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Welcome to the Thombs Research Team Website!

Dr. Brett Thombs is Director of the Scleroderma Patient-centered Intervention Network (SPIN) and Director of the DEPRESsion Screening Data (DEPRESSD) Project. He was the Chair of the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care from 2017 to 2021, the only non-physician ever in this role.

Members of the Thombs Research Team work in three projects or areas: (1) SPIN, (2) the DEPRESSD Project, and (3) meta research and policy, which includes the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (CTFPHC), the development of an extension of the CONsolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) statement for trials conducted in cohorts and other routinely collected data, and other meta-research projects.

Each project group includes research coordinators, research assistants, postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students who collaboratively work on various aspects of the projects. Check out the individual project sections to learn more about each project team and our current team members.

Latest News...

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Congratulations to Monica for receiving a CIHR scholarship!


We are excited to share that Monica D’Onofrio (SPIN research assistant) has been awarded a Master’s scholarship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). This award will help support her training with our team as she will begin her Master’s program in Epidemiology in the Fall of 2024. Congratulations Monica!


Congratulations to Tiffany on being accepted by Concordia University!


We are excited to share that Tiffany Dal Santo has been admitted to Concordia’s MA program in Psychology (Research and Clinical Training Option). Tiffany joined the DEPRESSD team in 2020 as undergraduate honours thesis student and is currently working with the SPIN team as a master’s student in psychiatry. She will begin the program in September 2024. Congratulations, Tiffany!


Congratulations to Yutong on being accepted by McGill University!


We are happy to share that Yutong Wang, who is a key member of our COVID-19 LSR project, has recently been admitted to McGill's PhD program in Epidemiology. Starting from September 2024, Yutong will continue to be a part of the team for the next several years, working with the DEPRESSD Team on individual participant data meta-analyses and also with the SPIN Team on primary data work. Congratulations, Yutong!

SPIN news

SPIN Awarded Team Development Grant on Itch from Skin Canada!


SPIN was awarded $25,000 from Skin Canada to form a team of people with scleroderma and researchers from Canada, the United States, and France to form a team to develop research on itch in scleroderma. Itch is a critical but understudied problem in scleroderma. Thanks to Tiffany Dal Santo for her work in putting together the successful grant proposal!


Dr. Thombs quoted in Washington Post story on depression and menopause.


Dr. Thombs was quoted in a Washington Post article on menopause and depression. Similar to our team’s work, the article scrutinizes evidence and concludes that the menopause depression link is not likely much greater than for other health conditions that people experience. Read the full article here.


Congratulations to Brett on receiving the CPA-CAPE Alex Leighton Award! 


Congratulations to Brett who received the Alex Leighton Award from the Canadian Association of Psychiatric Epidemiology (CAPE) and the Canadian Psychiatry Association (CPA) for his work in mental health epidemiology: He will be presented with the award at November’s CPA/CAPE meeting.


Congratulations to Monica on being accepted into the MSc in Epidemiology at McGill!


Monica has been admitted to McGill’s MSc program in Epidemiology and will continue to work with the SPIN team. Monica will start her program in September 2024. Congratulations, Monica!


Congratulations to Elsa on Receiving the FRQS-UNITÉ travel award!


Elsa received a travel award from FRQS-UNITÉ to present her work at the Scleroderma World Congress in Prague. Congratulations Elsa!

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Welcome Meira to the team!


Meira Golberg joined the SPIN and DEPRESSD teams as a full-time Biostatistician in January 2024. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Biology at McGill University and Master of Mathematics in Biostatistics at the University of Waterloo. Meira has worked on a wide range of projects focused on measuring predictors of cognition, physical and mental well-being, mental health and unmet healthcare needs. She will be supporting the SPIN and DEPRESSD teams in their methodologic aims and associated data analyses. Read more about Meira here.

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Welcome Cassidy to the team!


Cassidy Dal Santo joined the SPIN team as a master's student in September. She completed her B.Sc degree in the Honours Psychology at McGill in 2023. Her research will primarily involve examining coping mechanisms in individuals with scleroderma. Read more about Cassidy here.

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Welcome Jenny to the team!


Dr. Jieting (Jenny) Zhang joined the DEPRESSD team as a visiting professor in October. She is an associate professor in School of Psychology, Shenzhen University, China. Her research interests include the influence of childhood adversity on mental health and  mindfulness-based interventions. Read more about Jenny here.


Congratulations to Yin and the DEPRESSD team on their publication in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology!


Dr. Yin Wu and the team reviewed data contribution to the four depression screening tool accuracy individual participant data meta-analyses (IPDMAs). We found that 65% of 456 eligible studies contributed data overall; data contribution was associated with multiple characteristics of primary studies. Over 80% of 161 non-contributions were because authors were unreachable or data were unavailable. This was the largest study to investigate data contribution to IPDMAs that has examined characteristics of eligible studies and the first in the field of diagnostic test accuracy, which may support future research to promote data contribution to IPDMAs. Read more about the publication here: link.


Congratulations to Claire for receiving the 2023 CIHR Banting Fellowship and Postdoctoral Fellowship!


We are excited to share that Claire Adams (SPIN postdoctoral fellow) has been awarded a prestigious Banting Fellowship for her project “Patient Engagement in Health Research: Enhancing Knowledge and Practice”. In addition, she was recently awarded a CIHR Postdoctoral Fellowship. Claire will work to improve patient engagement in SPIN and in applied health research more broadly. The fellowships were awarded based on her research excellence and leadership, the quality of the proposed project, and research environment. Congratulations Claire!


Editorial on Depression and Anxiety Screening in BMJ!


Drs Thombs and Rice, along with colleagues Dr. Sarah Markham and Dr. Roy Ziegelstein, were commissioned by the BMJ to discuss new screening recommendations from the United States Preventive Services Task Force. See the editorial here: LINK.

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LSR team’s symposium presented at the 2023 Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) convention!


Team members Dr. Yin Wu (moderator), Letong Li, Kexin Li and Diana Jiang (co-presenters) recently presented their symposium titled “Mental Health Intervention Effects in the General Population and Among Youth and Older Adults to Inform Management Strategies During and Post-COVID-19: Evidence from an Ongoing Living Systematic Review” at the 2023 CPA convention in Toronto. Kexin also presented her poster on loneliness among older adults during COVID-19. Congratulations to the team!


Congratulations to Sabrina on her publication in the Journal of Scleroderma and Related Disorders!


A cross-sectional study led by team member Sabrina Provencher was recently published in the Journal of Scleroderma and Related Disorders. The study aimed to determine if informational and support needs of recently diagnosed individuals with systemic sclerosis differ from people diagnosed for longer periods of time. The team found that people with systemic sclerosis have a wide range of information and support needs, regardless of their disease duration, but people with recent diagnoses have greater needs. For more information about the study, please click here!

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Congratulations to Elsa on winning the Me2 Majumdar Award for Best Poster!


Elsa-Lynn Nassar recently won the Me2 Majumdar Award for Best Poster at the Knowledge Translation Summer Institute 2023, jointly organized by KT Canada and the University of Ottawa's School of Epidemiology and Public Health! Her poster presented an overview of SPIN's living systematic review of knowledge translation tools for disseminating research results to patients.


SPIN featured in The Montrealer


Dr. Thombs and the SPIN team were featured in an article published in The Montrealer. The article discussed SPIN team’s research, highlighting the SPIN-HAND program that helped to improve the hand function for Scleroderma patients. Read more here.


Congratulations to Tiffany on her publication in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology!


A cross-sectional meta-research study led by Tiffany Dal Santo was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. The study aimed to assess how well methods and results of meta-research studies on reporting guideline adherence were themselves reported. The team found that only a small proportion of included studies provided a fully replicable explanation of how they coded the adherence ratings and completely reported individual study results. For more information on this study, click here!


Sabrina Provencher accepted into the Doctor of Medicine (MD) Program at Université de Montréal!


Team member Sabrina Provencher was admitted to the Université de Montréal’s Doctor of Medicine program beginning in the fall of 2023. Sabrina completed her second undergraduate honours thesis under the supervision of Dr. Brett Thombs looking at factors associated with anxiety in people with systemic sclerosis. Her Master’s of Psychiatry thesis focuses on the reduction of a scale that measures self-efficacy in support group leaders. Congrats Sabrina! 


Congratulations to Maria Gagarine on being accepted to University of Toronto!


We are excited to share that Maria Gagarine has been admitted to the University of Toronto's Doctor of Medicine program beginning in the fall of 2023. Maria joined SPIN in 2020 during her Master's degree in Public Health at McGill, leading the oral health research project. She hopes to continue working in the scleroderma field as a tribute to her mom who had scleroderma. Congratulations, Maria!

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Welcome Monica to the team!


Monica D’Onofrio joined the DEPRESSD team in April as a summer Research Assistant. She completed her BSc in Physiology at McGill in December, where she worked in cancer research. She’s interested in mental health and aims to pursue a degree in clinical psychology. Read more about Monica here.

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Congratulations to Brooke on her new position as Director of Epidemiology at Epividian!


Brooke Levis, Research Associate with the DEPRESSD and SPIN teams, has been part of the Thombs Research Team since 2009. She recently started a new position as the Director of Epidemiology at Epividian, a healthcare analytics and software company that does pharmacoepidemiological research to improve the lives of people with HIV. Although she will no longer be part of the day-to-day work of the team, she will remain a member of the DEPRESSD Steering Committee. Congrats Brooke!

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Congratulations to Marieke on her publication in Arthritis Care and Research!


A cross-sectional study led by team member Marieke Neyer was recently published in Arthritis Care and Research. The study aimed to examine the validity, reliability, and differential item functioning of the English and French versions of the 10-Item Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC-10) in people with Systemic Sclerosis (SSc). The team found that the CD-RISC-10 is a valid and reliable measure of resilience in SSc, with comparable scores across both language versions. Importantly, this study is the first to validate a resilience scale in SSc, and its findings demonstrate that the CD-RISC-10 can be used to evaluate resilience in people with SSc, including in international studies involving English- and French-speaking participants. For more information about the study, please click here!

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Congratulations to Tiffany, Sabrina, Elsa, and Marc for receiving Fonds de Recherche du Québec - Santé (FRQS) scholarships!


Four team members have been awarded scholarships from Fonds de Recherche du Québec – Santé. Tiffany Dal Santo and Sabrina Provencher received Master’s Training Scholarships, while Elsa -Lynn Nassar and Marc Parsons received Doctoral Training Scholarships. All highly ranked on their panels. The funds will allow them to continue working on their projects with our team.

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Welcome Afra to the team!


Dr. Afra Alkan has joined the DEPRESSD team as a postdoctoral fellow in April. She completed her PhD in Biostatistics at Ankara University in 2022 in Ankara, Türkiye. Her research interests include evaluation of diagnostic accuracy measures, multivariate analysis, longitudinal data analysis, and R programming. Learn more about Afra here.


SPIN team's living systematic review published in Scientific Reports!

| 2023/03/31

The first report of the SPIN team’s living systematic review of the (1) prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders in scleroderma and (2) factors associated with mood and anxiety symptoms, led by team member Elsa-Lynn Nassar, was recently published in Scientific Reports! The team found that the prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders appears to be high in scleroderma, but estimates vary widely. None of the reviewed studies on factors associated with mood and anxiety symptoms included large enough samples to draw strong conclusions. The team will continue to update results as they become available, and ongoing dissemination of results will be facilitated via posting to the project website. To read the full article, click here


SPIN team's letter on patient presentation published in Lancet Rheumatology!

| 2023/03/22

A correspondence on patient-researcher co-presentation of research results, led by team member Vanessa Cook, and co-authored by patient partner Amy Gietzen, team member Elsa-Lynn Nassar, SPIN collaborator Dr. Amanda Wurz, and Dr. Brett Thombs, has recently been published in The Lancet Rheumatology, the world's top rheumatology journal. The piece comments on SPIN's piloted method of co-presenting at The 2021 National Scleroderma Conference and highlights how collaborating with patients may improve the dissemination of research results to patients living with scleroderma and ensure that research is meaningful to those it affects.  Click here to read the full correspondence.


Congratulations to Elsa on being accepted by McGill University!

| 2023/03/21

We are excited to share that team member Elsa-Lynn Nassar has been admitted to McGill’s PhD program in Clinical Psychology and will continue with the team for the next several years! Elsa will begin the program in September 2023, and her research will focus on improving knowledge translation and patient engagement in health (including mental health) research. Congratulations, Elsa!


Opinion piece published in BMJ!

| 2023/03/09

Dr. Sarah Markham, a patient partner on our team, recently published an opinion piece in BMJ in response to our team’s latest publication titled “Comparison of mental health symptoms before and during the covid-19 pandemic: evidence from a systematic review and meta-analysis of 134 cohorts.” The article emphasized the importance of high-quality research in the field of mental health. Read the full article here.


Congratulations to the Sheryl and the COVID-19 LSR team on their publication in BMJ!

| 2023/03/08

A living systematic review on COVID-19 mental health changes, led by Sheryl and co-authored by other LSR members, has been published in the BMJ. This review evaluated longitudinal studies that compared mental health outcomes prior to the pandemic and during COVID-19. The team analyzed data from 134 cohorts of people from 31 countries. They found that there are no or minimal changes in mental health among the general population and 11 subgroups (e.g., age groups, sex or gender, pre-existing medical or mental health conditions). One exception is among women for whom there were consistent negative small changes across outcome domains. The results suggest that mental health in COVID-19 is more nuanced than previously assumed and that this is largely a story of resilience. To read the paper in BMJ [LINK] and view the infographic [LINK], click on the provided links

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Congratulations to Yin Wu and the DEPRESSD team on their publication in Psychological Assessment!

| 2023/01/31

Dr. Wu and the team compared the accuracy of the 7-item Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale Depression subscale (HADS-D) with the 14-item full scale (HADS-T) to screen for depression. In this study, 20,700 participants (2,285 major depression cases) from 98 studies were included. We found that sensitivity and specificity of the HADS-T were not superior to the HADS-D for detecting major depression. Thus, using the full 14-item HADS-T for depression screening would require additional time and patient burden without improving accuracy. Read more about the publication here:


Congratulations to the SPIN team on receiving a CIHR grant!

| 2023/01/25

The SPIN team has been awarded a 1-year $20,000 Planning and Dissemination Grant-Institute Community Support for its project titled “Towards Understanding Pain Sources, Patterns, and Barriers to Effective Management in Systemic Sclerosis: A Patient-Researcher Partnership Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis.” Thanks to team member Elsa-Lynn Nassar for her leadership on the proposal. This project will involve SPIN researchers and patient partners to jointly develop a tool to assess sources of pain in systemic sclerosis (SSc), pain management services, and barriers to improving pain management. Congrats to the SPIN team!

For more news about the team, please click here ...

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