Addictions chair joins faculty

(Edmonton) The Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry is welcoming a new chair in addiction and mental health research.

Kathy Aitchison was recruited for one of two Alberta Centennial Addiction and Mental Health Research Chairs. This program is a partnership that brings together academia, funding and applied practice settings at both Alberta medical schools. The other chair, Jean Addington, was recruited to the University of Calgary.

“The centennial chairs program plays a key role in attracting the best and brightest medical researchers in the world to the U of A,” said Verna Yiu, interim dean of the faculty. “It also positions us as a leader in advancing the mental health and well-being of not only Albertans but also of patients globally.”

“I feel very privileged to join the U of A because it’s a centre of academic excellence and a leading university in Canada,” said Aitchison. “It was a good fit between the clinical research skills I can offer and the position.”

Aitchison joins the University of Alberta from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry where she was a senior lecturer and executive member of the Medical Research Council Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre. She arrived in Edmonton to start her work as the chair in September.

“Her experience and passion in this research area will help to establish Alberta as a worldwide centre of excellence in this field,” says Fred Horne, minister of Alberta Health and Wellness. “Given the focus of her research, her findings will lead to innovative, evidence-based service delivery models for Albertans with addiction and mental illness.”

Aitchison’s research and expertise lies in the area of genetic-based therapeutic drugs used to treat depression and early-stage psychosis. She will have a clinical appointment with Alberta Health Services and a faculty role with the U of A.

She has a number of things in mind she wants to achieve, including:

• Contributing to formation a research network in addiction and mental health;

• Identifying individuals at high risk of suicide through increased understanding of biological and psychosocial factors involved; and

• Piloting the use of genetic testing to assist clinicians in choosing the most appropriate medication.

The chairs are jointly funded by Alberta Advanced Education and Technology, the University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and Alberta Health Services. Alberta Advanced Education and Technology will provide $1.25 million over five years while the U of A will provide office space and support staff including dedicated administrative support. Alberta Health Services is responsible for chair recruitment, accountability for fulfilment of contractual obligations, knowledge transfer and knowledge exchange.