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Brett Thombs, PhD 


Brett Thombs, William Dawson scholar and Professor, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University
Senior Investigator, Lady Davis Institute, Jewish General Hospital
514-340-8222 ext. 5112 


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 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 160 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

Research Interests

Dr. Thombs’ group is conducting funded systematic reviews of the evidence on depression screening in cancer, perinatal care, and cardiovascular care. This work is important because existing recommendations have been made with little or no evidence that depression screening would benefit patients. Better depression care paradigms are needed, and recommendations not based on evidence may suggest that the best way to address depression is already known, thereby impeding progress towards developing more effective and feasible depression care models in medical settings.

Dr. Thombs also conducts behavioral health research in scleroderma as a member of the Canadian Scleroderma Research Group and as the Director of an international collaboration, the Scleroderma Patient-centered Intervention Network (SPIN). The objectives of this research are (1) to develop and evaluate assessment tools for important, but previously understudied, patient-reported outcomes in scleroderma; (2) to evaluate models of potential causal and maintaining factors; (3) to determine trajectories and predictors of change; and (4) to develop and test behavioural interventions to reduce distress and increase overall well-being.

Research Team

The Behavioural Health Research Group

Selected Publications

Thombs BD, de Jonge P, Coyne JC, Whooley MA, Frasure-Smith N, Mitchell AJ, Zuidersma M, Eze-Nliam C, Bezerra B, Smith CG, Soderlund K, Ziegelstein RC. Depression screening and patient outcomes in cardiovascular care: A systematic review. JAMA. 2008;300(18):2161-2171.

Roseman M, Milette K, Bero LA, Lexchin J, Turner E, Coyne JC,Thombs BD. Reporting of conflicts of interest in meta-analyses of pharmacological treatments. JAMA. 2011;305(10):1008-1017.
Thombs BD, Arthurs E, El-Baalbaki G, Meijer A, Ziegelstein RC, Steele RJ. Risk of bias from inclusion of already diagnosed or treated patients in diagnostic accuracy studies of depression screening tools: Asystematic review. BMJ.2011;343:d4825.
Roseman M, Turner EH, Lexchin J, Coyne JC, Bero LA,Thombs BD. Reporting of conflict of interest from drug trials in Cochrane reviews:A cross-sectional study. BMJ. 2012;345:e5155.

Thombs BD, Coyne JC, CuijpersP, de Jonge P, Gilbody S, Ioannidis JPA, Johnson BT, Patten SB, Turner EH, Ziegelstein RC. Rethinking recommendations for depression screening in primary care. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2012;184(4):413-418.

Important Links

Lady Davis Institute

McGill Department of Psychiatry

Dr. Thombs' publications indexed on PubMed