Providing solutions to health research questions with an aim to improving health outcomes and access to medications for patients

Meet Karissa Johnston, co-founder and Scientific Director at Broadstreet Health Economics & Outcomes Research, an independent consultancy specializing in epidemiology and health economics.

The best way to enter the entrepreneurial world is to go in armed with knowledge and experience. Along with long-time colleague and friend Shelagh Szabo, Karissa Johnston founded a health research consultancy business, after a decade working for other companies in the industry. Karissa completed her PhD in epidemiology in 2009 and has a background in mathematics and statistics. She and Shelagh worked in leadership roles with other research companies before deciding to strike out on their own. Their goal was to create an independent consultancy where they were able to maintain a client-focused and flexible approach to addressing health research questions.

In 2015, they launched Broadstreet Health Economics & Outcomes Research in Vancouver, Canada; the company took it’s name from John Snow and the Broad Street pump, a pivotal moment in the development of modern epidemiology. Since 2015 it has grown from the two founders and a single research assistant to employing 24 employees, with further growth continuing. Broadstreet works on health research studies for a variety of stakeholders, including pharmaceutical companies, academic institutes, and government, with a team that includes epidemiologists, public health specialists, and statisticians. Research projects include better understanding the burden of diseases and unmet needs currently faced by patients, their families, and caregivers, and the potential value that new medications can bring.

Karissa’s main focus is on research studies that assess economic burden of diseases and compare the value of health interventions to their costs, when considering the health benefits that they can provide to patients. She frequently publishes her work in peer-reviewed journals, and in addition to her role as a consultant, is also an Adjunct Professor at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. 

At Broadstreet, Karissa and Shelagh are grateful for the incredible team of people who they work and collaborate with. Their employees are scientifically trained and knowledgeable, and able to carry out complex research studies, which are important contributors to the company’s success. The company aims to foster the professional development and growth of talented researchers. In addition to employees, Karissa also feels grateful for the clients they have worked for year after year; over time, strong relationships have developed with their clients, who have become close collaborators and colleagues. Karissa and Shelagh attribute much of the success of these relationships to having worked in the industry for years before striking out on their own.

Karissa was a single mom at the time that Broadstreet was launched, and giving up a great job with a stable income to the pressures and uncertainty of self-employment was a scary prospect at the time. But since then she hasn’t looked back, and has been overwhelmed with the opportunities that she and Shelagh have had and created. Although Broadstreet has existed for less than six years, they are so proud of how the company has thrived and are looking forwards to the future. Karissa’s journey is inspiring and encourages us to focus on the things we do best, pursue our dreams and make them a reality. With hard work, anything is possible.