Clinician Scientist Profiles: General Stream
I completed my MD and previous psychiatry training back in Iran before pursuing a new life in Canada, which includes redoing my residency. Nothing fills me more with joy than pursuing the unknown. I am interested in learning about the most obvious, yet less known, part of any therapeutic intervention, the placebo. Along with my supervisors/advisor, Drs. Mark Sinyor, Matthew Burke, and Krista Lanctot, in my CSP project I plan to study the mechanisms of placebo effects and their correlates across major psychiatric conditions, which could eventually promote patient care quality. I will start with a systematic review of published RCTs and then may plan to expand my research as an add-on part to RCTs with the placebo arm(s). During my previous life as a psychiatrist in Iran, I also participated in research projects and published in several peer-reviewed journals, including papers on placebo effects in panic disorder and OCD. Outside of professional life, I enjoy poetry, literature, calligraphy, and spending time with my wife and daughter.
Ayan Dey completed his undergraduate degree in neuroscience at McMaster University, and graduated from the University of Toronto's MD-PhD program. His current research interests center around assessment and evaluation of novel interventions for persistent cognitive impairment among adults with neuropsychiatric disorders. He is currently working with Dr. Giacobbe at Sunnybrook to study the effects of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation on cognition and sleep in adults with treatment-resistant depression. Prior to residency, he completed a PhD in cognitive neuroscience at the Rotman Research Institute (Baycrest) wherein he applied multimodal functional neuroimaging to study cognitive heterogeneity among older adults with vascular risk factors and studied the effects of cognitive rehabilitation among adults with traumatic brain injury. In addition to his current academic and clinical interests in sleep, cognition and brain injury, he is actively involved in quality improvement research related to measurement-based care in mental health.
Dr. Justin Graffi is a PGY3 resident. Improving access to psychiatric care is one reason that I decided to pursue a career in psychiatry. Specifically, I want to improve access to psychiatric care in rural parts of Canada. While I look forward to working clinically in rural communities, another way that I want to increase access to care is through research. There are unique challenges that rural communities face in order to access psychiatric care. These challenges remain under researched. It is well established that people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSDs) benefit from earlier intervention and follow-up. Poor clinical and functional outcomes are associated with extended duration of untreated psychosis. However, there is limited data examining the psychiatric care and treatment of people experiencing SSDs in rural settings. Additionally, there is limited research examining the differences between clinical and functional outcomes of people in rural communities. The overall goal of my current project is to examine the psychiatric treatment and care of people who are first diagnosed with a schizophrenia spectrum disorder during a hospitalization and reside in rural communities. In the future, I hope to continue to explore the treatment of people with first episode psychosis in rural parts of Ontario, specifically focusing on early psychosis intervention programs in rural parts of Ontario.
Tina Guo obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Calgary, and subsequently graduated from the University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine’s MD program. She previously conducted public health research, examining the use of administrative data, at the O’Brien Institute for Public Health. In addition, she also conducted stem cell research in C. elegans roundworms in the lab of Dr. David Hansen. Currently, she is working with Dr. Mark Sinyor, examining the effect of various features of media portrayal of suicide on subsequent rates of suicide. Her research interests include the association between media and suicide, medical education and mentorship, and medical assistance in dying (MAiD) in the psychiatric population.
Daniel Kapustin is a fourth-year psychiatry resident at the University of Toronto. He is a Canadian Schulich Leader scholarship recipient and undertook his undergraduate training in neuroscience at McGill University. He subsequently completed his medical training at the University of Toronto. He has a longstanding interest in geriatric psychiatry and has been involved in research focusing on the neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia, electroconvulsive therapy, quantitative neuroimaging, sleep health, and chronic pain.
Helena Kim completed her BSc in psychology and human biology and PhD in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Toronto. Her past work examined downstream targets of mitochondrial complex I dysfunction in patients with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression using post-mortem brain samples and animal and cell models. She completed her post-doctoral work at Queen’s University identifying microRNA markers of bipolar disorder and drug response in patients with MDD using clinical trial samples. Currently, her research interest includes identifying demographic, clinical, and molecular predictors of drug response in patients with mood disorders.
Supervisor: Dr. Benoit Mulsant
Hilary is a Psychiatry resident at the University of Toronto. She is in the Clinician-Scientist Program under the supervision of Dr. Venkat Bhat. She is interested in the role of generative artificial intelligence in medicine and medical education. Dr. Pang was selected as one of two fellows for the American College of Psychiatrists - PRITE Fellowship in 2023-2024.
I am fascinated by the biology underlying psychiatric disorders, and my research uses genomic data as a window into that biology. I am particularly interested in psychoneuroimmunology, the way the brain and immune system interact to influence behaviour and predispose to psychiatric disorders. Prior to residency, I completed MD/PhD training at the University of Toronto with a research specialization in statistical genetics. I co-developed a method (BUHMBOX) to identify biologically relevant groups of patients in genetic samples with limited clinical data (e.g. immune-driven subgroups). I have collaborated with international consortia on genome-wide association studies of schizophrenia and immune-mediated disorders, and identified significant genetic overlap between schizophrenia and certain immune-mediated disorders (those with a strong T-cell component). In my CSP research I am continuing to use big data to better understand similarities and differences in biology – including neuroimmune mechanisms – across psychiatric disorders.