Danielle Rice

Clinical & Health Psychology PhD candidate Danielle Rice talks to In The Spotlight about why the McGill Psychology Department was a perfect fit for her work on facilitating mental health and addictions care for Canadians.


Research Area: Clinical & Health Psychology

Faculty Supervisor: Dr. Brett Thombs

Tell us a bit about yourself: Growing up in rural southwestern Ontario, I had a very limited understanding of the vast differences that exist between individuals and among cultures. It wasn’t until I began high school that I noticed and became curious about the diverse characteristics and differences that were apparent between myself and my peers. This, as well as an interest in working in a helping profession, led me to an undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of Waterloo that fostered my engagement in research. Transitioning to my graduate studies at McGill has been ideal in helping me expand and refine my career goals, which center on creating meaningful relationships to improve individuals’ well-being through one-on-one work.

Tell us about your research in three sentences or less: My research focuses on facilitating improved, more consistent mental health and addictions care for Canadians. I have focused my PhD on contributing to priority areas of mental health, such as synthesizing knowledge to inform clinical practice guidelines, developing and evaluating interventions for individuals (and their caregivers) with chronic illnesses, and conducting meta-research (i.e., research of research) to improve the quality and usability of mental health studies.

What excites you most about your work? What really keeps me engaged and motivated is the ability to adapt to the current and ever shifting health needs of Canadians. For instance, during the opioid crisis there was an urgent need for comprehensive systematic reviews to improve best practice guidelines in Canada, and I had the opportunity to lead one of these reviews and engage with patients and the public as active contributors to this work. Shortly after, cannabis was legalized, and the Canadian government called for research to better understand cannabis’ implications on mental health. To fill this gap, I’ve been involved in research to determine the effects of medical and non-medical cannabis use among older adults. Being able to shift my focus and apply my research skills in a way that can best serve current clinical questions acts as ongoing encouragement to continue seeking out new opportunities and working towards improving clinical services where they are most needed.

Do you have any experiences that have particularly shaped you or your research? In the fourth year of my PhD, I was awarded the inaugural Health Systems Impact Fellowship through CIHR, which provides PhD students with the opportunity to work with health systems organization. Through this fellowship, I was embedded in the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) for 12 months. In this setting, I contributed to two major projects. The first aspect of this work involved the development of a new national indicator for adolescents and young adults that will measure early identification and intervention of mental health and addictions conditions across all provinces for the next 10 years. The second aspect of this work was developing a report about an existing indicator that measures youth hospitalizations due to substance use. My work on both of these projects broadened my skillset while allowing me to integrate research and clinical skills into a unique setting that will influence the availability of mental health services. Collaborating on a project involving the federal, provincial, and territorial Health Ministers demonstrated the versatility of a clinical psychology degree and solidified my interest in working towards improvements in the health system in addition to individual changes.

Is there anything you would like to plug about your work? I have a paper conditionally accepted to the British Medical Journal undergoing final revision. This work focuses on understanding the promotion and tenure criteria that are being applied at a global level for career advancement in academia, and it highlights that many traditional metrics that are known to be problematic in research (e.g., quantity of papers published) are still being used, with little attention being paid to more progressive metrics that support the conduct of better research (e.g., registration of research).

What's your favourite thing to do outside of your research? I enjoy travelling and spending time near a beach.

What are your plans for after graduation? After graduation I hope to obtain an embedded clinician-scientist position where I can engage in clinical work, research, and health systems focused activities.

Do you have anything that you'll remember about your time at McGill? The time spent with my cohort has been one of the most meaningful and memorable aspects of graduate school that I am indescribably grateful for. There are few people more supportive and understanding than a group of psychology-trainees.

How can people contact you? You can reach me by email at danielle.rice(at)mail.mcgill.ca and follow me on twitter at @DanielleBRice__ (two underscores)

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