CIMVHR Forum 2023

CIMVHR Forum 2023 - October 16-18 in Ottawa Gatineau

This year’s Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR) Forum was back in the national capital for the second time, where Forum reached its largest delegation to date with 850 participants and over 250 presentations.

CIMVHR Forum kicked-off the three-day event with the CIMVHR and Family Matters Research Group Roundtable entitled Families of military personnel, Veterans, and public safety personnel are the strength beside the uniform, doing their part to ensure the safety and security of Canada, at home and abroad. Led by Dr. Heidi Cramm, Head of Family Strategy at CIMVHR and Research Lead at the Families Matter Research Group, and Dr. Margaret Campbell, Postdoctoral Fellow at Queen’s University, the event focused on a cross-sector conversation that reviewed the progress in families research partnership activities and discussed priorities for research and programs to support families and enhance their well-being.

During the opening plenary, CIMVHR’s Scientific Directors, Drs. David Pedlar and Stéphanie Bélanger welcomed delegates to the event where they stressed the importance of research collaboration to ensure we avoid duplication and continue to move research forward for our military personnel, Veterans, public safety personnel and families.

CIMVHR Forum is an opportunity to highlight remarkable leaders who demonstrate exceptional knowledge, experience, and world-class research in our field. It inspires new insight, a time for reflection and cross-collaboration, and establishes meaningful connections throughout our growing network.”

Drs. David Pedlar and Stéphanie Bélanger, CIMVHR

The Monday morning plenary of Forum began with remarks from the Deputy Minister of Veteran Affairs Canada, Paul Ledwell. Following these remarks, Professor Nicole Sadler, Head of Policy and Practice at CIMVHR’s Global Affiliate Phoenix Australia, moderated a panel titled We stand on guard: Integrating and advancing Veteran and public safety personnel research and care. Professor Sadler led the group of experts who discussed the evolution and intersections between military, Veteran and public safety personnel mental health research, treatment services, and policies, as well as what they have learned over recent years.

During the Monday afternoon plenary, MGen Marc Bilodeau took the stage to introduce the recipient of the 2022 Sir Frederick Banting Award, Chris M. Edwards from the University of Ottawa, who delivered a keynote presentation on Does a History of Childbirth Impact Musculoskeletal Injury in Female Military Members?

That evening, Forum delegates had the opportunity to hear from MGen Tetiana Ostashchenko, the Surgeon General and Commander of the Medical Forces Command in the Armed Forces Ukraine. The presentation titled Ukrainian Medical Innovations and Challenges Resulting from the War in Ukraine highlighted these issues and how the Ukraine medical services implemented them over the past 18 months of the ongoing Ukrainian-Russian war.

The following day - Tuesday, October 16, Col. Forestier from the Canadian Forces Health Service Group welcomed Dr. Margaret Bourdeaux to the morning plenary where they delivered a keynote presentation on Building Health System Resilience: Is Canada Ready? Dr. Bourdeaux is the Research Director of the Program in Global Public Policy and Social Change, the co-chair of Berkman Klein Center for Policy Practice: Digital Pandemic Response, and an instructor in Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

On the third and final day of Forum, Nathan Svensen, Research Director at Veterans Affairs Canada, introduced the event's final keynote speaker, Dr. Sumitra Muralidhar. Dr Muralidhar is the Director of the Million Veteran Program and the VA-DOE Joint Research Program in the VHA Office of Research and Development in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The presentation was entitled - The Million Veteran Program: Advancing Precision Healthcare at the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

Over the three days of CIMVHR Forum, networking opportunities, recognition for research excellence, scholarship and award presentations, and workshops occurred. Below are the highlights from these activities.

In 2016, CIMVHR established a fellowship initiative to recognize leading experts who demonstrate exceptional research advancements in the military, Veteran, and family health and well-being field. This year, CIMVHR appointed two new fellows Dr. Dave Blackburn and Dr. Anthony Nazarov for their outstanding contributions to military, Veteran, and family health research in Canada and leadership within the field.

Dave Blackburn, PhD
2023 Fellow

Dean, Université du Québec en Outaouais



Anthony Nazarov,PhD, PMP
2023 Fellow

Associate Scientific Director, MacDonald Franklin OSI Research Centre 
Associate Scientist, Lawson Health Research Institute; Research Scientist and Adjunct Research Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Western University; and Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University



Annually at the conference, CIMVHR hosts various events to engage emerging researchers and students, including the announcement of the recipients of CIMVHR’s scholarships and awards.

This year the 2023 recipients are:

The Dr. Mark Zamorski Award

Awarded to a post-graduate student to enhance their specialization in epidemiological and mental health problems in military personnel, Veterans, and/or their families.

2023 recipient:
Blake Boehme , MSc, University of Regina, for the research Personalized Psychological Networks in Canadian Forces Veterans with PTSD: A Proof of Concept Study

Royal Canadian Legion Masters Scholarship in Veteran Health Research

An annual entrance scholarship awarded to a master’s level student specializing in research related to Veterans and their families.

2023 recipient:
Kathryn Reeves, BA (Hons), Mount Saint Vincent University, for the research The Intergenerational Impacts of Military Service Related Moral Injury

Welcome Reception
Sunday, October 15th

CIMVHR hosted a welcome reception at Forum, allowing participants to reconnect. This year’s welcome reception was held at the Palais des congrès in Salle Deschênes. CIMVHR leadership Dr. David Pedlar, Dr. Stéphanie Bélanger, Dr. Nicholas Held and Paul Hook were in attendance greeting guests as they arrived to welcome them to CIMVHR Forum 2023.

CIMVHR SPEC Networking Event
Monday, October 16th

The Student and Post-doctoral Engagement Committee's (SPEC) annual networking social was held on the first evening of Forum, at Canadian Museum of History in the stunning Riverview Salon overlooking downtown Ottawa. This event allows emerging researchers to network and connect with other trainees and post-docs attending the conference. CIMVHR's Managing Director Paul Hook delivered welcome remarks, and SPEC Co-Chairs Ashley Williams and Shannon Hill spoke on behalf of the SPEC Members. The event was sponsored by the Royal Canadian Legion. Bruce Julian, Dominion President, Legion’s Dominion Command, offered encouraging words to students and mentors in attendance.

Thank you to the Royal Canadian Legion for sponsoring the event.

Networking Reception
Tuesday, October 17th

CIMVHR Forum attendees took a break from the scientific and academic rigours of Forum and enjoyed an evening of networking and entertainment at a local sugar shack – Le Domaine de L’Ange Gardien.  Guests loved experiencing a true Québecois sugar shack, featuring live entertainment, maple taffy demonstrations, a photobooth, s’more station, and a bonfire.

Thank you to Bayshore Health Care for sponsoring the event.

Tuesday, October 17th

Integrating sex, gender and diversity factors into military health research

Sex and gender are important determinants of health and well-being. Sex and gender differences have historically often been overlooked in military health research design, study implementation and scientific reporting, as well as in health promotion communication. This has limited the generalizability of research findings and applicability to prevention and clinical practice. Many now recognize the imperative to integrate gender and diversity into military health and wellness research. This workshop will review:

  • terminology relating to sex, gender and diversity variables;
  • rationale for and implications of including sex, gender and diversity in military and veteran research;
  • existing policy and guidelines in this area; and,
  • guidance on methodology to reduce gender and diversity bias in military health and social science research

“Same Stuff, Different Uniform” -- Mapping out Military and Public Safety Personnel culture and identity development, international contexts and why it is essential in research, policy and service design

Understanding service culture is essential for designing research, treatment, services and policy for military and public safety personnel, to effectively support them and their families. There is often a ‘lumping’ of service personnel when considering research, practice and policy, with the assumption that interventions that work with one group will work for another. However, what makes up the domains of “service culture” and how that impacts identity, looks different within services (e.g. different military roles), between services (e.g. paramedics and police), within countries (e.g. between provinces in Canada or states in Australia or USA) and in different countries around the globe. This workshop aims to discuss first of all “why” cultural awareness is important for researchers, policy makers and health professionals to effectively work with these populations. Secondly, we will discuss the differences and similarities between service contexts, to inform the development of cultural awareness programs.

Building Resilience in the Military-to-Civilian Transition

The military-to-civilian transition (MCT) is a significant event in the lives of military members, and although most members adjust well following the MCT process, research suggests that some military members may experience significant challenges. The focus of this workshop is on using the research collected on MCT experiences to build resilience in members about to undergo the MCT process. The workshop will include a review of literature on resilience among military populations, and a discussion of how resilience may be conceptualized and measured among transitioning members specifically, and at what points in the process, with examples provided from the Canadian MCT process and existing data collection practices (e.g., the Transition Support and Well-being Survey). Group discussions in the workshop will explore the concept of resilience in the MCT process in other contexts and identify best practices and potential new initiatives to support resilience among transitioning members.

Pain Reprocessing Therapy as a Group Treatment

Pain Reprocessing Therapy (PRT) is a ground-breaking set of psychological techniques designed to retrain the brain to interpret and respond to signals from the body more accurately and effectively, thereby breaking the cycle of chronic pain (see Ashar, Gordon, Schubiner, et al., JAMA Psychiatry, 2021). Participants in this workshop will learn about the current research on PRT and gain experience with its five main components:

  1. education about the brain origins and reversibility of pain,
  2. gathering and reinforcing personalized evidence for the brain origins and reversibility of pain,
  3. attending to and appraising pain sensations through a lens of safety,
  4. addressing other emotional threats, and
  5. gravitating to positive feelings and sensations.

Modifications to standard PRT for addressing non-pain chronic conditions and for offering the treatment in a group format will also be covered.

Wednesday, October 18th

Health and Climate Change: Civil-Military Challenges and Opportunities

Most international organizations state that climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity. From a healthcare perspective, climate change affects multiple social and environmental determinants of population health such as changes in the distribution of infectious diseases, potable water and food availability and has placed additional strain on health and healthcare systems globally. From a military perspective, climate change has contributed to an increase in within-country stability, between-state military competition, and an increase in the number of humanitarian requests for natural disaster response. As climate change accelerates, Canadian health agencies at all levels, including DND, will need to identify and develop specific capabilities to ensure readiness to respond to future events, both domestically and internationally.

Considerations for the assessment, treatment and research of military/Veteran PTSD – an updated primer

The proposed workshop will review guidelines with case examples on best practice and special considerations for assessment, treatment and research of military/Veteran PTSD. Psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy and collaborative care will be highlighted with break out discussions. Assessment topics will include the importance of identifying an index trauma, connecting assessment of symptomatology to this trauma, considerations when using self-report questionnaires in treatment, and highlight the importance of outcome monitoring. Treatment discussion will focus on integrating adjuvants to standard psychopharmacology (i.e., ketamine and rTMS), pharmacogenetics, and exploring factors underlying the suggestion that military/Veteran PTSD is less responsive to treatment. To promote research, the importance of continuing to emphasize evidence-based treatments while exploring ways to adapt these treatments will be reviewed, and areas of much needed research will be highlighted. Strategies to engage and educate Veterans in treatment to better inform outcomes and collaborative treatment decision making will be discussed.

So What?! Operationalizing priorities from a Community Health Needs Assessment for Canadian Veterans

For the first time, VAC is completing a Veterans’ Well-being Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). Collecting new and building on existing data, the CHNA will engage with Canadian Veterans to systematically identify their health and well-being strengths and needs and communicate results in an accessible way. Of particular interest, are the unique needs of equity-deserving Veteran groups including women, 2SLGBTQI+, Indigenous, Black, and racialized Veterans and Veterans with disabilities. Results can be used to inform decision-makers in program, policy, and research, and to support equitable allocation of resources for all Veterans. Building on the CHNA engagement approach, participants in this workshop will transform knowledge into action by brainstorming meaningful ways to share CHNA results with Veterans/stakeholders; and identify tangible and impactful strategies to address highlighted priorities. Input from this workshop will contribute to planning an implementation strategy, highlighting the health strengths and needs of Canadian Veterans and recommendations for action.

Charting Your Path Forward: A Mentoring Event for Students and Postdoctoral Fellows

In response to the overwhelming feedback and demand after last year’s event, the Student and Postdoctoral Engagement Committee are thrilled to host this mentoring event. This event will provide students and postdoctoral fellows with formal mentoring and networking opportunities where they will hear from and engage with seasoned researchers in the fields of military, Veteran, public safety personnel, and family health. The event will include two components, first starting with a World Café in which participants and researchers will engage in multiple smaller collaborative discussions covering relevant questions and topics related to developing a high-impact research career. The second component will include a panel discussion of what these researchers wished they knew as students and postdoctoral fellows, what they know now regarding their careers and research trajectories, and what they are currently working on to make meaningful contributions and advancements in their fields.


Each year at CIMVHR Forum, several researchers are recognized for their significant contributions. This year’s award recipients include:

Banting Award

Awarded annually for military health research and sponsored by the True Patriot Love Foundation. The Banting Award honours Major Sir Frederick Banting – a world renowned physician, Nobel Prize winner and researcher who discovered insulin. The award recognizes high quality Canadian research that addresses military health issues.

2023 recipient:
Eric Robitaille, PhD, Canadian Forces Health Services, for the research The effectiveness of standardized physical training programs to reduce musculoskeletal injuries in Canadian Armed Forces combat arms developmental courses



Hans Christian Tingelstad, PhD, Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services, for the research Absolute strength: A key predictor of injury risk in Infantry Developmental Period 1 infantry candidates




Release Point Education Student Award, sponsored by Release Point Education

Release Point Education works to foster the realization of academic excellence by supporting military-connected students through the provision of specialized, relevant, and credible programming. The Release Point Education Student Award was established to continue their support of military-connected students who have a passion for military, Veteran and family research. This award is presented to the best student researcher presentation or poster at CIMVHR Forum 2023.

2023 recipient:

Lauren Roberts, MSc, PhD Student, Queen’s University, for the research Considerations on the application of family theories, models, and frameworks within adult rehabilitation and recovery following acquired injury or illness



Mental Health Research Award, sponsored by Homewood Health

Awarded for the best presentation on improving or innovating clinical mental health practice.

2023 recipient:
Kaitlin Chivers-Wilson, MD, MSc, FRCPC, Alberta Health Services for the research Evaluating the effectiveness of delivering Cognitive Processing Therapy in an intensive format for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder in an Operational Stress Injury context



Family Health Research Award, sponsored by Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services

An award recognizing high quality Canadian research that increases our understanding of military and Veteran family health.

2023 recipient:
Michèle L. Hébert, PhD, OT, University of Alberta, Heroes in Mind, Advocacy and Research Consortium (HiMARC) for the research Building Community Capacity by Designing a Novel Pan-Canadian Military Family-centred Strengthening Programme with Military Families, Service Providers and Decision-makers



Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT) Public Safety Personnel (PSP) Mental Health Research Award, sponsored by Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT)

New to CIMVHR’s Annual Forum, CIPSRT has developed an award dedicated to individuals or research teams that show outstanding progress in advancing PSP mental health research. This award was established to support student researchers presenting on PSP at CIMVHR Forum.

2023 recipient:
Andrea D'Alessandro-Lowe, MSc, PhD Student, McMaster University, Homewood Research Institute, for the research Associations Between Coping, Supports and Moral Injury Symptoms among Canadian Public Safety Personnel



Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health Editors’ Choice Award, sponsored by JMVFH

Awarded to a researcher whose poster presentation at CIMVHR Forum 2023 made an exceptional contribution to military, Veteran, and family health research

2023 recipient:
Kate St. Cyr, MSc, PhD (c), University of Toronto; Lawson Health Research Institute, for the research A retrospective cohort analysis of mental health-related emergency department visits among Veterans and non-Veterans in Ontario, Canada



Student Research Award, sponsored by CIMVHR

Awarded to the best student researcher presentation at CIMVHR Forum 2023.

2023 recipient:
Ashley Williams, PhD, McMaster University, for the research What do civilian healthcare providers need to know to care for Veterans with chronic pain? A qualitative study