SFU professor Kanna Hayashi named the St. Paul's Hospital Chair in Substance Use Research

SFU professor Kanna Hayashi, an internationally recognized substance-use epidemiologist and a human-rights advocate for people who use drugs, is the inaugural St. Paul’s Hospital Chair in Substance Use Research.

The endowed chair, appointed by SFU in the Faculty of Health Sciences, is supported by a $1.5-million contribution from St. Paul’s Foundation in support of the B.C. Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU), and further funding from SFU. Additional initial funding was provided by St. Paul’s Foundation and the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE).

As research chair, Hayashi will take an active leadership and advocacy role locally, nationally and internationally to advance understanding in substance use. She will develop a research program in substance-use prevention, treatment and health policy.

“This chair is an incredible opportunity to join a dynamic group of multidisciplinary scholars at St. Paul’s Hospital and Simon Fraser University to respond to the challenges of substance use through a holistic framework,” she says.

Hayashi will work closely with existing networks, including government, community, and clinical units, to improve the integration of best practices and care across the continuum of substance use in B.C.

At SFU, she will work with researchers at the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addictions (CARMHA), led by health sciences professor Will Small.

Together, they will examine the relationship between substance use and mental health, and determine whether effective substance-use treatment can improve mental health conditions among people who use drugs. Many psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety could be the result of substance use.

As well, in collaboration with the Addiction Medicine program at St. Paul’s Hospital, led by BCCSU director and physician Dr. Evan Wood, Hayashi will evaluate the effectiveness of existing opioid agonist therapies such as methadone and suboxone.

She also plans to conduct clinical trials to identify a new medication to treat those who use both opioids and stimulants such as cocaine. Optimizing opioid agonist therapy options will ensure that more people will have access to treatments that effectively prevent withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings for unregulated drugs such as fentanyl and heroin.

“It is my hope to transform substance-use treatment in B.C., improve the health and well-being of people who use drugs, and mentor students at SFU to advance B.C.’s research capacity in substance use,” says Hayashi.

Says SFU President Andrew Petter: “Dr. Hayashi’s appointment supports SFU’s mission to be Canada’s ‘engaged university’ and our related goal of being a world leader in mobilizing knowledge for community benefit. This valuable partnership will advance research in substance use to improve care, reduce stigma and address a growing public health concern.”

Hayashi holds a PhD from the University of British Columbia in interdisciplinary studies, as well as a master of international affairs and a master of public health from Columbia University in New York. She is also a research scientist at the BCCSU, and BC-CfE, and an associate researcher at Vancouver Coastal Health.

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Media Release: SFU professor Kanna Hayashi named the St. Paul's Hospital Chair in Substance Use Research