Dr. Kora DeBeck recipient of two prestigious research awards

published on March 26, 2024

Dr. Kora DeBeck, a research scientist with the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) and a Distinguished Associate Professor at Simon Fraser University’s School of Public Policy, has been awarded two prestigious honours: a Dorothy Killam Fellowship and a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Applied Public Health Chair.

The Killam fellowship supports accomplished scholars whose ground-breaking research stands to have a significant impact on a national or global scale. Dr. DeBeck was awarded a fellowship for her project “Responding to the toxic drug crisis: reframing the approach to drug policy and substance use.”

The Applied Public Health Chair is awarded by CIHR. Dr. DeBeck is part of the program’s fourth cohort, an will hold the chair in “Addressing the toxic drug crisis for young people who use drugs in British Columbia.”

Dr. DeBeck is the Principal Investigator of the At-Risk Youth Study (ARYS), an ongoing prospective cohort study of over 1,200 street-involved youth who use drugs in Vancouver.

Specializing in substance use and drug policy, Dr. DeBeck’s research informs policy interventions targeting the health and well-being of structurally marginalized youth. Her research challenges prevailing drug enforcement models, highlighting their inefficacy and unintended harms. Dr. DeBeck advocates for policy reforms addressing systemic factors contributing to drug-related harms, particularly amidst British Columbia’s toxic drug crisis.

CIHR Applied Public Health Chair

The Applied Public Health Chairs program was established in 2008 to support creating public health solutions informed by the best available scientific evidence. The 2024 Chairs will continue that critical work on the most critical areas of public health in Canada. With the knowledge they gain through their research, the Chairs and their teams will work with decision makers, both within and outside of the public health sector, to contribute to the development of solutions to some of Canada’s biggest public health challenges.

The aim of Dr. DeBeck’s Chair is to generate new knowledge, build capacity, integrate the perspectives of people with lived experience, and foster partnerships and knowledge mobilization to address substance use related harms in street-involved young people who use illicit drugs in Vancouver, with the overall aim to improve population health and health equity.

More information about the CIHR Applied Public Health Chairs program is available here.

Dorothy Killam Fellowship

Dr. DeBeck’s fellowship research will delve into the crisis of toxic drug use, employing data-driven methods to analyze and guide public policies aimed at tackling substance use and its associated harms. Emphasizing the importance of robust scientific evidence, her work aims to understand the effectiveness, limitations, and consequences of policy interventions concerning the drug poisoning crisis.

Utilizing data from the ARYS cohort, the project will investigate the effects of both innovative and contentious approaches, such as providing a safer supply of drugs and decriminalizing drug possession for structurally marginalized youth who are involved in substance use in three key ways:

  1. Investigating the extent, scope, and effects of safe supply interventions on subsequent patterns of drug use, long-term trajectories of engagement in addiction treatment, and health outcomes.
  2. Assessing impacts of decriminalizing personal drug possession on interactions with the criminal justice system and health and social services.
  3. Describing the extent, scope, and effects of participation in addiction treatment on enduring patterns of drug use, including the cessation of daily drug use over the long term.

Read more about the Killam Prize and Dorothy Killam Fellowships here.