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Brett Thombs, PhD


Dr. Thombs completed his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Fordham University in 2004, during which he did his clinical internship training at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. He was a postdoctoral fellow and instructor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine before coming to McGill in 2006.

Dr. Thombs is currently a Senior Investigator at the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research, Jewish General Hospital. He is a McGill University William Dawson Scholar and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Associate Member of the Departments of Medicine; Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health; Psychology; Educational and Counselling Psychology; and the School of Nursing. Dr. Thombs is internationally known for his work on mental health in medical settings, which focuses on the illness experience of patients, including the etiology, assessment, and treatment of interrelated somatic and psychological symptoms that are common in medical illness, particularly cardiovascular and rheumatic diseases. An important part of his work involves the evaluation of mental health services, such as detection and treatment of depression, as well as methods of research reporting.

Since he came to the Jewish General and McGill University in 2006, Dr. Thombs has authored more than 200 articles, including more than 140 peer-reviewed articles, many of them in top medical journals. He is the principal investigator or a co-investigator on numerous grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) the Fonds de la recherche en santé Québec (FRSQ), the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), and private foundations.

Awards that Dr. Thombs has received in recognition of his accomplishments include the Cochrane Collaboration’s Bill Silverman Prize (2013), an Investigator Salary Award from the Arthritis Society (2013), the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine’s Research Award (2013), the Association of Rheumatology Health Professional’s Distinguished Scholar Award (2013), a Chercheurs-boursiers, Junior II award from the FRSQ (2013-2015; declined), the Jewish General Hospital Award for Excellence in Clinical Research (2010), the Canadian Psychological Association Health Psychology Section Early Career Award (2010), the Canadian Psychological Association’s President’s New Researcher Award (2010), an American College of Rheumatology Research and Education Foundation Health Professional Investigator Award (2009), a CIHR New Investigator Award (2008-2013), and a Chercheurs-boursiers, Junior I award from the FRSQ (2008-2012; declined). Dr. Thombs was the lead author of an international team that published an article on depression screening in cardiovascular care settings, which was a finalist for the 2009 BMJ Group Research Paper of the Year Award. In 2014, he was one of two recipients of the inaugural version of the McGill Principal’s Prize for Outstanding Emerging Researchers, which is awarded to McGill’s top investigators within 10 years of their highest degree from any of its 13 faculties and schools.

Since 2009, trainees under Dr. Thombs’ supervision have first-authored 46 in press or published peer-reviewed manuscripts, including articles in top journals, such as JAMA (impact factor = 30.0), BMJ (impact factor = 17.2), the British Journal of Psychiatry (impact factor = 5.1), the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (impact factor = 5.0), Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics (impact factor = 9.4), and Arthritis Care & Research (impact factor = 3.7). Additionally, since 2009, they have been co-authors on in press or published peer-reviewed articles 78 times. They have first-authored 3 book chapters and 16 published letters-to-the-editor and been co-authors of letters 34 times. They have been first author of 41 oral conference presentations and have done 31 supervised invited talks, including 10 national or international invitations.

In terms of funding, trainees with Dr. Thombs have been awarded a total of 85 awards, including 17 prestigious training awards from the CIHR or SSHRC and 17 from Quebec provincial funding agencies. In addition, trainees have been awarded (i) 5 international internship awards; (ii) 7 funded Studentships via CIHR-sponsored, investigator-led training programs; (iii) 6 CIHR-funded trainee travel awards; (iv) 9 McGill University awards; (v) 11 CIHR-sponsored undergraduate summer studentships; and (vi) 13 other national or international awards, including 5 Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals Graduate Student Awards. This last prize is awarded annually to 2-3 top non-physician graduate students internationally, including students from epidemiology, psychology, nursing, and physical therapy. Masters students in his group won this prestigious award in 2008-2010 and 2012-2013.

Dr. Thombs and his team have received press coverage related to their research in the Globe and Mail, Montreal Gazette, Le Devoir, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Reuters, numerous other Canadian and international newspapers, and in broadcast news reports, including the CBC’s World at Six.

Curriculum vitae