the University of Calgary to study science to satisfy her curiosity about the natural world. "After growing up in a small town, I found university an intellectual smorgasbord." Kidd grew up in Elnora, Alta., about two hours northeast of Calgary, and now lives St. John's, Nfld.

She studied ecology and zoology as an undergraduate and then went to Queen's University for her master's in biology. She was studying seabird evolution and wanted to learn about them first-hand, so she took time off to go to Labrador. Later, she returned to Queen's to finish off her studies.

"I needed to know about the whole ecology; not just the genetics," she says.

The same goes with her writing, which Kidd says she's never considered a career: "I need to do it. I feel that unless I write it, it never happened. Stories need to be recorded."

Kidd's work includes two novels, The Momentum of Red (2004) and Beatrice (2001); a work of non-fiction, Any Other Woman: An Uncommon Biography (2008); and a collection of poems Actualities (2007).

She began writing her first novel one summer when she was at home freelancing for CBC Radio and had a lot of time on her hands. She spent six months on it, sent it out and it was accepted. "Having Beatrice published made me feel like a real writer. And it made me want to be a better writer."

After her master's, Kidd planned to volunteer for two years as a curator of a natural history museum in Papua, New Guinea. Politics in the country caused the cancellation of her trip. She directed her curiosity closer to home.

She received a federal grant from CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) to produce radio documentaries in Kingston, Ont., on international development topics, such as the environment, workers' rights, access to media and mediating conflict. Stints as a volunteer at her universities' campus radio stations helped her get the grant. She eventually landed a job as a reporter and documentary maker at CBC Radio in Labrador and soon became a national science reporter.

After six years on national radio, Kidd decided to give medicine a go and is currently a resident in family medicine at Memorial University.

"Instead of covering the issues around the doctor shortages, I thought I could get involved and help out in some way."

Kidd says she promised one of her University of Calgary professors, Dr. Rob Longair, that if she became a doctor she would work in Africa, or somewhere people really need doctors. "I still hope to keep up my end of the bargain," says the mother of a two-year-old and a newborn. "Not for a while, though, until my kids are a bit bigger."

Dr. Jim Connor was Kidd's professor at Memorial in a first-year course on medical humanities. "She is a tremendous bundle of energy and her work is a class above the rest," he says.

"She has a tremendous curiosity about people, who they are, what they do and how they connect," Connor adds. "She has a fearless aspect about her and blasts on and gets the job done. She has the initiative, expertise and drive to make things happen."