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Welcome to the Thombs Research Team Website!

Dr. Brett Thombs is a Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University, a Senior Investigator at the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research at the Jewish General Hospital, Chair of the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care and Director of the Scleroderma Patient-centered Intervention Network (SPIN) and Director of the DEPRESsion Screening Data (DEPRESSD) Project.

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...


SPIN Study on Mental Health Symptoms in Scleroderma during COVID-19 Published in Lancet Rheumatology | 2021/12/08

The SPIN Team followed over 400 participants from the ongoing SPIN Cohort who also provided data, initially every two weeks then every four weeks, during COVID-19. They found that anxiety symptoms increased substantially during the April 2020, but then began to subside and were back to pre-COVID-19 levels by early summer 2020, where they have stayed since then. Depression symptoms did not increase compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. Congratulations to Dr. Richard Henry, who led the study, and the rest of the SPIN Team. Read more here

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SPIN publishes protocol for the self-management (SPIN-SELF) Program | 2021/11/30

Julia Nordlund, Dr. Richard Henry and the SPIN Team published their protocol in Trials for testing the SPIN-SELF Program. The SPIN-SELF Program has been revised to include facilitator-led videoconference group sessions in addition to online material. The SPIN Team will test the group-based intervention delivery format, then evaluate the effect of the SPIN-SELF Program on disease management self-efficacy, and other mental and physical health outcomes. This study will be a randomized controlled feasibility trial with progression to a full-scale trial. At the end of the feasibility portion, stoppage criteria will be used to determine if the trial procedures or SPIN-SELF Program need important modifications, thereby requiring a re-set for the full-scale trial. Otherwise, the full-scale RCT will proceed. Congratulations to Julia, Richard, Dr. Thombs and the rest of the team! Read more here.


SPIN Study on Pain in Scleroderma Published in Lancet Rheumatology | 2021/11/25

SPIN’s study of pain in 2157 SPIN Cohort participants from 46 centres in 7 countries was published in Lancet Rheumatology. The study found that 35% of people with scleroderma live with moderate to severe pain and that greater pain intensity was associated with many different scleroderma disease manifestations. The SPIN Team concluded that health care providers should work with patients to address pain, including identifying and addressing disease manifestations associated with pain. The article can be found here:

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Dr. Thombs Featured in McGill Bicentennial Digital Time Capsule | 2021/11/02

See Dr. Thombs discuss the transformations he thinks we will see in how we do research over the next 25 years:

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Welcome new team member! | 2021/10/19

Laury Montemurro, as a research assistant, joined The Scleroderma Patient-centered Intervention Network (SPIN) project on October 4th. Laury finished her undergraduate studies in Psychology at McGill University in April 2021. She aims to pursue her studies in psychology by applying to the PhD program in Clinical Psychology. Click here to learn more about Laury.

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Dr. Thombs on Sclero Sun Podcast | 2021/10/14

Dr. Thombs was interviewed for the Scleroderma Foundation Southern California Chapter podcast about SPIN and its patient programs. The podcast will be available October 15 10:00 pm EST.


BMJ Article on Depression Screening Covered in Mad in America | 2021/10/14

A review of evidence on depression screening for health care providers by Dr. Thombs, Danielle Rice and colleagues, which was published earlier in BMJ ( was covered by Peter Simons from Mad in America. Read the full article here.


Congratulations to Dr. Zelalem Negeri and the DEPRESSD Team on their publication in The BMJ!  | 2021/10/05

We are happy to share that the DEPRESSD Team's updated IPDMA on the accuracy of the PHQ-9 screening tool has been published in the BMJ. The project, led by Dr. Zelalem Negeri, combined individual participant data from 100 studies (>44,000 participants) to evaluate the screening accuracy of the PHQ-9. The combined sensitivity and specificity of the PHQ-9 were maximized at a cut-off of >=10. Specificity was similar across reference standards, but sensitivity in studies with semi-structured interviews was higher than with fully structured reference standards and with the MINI. Moreover, specificity was higher for men and older participants. The full article can be accessed here. Researchers and clinicians can use our results to determine outcomes, such as the total number of positive screens and false-positive screens, at different PHQ-9 cut-offs for different clinical settings as described in our knowledge translation tool here.

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Position Available: Full-time Data Manager and Analyst  | 2021/09/22

Dr. Brett Thombs ( and Dr. Andrea Benedetti ( of McGill University and the Scleroderma Patient-centered Intervention Network (SPIN; are seeking a full-time Data Manager and Analyst to contribute to observational studies and novel trials of patient-centred interventions in a rare disease context (PDF for more details).

  • Start date: Start date is flexible, and applications will be considered on a rolling basis.

  • To apply: applicants should send (1) a cover letter, (2) a curriculum vitae, (3) an unofficial transcript, (4)a writing sample, and (5) contact information for three references to Ms. Marie-Eve  Carrier (

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COVID-MINDS Interview with Dr. Thombs   | 2021/08/31

See Q & A with Dr. Brett Thombs and COVID-MINDS on mental health research in the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Thombs discusses our living systematic review and what we have learned conducting this work: [LINK]


New CIHR funding for the SPIN team! | 2021/08/26

We are excited to announce that our project “Mental Health in People at Risk from COVID-19 Due to a Pre-Existing Medical Condition: Longitudinal Study of Risk Factors, Outcomes, and the Role of Vaccination” has been awarded a one-year CIHR grant. SPIN launched the SPIN-COVID-19 Cohort in April of 2020 to better understand mental health concerns of individuals with a pre-existing medical condition during the pandemic. This grant will allow our research team to continue this important work! 

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Position Available: Full-time Research Assistant | 2021/08/26

SPIN is currently seeking applicants for a Full-time Research Assistant position in patient-engaged health research. (More details about this position).

Eligibility: Applicants should be fluent in English (spoken and written) and French (spoken; written French an asset); have a degree in psychology, health sciences, social sciences, or related field with strong academic record; and be able to commit for at least one and ideally two years.

Start Date: September 2021.

To apply: Applicants should send (1) a cover letter explaining their interest in the position and how this would support their career goals, (2) a curriculum vitae, (3) an unofficial transcript, and (4) an English writing sample and (if possible) an additional writing sample in French, to Marie- Eve Carrier at Applications will be reviewed until the position is filled. French language capacity will be assessed during interview.​


Congratulations to the COVID-19 Living Systematic Review (LSR) Team on receiving new CIHR funding! | 2021/08/19

We are excited to share that our LSR team was awarded a one-year grant ($220,052) by CIHR’s Emerging COVID-19 Research Gaps and Priorities Funding Opportunity for conducting our project “Mental Health during the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Ongoing Living Systematic Review of Mental Health Burden and Intervention Effectiveness to Inform Management Strategies During and Post-COVID-19.” This will allow the team to continue to update its synthesis of evidence on mental health in COVID-19.


Congratulations to the DEPRESSD team on receiving a new CIHR grant! | 2021/07/23

We are excited to share that the DEPRESSD team was awarded a 3-year grant ($279,224) by CIHR to develop and test statistical methods for individual participant data meta-analysis in diagnostic test accuracy. A special thank you to Dr. Yin Wu, Dr. Zelalem Negeri, Sheryl Sun and Dr. Brooke Levis, who worked closely with Dr. Andrea Benedetti on the CIHR funding competition!


Congratulations to Nora Østbø and the SPIN Team on SPIN-DINE publication!   | 2021/08/31

We are happy to share that the SPIN Team's study on nutrition information resources was published in Arthritis Care and Research - Open Rheumatology. Study investigators conducted nominal group technique sessions with people with scleroderma to examine the use of nutrition and diet information resources, and perceptions of these resources. This study is the first step of the SPIN - Diet and Nutrition Information (DINE) project led by Nora Østbø, which aims to identify and address existing information gaps in the area of nutrition and scleroderma, with the long-term goal of providing tools for people with SSc to find and access evidence-based information and guidance on nutrition and diet. Read more here: [LINK]. 

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DEPRESSD Team published a new IPDMA protocol - Equivalence of the Accuracy of 9 and 10 item Versions of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale for Screening to Detect Major Depression among Pregnant and Postpartum Women on OSF | 2021/06/06

Dr. Xia Qiu, a visiting PhD Student, and the DEPRESSD team published their protocol on OSF. The objectives of the study are (1) to evaluate the equivalence of continuous EPDS-9 and full EPDS scores for assessing depressive symptom severity; and (2) to assess the equivalence of the accuracy of the EPDS-9 and full EPDS across relevant cut-offs for screening to detect major depression. Read more here.


Welcome new team member! | 2021/06/09

Suiqiong Fan, as a Research and Synthesis Analytical Coordinator, will be joining the DEPRESSD and COVID-19 Living Systematic Review projects on June 21. Suiqiong completed her BSc in Global Health at Wuhan University in 2019 and recently completed her MSc in Public Health from McGill. At McGill, Suiqiong worked on two projects related to child marriage. We’re fortunate to have her join the team! Click here to know more about her.


Congratulations  to Dr. Brett Thombs who has been awarded the Scleroderma Foundation’s 2021 “Messenger of Hope” award!  | 2021/07/21

We are excited to share that Dr. Brett Thombs has just been awarded the Scleroderma Foundation’s 2021 “Messenger of Hope” award. This award was presented to Brett in recognition of his tremendous work with the scleroderma community through the SPIN programs that have elevated disease awareness, strengthened self-care among individuals living with the disease. Brett received this award on Saturday evening, July 17 in a virtual awards ceremony as part of the 2021 National Scleroderma Conference. Click HERE to watch the ceremony. 

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Position Available: SPIN Postdoctoral Fellow | 2021/06/02

SPIN is currently seeking applicants for a postdoctoral fellowship position in patient-engaged health research and novel clinical trials (More details about this position).

Role: The postdoctoral fellow will lead or assist with ongoing SPIN projects and will have the opportunity to develop their own research.

Eligibility: Applicants should have a recent doctoral degree in a health-related field, such as psychology, public health, or epidemiology. The doctoral degree should be obtained by the date of hire.

Start Date: Start date is flexible, and applications will be considered on a rolling basis.

To apply: Applicants should send (1) a cover letter explaining their interest in the fellowship and how working in this position would support their career goals, (2) a curriculum vitae, (3) an unofficial transcript, (4) reprints or preprints of published articles or submitted manuscripts, and (5) contact information for three references to Ms. Marie-Eve Carrier (


Dr. Richard Henry receives a CIHR Postdoctoral Fellowship Award! | 2021/06/01

Congratulations to Dr. Richard Henry, who was funded with a CIHR Postdoctoral Fellowship. Dr. Henry was ranked 9th of 208 applicants in his panel with outstanding scores 4.6 of 5. Under the co-mentorship of Dr. Thombs and Dr. Marshall, Dr. Henry will work on a stakeholder-engaged program of research to support health care and mental health in gender-diverse adults.

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SPIN-CHAT results featured on The Scleroderma News! | 2021/05/26

The Scleroderma News published an article, entitled "Group Sessions Helpful for Mild Anxiety During COVID-19, Trial Finds”. The article featured a clinical psychologist Dr. Jill M. Newby's comments on the effectiveness of the SPIN-CHAT (COVID-19 Home-isolation Activities Together) Program in providing scleroderma participants with psychosocial tools and group activities to maintain mental health and break isolation during the pandemic. Its findings also emphasize “how essential it is to test, rather than assume what interventions work to improve mental health in susceptible groups during pandemic situations,” Newby added. Read the article here.


Dr. Thombs interviewed on Montreal CTV News about work of COVID-19 Living Systematic Review Team | 2021/05/24

On May 22nd, Dr. Thombs was interview on Montreal CTV News, where he discussed changes in mental health from prior to COVID-19 to during the pandemic. Based on findings from the team's ongoing living systematic review of over 50 000 scientific articles, Dr. Thombs pointed out that across population groups, results suggest that, rather than a mental health crisis, at a population level, there has been a high level of resilience during COVID-19. Click here to watch the full interview. 


SPIN-CHAT Trial receives media coverage!  | 2021/05/20

A Healio Rheumatology article by Jason Laday, entitled “Mental health intervention for scleroderma patients in COVID-19 lockdown sees mixed results”, featured Dr. Thombs’ comments on the SPIN-CHAT (COVID-19 Home-isolation Activities Together) Trial. Dr. Thombs highlights the importance of the SPIN-CHAT Trial - “A key takeaway from our trial is that this kind of ongoing collaborative group can move quickly and effectively to meet patient needs in real time. In terms of clinical significance, our trial showed that simple, multi-faceted strategies to address mental health, along with good peer support, can be used effectively by our vulnerable rheumatology patients to improve their mental health in COVID-19 and beyond.” Read the article here.

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Congratulations to Dipika and the DEPRESSD team on their publication in the IJMPR!  | 2021/05/12

We are happy to share that the DEPRESSD Team's study on selective cutoff reporting in depression screening studies was published in the International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research (IJMPR). This study, led by Dipika Neupane, compared selective cutoff reporting in the PHQ-9 and EPDS. The study highlights the importance of reporting accuracy estimates or contingency tables for all relevant cutoffs. Congratulations to Dipika and the rest of the DEPRESSD Team! Read more here.

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