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OVC researchers contribute to mental health research

Ontario Veterinary College researchers contribute to mental health research At the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), a number of researchers are focusing on well-being and mental health research.

On January 28, Bell Let’s Talk Day, we are highlighting some of this ongoing work.

Now in its 11th year, Bell Let’s Talk Day is a nationwide initiative to encourage conversation about mental health, to end the stigma surrounding mental health challenges and work to improve research, care and treatment.

Dr. Ryan Appleby, in OVC’s Department of Clinical Studies, is conducting research to clarify the relationship between student veterinarian, intern and resident experiences in the veterinary profession, and important mental health factors. In particular, his work is focused on impostor syndrome and burnout in the veterinary profession. Appleby previously investigated the impostor phenomenon in students, interns, residents and faculty as part of his residency research, at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine.
Read more about Appleby’s work in this area.

Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton, Director of Well-Being Programming and professor in OVC’s Department of Population Medicine, has partnered with colleagues across multiple disciplines to research mental health and well-being in the veterinary profession and the agricultural community. “Given the extent to which the veterinary and farming populations provide for society, and given the extent of occupational stressors they face, our research is imperative to better understand the underlying issues and find new ways to help these communities,” Jones-Bitton shares.

Jones-Bitton and former PhD student – now Post-Doctoral Fellow - Dr. Briana Hagen, created a mental health literacy-training program specific to Canadian agriculture, partnering with multiple organizations to make this training available in agricultural communities across Canada. The “In the Know” program features in-person sessions delivered by a mental health professional to farmers, or those working primarily with farmers.
Read more about Jones-Bitton’s ongoing work.

Dr. Jibran Khokhar, a professor in OVC’s Department of Biomedical Sciences, is currently studying psychiatric disorders and how they are affected by substance use. One of his current studies is focused on understanding why substance use disorder (SUD) – dependency on nicotine, cannabis and alcohol – is so high in those affected by schizophrenia and how these substances interact to affect the brain.

Read more about Khokhar’s work to understand substance use disorder and how it may help improve schizophrenia treatment.

One area of focus for Dr. Deep Khosa, is well-being in student veterinarian populations. Khosa, a professor in OVC’s Department of Population Medicine and Academic Coordinator at the Hill's Pet Nutrition Primary Healthcare Centre at OVC, was joined by Shelby Nielson, OVC MSc 2019, in a study that analyzed the attitudes and perceptions related to dietary habits and levels of physical activity among incoming student veterinarians from Canada and the United States. “This research considers aspects of well-being which encompass the many facets of being a healthy individual,” said Khosa, “including mental health, physical activity, nutritional and dietary choices.”
Read more about Khosa's work in this area.

Dr. Andrew Papadopoulos, a professor in OVC’s Department of Population Medicine and Coordinator of the Master of Public Health Program at OVC, has actively researched post-secondary student mental health for many years.

“Our research has found there are many risk factors that contribute to an individual’s poor mental health,” Papadopoulos shares, “however, we have also found the protective factors remain very consistent.” Protective factors include resilience, self-efficacy, positive self-esteem, and a sense of belonging or community, all which have been proven to result in positive mental health amongst student populations.

“Findings from this research can inform post-secondary educational institutions and develop interventions which promote these protective factors and support positive mental health,” said Papadopoulos. Read more about his ongoing studies.