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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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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.

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Welcome Gabriel to the team!


Gabriel joined the DEPRESSD team as a Mitacs research intern in June 2023. She majors in global health at the University of Hong Kong, where she has worked with various research teams. Gabriel’s research interests include psychiatric epidemiology and Mendelian randomization. Read more about Gabriel here.

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Welcome Daniel to the team!


Daniel Henao-Díaz joined the DEPRESSD team as a Mitacs intern in June 2023. He has worked as a physician after receiving his medical degree from the University of Caldas (Colombia) in 2017. Currently, Daniel is studying mathematics and physics education at the Catholic University of Manizales (Colombia). Learn more about Daniel here.


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 Brienne to the team!


Brienne Tougas joined the DEPRESSD team as a research assistant in May 2023. She is currently studying psychology at McGill, where she gained research experience in education and mental health. Brienne wants to pursue a doctoral degree in psychology and conduct research on how traumatic life events can impact mental health and well-being, particularly in youth. Read more about Brienne here.

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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!


Congratulations to Marc on receiving the MUHC 2023 Studentship!
| 2023/01/17

We are excited to share that Marc Parsons (McGill PhD candidate in biostatistics and DEPRESSD team member) has been granted a McGill University Health Centre Research Institute (RI-MUHC) 2023 Studentship for his proposed thesis work entitled: Using flexible regression methods to analyse depression trajectories in an individual participant data meta-analysis of pregnant and postpartum women. This studentship was awarded based on the basis of academic performance, publications, research experience, training environment, and the merits of the proposed research project.

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Congratulations to the SPIN team on receiving Arthritis Society of Canada Innovation Grant!
| 2022/11/28

The SPIN Team was awarded a $100,000 Arthritis Society of Canada Innovation Grant for its project titled “A Scleroderma Patient-centered Intervention Network patient-researcher partnership to understand pain sources, patterns, and barriers to effective management in systemic sclerosis”. Thanks to team member Elsa-Lynn Nassar for her work on the proposal. The project will involve a patient-researcher partnership to jointly develop a pain assessment tool for scleroderma and administer the final version of the tool to the SPIN cohort. This will provide improved techniques for pain assessment in scleroderma and improved understanding of the multi-faceted nature of scleroderma pain, which is critical for improving management. Congrats to the SPIN Team!


Congratulations to the DEPRESSD team on receiving a new CIHR funding!
| 2022/07/14

We are excited to share that the DEPRESSD team was awarded a 5-year funding (1.4 million) by CIHR for “The DEPRESsion Screening Data (DEPRESSD) Project: A Novel International Individual Participant Data Meta-analysis Collaboration to Advance Research on Depression Screening Tool Accuracy, Develop Statistical Methodology, and Conduct Meta-Research.” This grant will allow our team to update datasets for depression screening tools and conduct related studies in three categories: clinical, development and evaluation of Statistical Methods for IPDMA (Individual participant data meta-analysis) , and meta-research.

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Brett made a guest appearance on The MUHC Foundation's Health Matters Podcast!
| 2022/07/03

Dr. Thombs appeared on the July 3rd edition of Montreal CJAD 800’s Health Matters for World Scleroderma Day and discussed work that the SPIN Team is doing, including in COVID-19. Listen to the full episode here.


Congratulations to the SPIN team on receiving new CIHR funding!
| 2022/06/29

The SPIN Team was awarded a $20,000 CIHR Planning and Dissemination Grant and ranked very high for its proposal titled “Engaging Patients to Develop a Systemic Program of Patient Engagement in Musculoskeletal and Rare Disease Research: Putting Patients First”. The proposal was led by team member Elsa-Lynn Nassar, Dr. Brett Thombs, patient partner Maureen Sauvé, and Dr. Linda Kwakkenbos. This grant will support SPIN’s patient engagement work, which will involve engaging SPIN’s patient partners, scleroderma patient organization leaders, researchers, and clinicians to jointly develop an evidence-based framework for a patient engagement program. Congrats to the SPIN Team!

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

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