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Steven Diamond.
Mental Health + Substance Use

Diamond Foundation’s million dollar gift will tackle addiction


St. Paul’s Foundation is proud to announce the newly-created Steven Diamond Professorship in Addiction Care Innovation at UBC. This position will be made possible thanks to a generous $1 million gift from Vancouver’s Diamond Foundation, matched with an additional $1 million from St. Paul’s Foundation.

Working with the BCCSU and the Department of Medicine at UBC, the Steven Diamond Professorship will develop an innovative research program focused on addiction treatment and recovery as well as an education program to train health care practitioners in leading-edge, evidence-based approaches.

In just the first nine months of 2018, more than 1,100 British Columbians died from opioid-related overdoses: an average of 127 people a month; four people every single day. [1]

No one is immune. The crisis is happening right across Canada and affects people without regard to social status, income, or education. St. Paul’s Hospital happens to sit at the epicentre and provides care to one of the country’s most vulnerable populations.

Using guidelines developed by the BCCSU, the hospital has pioneered a compassionate, low-barrier model for treatment and support. And while this has been an effective, front-line strategy, there’s still much to be done to address the all-too common negative outcomes of untreated addiction.

The Steven Diamond Professorship in Addiction Care Innovation at UBC is uniquely positioned to address this – not just at St. Paul’s, but across BC and beyond.

Dr. Evan Wood, executive director of the BCCSU, explains. “There has been a longstanding need to expand effective, evidence-based recovery services in BC – a need that has become even more urgent in the midst of the overdose crisis.” The Steven Diamond Professorship will expedite the BCCSU’s mandate to help people wherever they are on the spectrum of addiction and recovery.

It is fitting that the Professorship’s objectives reflect the man for whom it is named. Steven Diamond was a talented massage therapist and addictions counselor. He was particularly known for his kindness and willingness to reach out to anyone seeking help for their substance use. The Steven Diamond Professorship will reflect Steven’s own life-long quest to learn, to care for the most marginalized people, and to create lasting positive change.

Dr. Wood believes research and education are the keys to the future of addiction medicine and substance use care.

“We need to ensure that the diagnosis and treatment of addiction are part of the curriculum for graduating medical professionals,” says Dr. Wood. For that to happen, addiction research needs to be its own pillar, entrenched in universities: the Professorship is a very promising step in that direction. “This will help us give the next generation of health care professionals the tools needed to recognize and respond to addiction with treatments that are based on science.”

To achieve this, the successful candidate will focus on leading the research team to discovery and innovation; developing programs to educate professionals, patients, and community members; creating clinical care guidance; and spearheading community outreach initiatives to support long-term recovery.

It’s a broad scope that will advance the study of addiction and recovery through the lens of science. And it offers real hope that we are on the threshold of untangling the complex, inter-woven web of addiction. After all, research has already clearly demonstrated that recovery from substance use disorder is possible. Even those with severe, long-term addiction can find wellness with best-practice recovery programs that are free of stigma and emphasize the individual’s emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing.

Dr. Wood is candid about what’s at stake and how it will benefit all British Columbians. “Research and education will significantly reduce population harms, yield financial savings and, most importantly, improve the lives of individuals, families, and communities affected by addiction.”

The Diamond Foundation is one of BC’s most generous philanthropic organizations supporting everything from the arts, to health care, to education. The Steven Diamond Professorship in Addiction Care Innovation is named in memory of Steven Diamond, who passed away in 2016 at the age of 53. The Professorship will stand as a tribute to Steven’s unwavering compassion; to his empathy in embracing those in pain and working to alleviate their suffering; and to the love he had for his daughters, his family, and his friends. Recruitment for the Professorship has started and the team expects to announce the new clinician-scientist in the spring, 2019.