Meet the 2023-2024 Advisory Councils and Working Groups

Indigenous Advisory Council

The mandate of the Indigenous Advisory Council is to provide guidance, feedback, and advice to substance use (SU) researchers and organizations in Atlantic Canada, focusing on the unique needs and perspectives of Indigenous peoples. The council will work to ensure that research is conducted in a respectful and culturally safe manner, and that findings are appropriate to the unique needs and circumstance for improving SU research as it relates to the health and social outcomes of Indigenous peoples. The council will also strive to promote Indigenous-led research and to build capacity among Indigenous researchers and research organizations.  The Co-Chairs (Interim) are: Renee Masching, MSW and  Miranda Pierro. Amy Bombay, PhD serves in an advisory role.

Miranda Pierro is from Wagmatcook First Nation and brings 18+ years of experience in advocacy within First Nations communities and organizations. Miranda is the Mental Wellness Project Manager at the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat. Miranda also fulfills the role of policy support for the Atlantic First Nations Health Partnership’s Mental Wellness Committee. In this vital capacity, she plays a pivotal role in the development and execution of the Mental Health and Addictions Strategic Action Plan of First Nations in the Atlantic Region.

Renée Masching is a member of Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation and of Irish roots. Adopted as an infant, Renée grew up in a family of Eastern and Western European heritage. Her career has focused on enhancing health services for Indigenous Peoples, specifically addressing HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, and STBBI. She has spearheaded community-based organizations, influenced government health policies, and significantly contributed to Indigenous health research. Renée was granted an Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Victoria (2022). Renée lives by the ocean in Mi’kmaq Territory with her husband, sons, and menagerie of pets.

Dr. Amy Bombay is an Anishinaabe (Rainy River First Nations) researcher and faculty member at Dalhousie University (joint in Faculties of Health Professions and Medicine). Her research experiences, expertise, and relationships with Indigenous organizations and communities in the Atlantic region and across Canada has allowed her to facilitate world class research and training aimed at reducing health and social inequities faced by Indigenous peoples. Dr. Bombay is recognized for her mentorship to Indigenous and non-Indigenous students interested in research and advocacy supporting the well-being of Indigenous peoples and other diverse cultural and social groups.

Persons with Lived and Living Experience Advisory Council

The Atl. LE-AC focuses on advising and guiding research processes to support the meaningful integration and consideration of experiential diversity and the collective voices of people with lived and living expertise. The LE-AC will advise on new and emerging areas of research and share expertise in the development and implementation of research and evaluation as it relates to substance use. Together, the LE-AC aims to provide a safe space for discourse in substance use research and its associate practices to help address the realities faced by people who use substances.  The Co-Chairs are  Natasha Touesnard and Gerard Yetman.

Natasha Touesnard, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of People who Use Drugs, is a passionate advocate for progressive drug policies, harm reduction, and the rights of individuals facing oppressive conditions due to substance use. With a commitment to “Nothing About Us Without Us,” she amplifies the voices of those with lived and living experience, emphasizing the inclusion of people who inject drugs across the health care pipeline: from research, to practice, and policy making.

Gerard Yetman is one of the founding members of the Newfoundland & Labrador AIDS Committee (ACNL) and serves as the Executive Director of ACNL and The Tommy Sexton Centre. Gerard is highly respected for his contributions to provincial, regional and national Boards of Directors of AIDS Service Organizations and is presently the Chair of Action Hepatitis Canada and Co-Chair of the Atlantic Interdisciplinary Research Network. Gerard has worked in the field of HIV/AIDS for 33 Years.

Sex and Gender Advisory Council

The focus for the Atlantic Sex and Gender Advisory Council (Atl. SG-AC) will be to support the meaningful integration and consideration of the intersection in sex and gender perspectives in the development and implementation of research and evaluation as it relates to substance use (SU) and related comorbidities in adults and youth within Atlantic Canada. The Co-Chairs are Jacqueline Gahagan, PhD  and Niki Kiepek, PhD

Dr. Jacqueline Gahagan, Associate Vice-President, Research at Mount Saint Vincent University, brings over 20 years of extensive research experience in the areas of public health and the social sciences, both locally and internationally. With a background in medical sociology, Dr. Gahagan’s research interests span substance use, mental health, and addictions medicine, and they are committed to addressing disparities related to sex and gender issues, particularly focusing on the LGBTQ communities and other marginalized populations.

Dr. Niki Kiepek, an occupational scientist at Dalhousie University, is dedicated to untangling knowledge and exploring the intricacies of substance use, mental health, and healthcare responses. By employing diverse methods such as interviews, surveys, and critical discourse analysis, she investigates gendered meanings and experiences, providing a platform for understanding beneficial and non-problematic substance use, addiction, harm reduction, decriminalization, and the social sanctioning of occupation, all framed within anti-oppressive, anti-racist, and decolonizing approaches.

Concurrent Disorders Working Group

The Atlantic Concurrent Disorders Working Group (CD-WG) will help facilitate the identification, guidance, and monitoring of research projects and processes in studies and interventions for those dually impacted by addictions and mental health (MH) or chronic pain disorders, in Atlantic Canada. The Co-Chairs are Pamela Arenella MD; Phil Tibbo, PhD

Dr. Phil Tibbo is a faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry at Dalhousie University. He is recognized for his expertise in the intricate interplay between concurrent psychiatric disorders and substance use. With a keen focus on the intersection of mental health and addictions (primarily early psychosis and cannabis use), Dr. Tibbo’s research and clinical work are dedicated to unraveling the complexities of co-occurring conditions, contributing significantly to advancements in integrated care approaches.

Dr. Pamela Arenella relocated to Nova Scotia (from New Mexico) in 2020. While in New Mexico, she was the medical director of the Concurrent Mental Health and Addictions Clinic (University of New Mexico) and participated in clinical research in addictions treatment for alcohol and nicotine use disorders. Since arriving in Nova Scotia, she has been working as a professor and served as the Clinical Academic Lead for Addiction Psychiatry (Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University), and working with the Nova Scotia Health Authority. Dr. Arenella’s expertise includes addiction psychiatry, educational administration, and professional wellbeing.

Rural Access & Telehealth Working Group

The Atlantic Rural Access and Telehealth Working Group (WG) will help facilitate the identification, guidance, and monitoring of research projects and processes in studies and interventions concerning access to substance use treatment and services for rural and remote communities in Atlantic Canada. The Co-Chairs are Bruce Hollett, MD;  Igor Yakovenko, PhD

Dr. Igor Yakovenko is a faculty member in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Dalhousie University. He is a leading expert in the associated features and determinants of substance use, disordered gambling, and co-morbidity of addiction, with a focus on problem gambling and online platforms for substance use intervention. His recent work focused on developing evidence-based public health interventions for cannabis use disorder includes the implementation of online platforms to enhance access to substance use treatment.

Dr. Bruce Hollett, CCGG DOP (AM)(COE) Honors in psychiatry is a highly regarded family physician specializing in chronic pain and addictions in the Eastern Health Region, Newfoundland. Bruce is recognized for providing comprehensive psychiatric care. Through his multi-disciplinary approach working with clients, health providers and advocates, Bruce is often called upon for guidance and advice regarding efficacious overdose prevention and harm reduction practices.

Youth Substance Use Working Group

The Atlantic Youth Working Group (Atl. YWG) is tasked with guiding and overseeing research initiatives on substance use among youth and emerging adults in Atlantic Canada. The Co-Chairs are Lisa Bishop, PharmD; Nick Harris, PhD

Dr. Nick Harris is a clinician and researcher at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, holding a PhD in Clinical Psychology. Specializing in the intersection of youth and families struggling with co-morbid mental health and substance use issues, Dr. Harris is interested in employing multidisciplinary approaches to explore effective interventions and preventative strategies.

Dr. Lisa Bishop is a pharmacist and Professor with the School of Pharmacy at Memorial University of Newfoundland. She is an established educator and researcher, and has led research on substance use education, cannabis policy, opioid stewardship, and mental health and addictions. She has also had extensive experience in leading patient and community-engaged research. She has a particular interest in protecting youths’ health and safety by improving their substance use health literacy through harm reduction, skills-based health education.