By Olivia Fava, Contributor

Two of McMaster’s professors, Chandrima Chakraborty and  James MacKillop, have recently been named to the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

Founded in 2014 and based in Ottawa, the College of New Scholars aims to gather the “emerging generation of Canadian intellectual leadership” from a broad range of disciplines. Recipients of the College’s title must have demonstrated exceptional achievement in the early stages of their career. By pooling together award recipients, irrespective of their disciplines, their goal is to encourage a dialogue between intellectuals with diverse perspectives, and hopefully inspire new insights. 

The College acknowledges five aspects of the current academic landscape that inform their mandate: the increasing use of new media in research communication; the emergence of interdisciplinary research; the majority of Canadian professors being recently hired; greater female representation in academia; and greater First Nations and visible minority representation in academia.

A clinical psychologist by training, MacKillop’s award-winning research focuses on addiction — the factors causing it, how it sustains itself and how it can be treated. He is currently the director of McMaster’s Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research, and co-director of the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research. He studies both cannabis addiction and the potential risks of prescribing cannabis medically. He is a member of the department of psychology, neuroscience and behaviour. MacKillop was not available for comment.

Chakraborty, on the other hand, is part of the department of English & cultural studies. In the past, her work has focused on the relationship between religion, masculinity and nationalism in India, with an analysis of media and literature. Currently, she is focused on the 1985 Air India bombings and the post-9/11 targeting of South Asian populations.

Chakraborty was nominated by McMaster to become a member of the College. According to her, the nomination was formally initiated by the previous president, Patrick Deane. She considers the nomination not only personally significant to her, but also significant in its recognition of the value of research that engages the community.

“Much of my work straddles a number of different fields. History, memory studies, trauma studies, nationalism, masculinity … For me, this nomination is a recognition of that kind of work that crosses those kinds of disciplinary boundaries. I also think this recognition is important because my work is very much situated in the community,” she said. 

Specifically, Chakraborty referenced her current work on the Air India bombings, through which she has interviewed families of victims and collecting photographs. She has been learning from the community and recognizing them, in her own words, as “carriers of knowledge”. She works as a mediator to bring a seldom-recognized tragedy into the realm of public consciousness.

Chakraborty’s efforts have resulted in the first-ever public archive on the Air India tragedy. She emphasizes that this project is not simply about researchers writing about the tragedy but also about families sharing their stories on their own terms. The archive also engages questions of race, Canadian citizenship and public mourning.

“Why is it that if 329 people were on that plane, and about 280 of them were Canadian citizens or permanent residents, why do Canadians of [student] age, for instance, not know about this tragedy? How do certain griefs become part of the public realm and part of the national consciousness whereas certain other kinds are seen as local? … Is it ignorance, is it apathy, is it racism, what is it?” she asked. 

When asked what she would attribute her personal success in terms of this recognition, Chakraborty named her childhood experiences as a child of refugees as well as her experiences as an immigrant in Canada.

“I might be an English literature prof, but I don’t speak like white Canadians — accent and gender and race and all of those things. You learn to work harder than others … you always feel like ‘I really have to prove myself, because nothing is given to me,” said Chakraborty.

She also expressed gratitude to her teachers and family, her colleagues at McMaster for their support and the students who have expressed interest in her work.

The College of New Scholars summarizes its membership criteria as “excellence.” Congratulations to these two researchers for demonstrating the excellence of the McMaster community in a range of disciplines on the federal level.

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By: Jenna Tziatis, Marketing Assistant, McMaster University Continuing Education

In today’s tough job market a degree alone may not be enough to get you the job or promotion that you’re looking for.  Employer expectations are higher and are expecting more than the knowledge that comes with a degree. They are also scrutinizing candidates based on their enhanced skill-sets and experience to ensure they are hiring someone who will fit and integrate into their business and culture with the least disruption.

Savvy students are realizing this trend and responding by upskilling themselves to ensure that they stand out in the employment crowd and that their resume rises to the top of the pile.  If you’re thinking about getting ahead, McMaster Continuing Education offers a variety of learning options from diplomas and certificates to micro learning options. Whether your focus is in the field of business, health or professional development, there are many to choose from:

To make it easier for Mac students, McMaster Continuing Education offers a faster route to get you ahead with Degree + Diploma.  This opportunity allows you to earn a diploma or certificate while you work toward your degree.  You can use your elective credits in your current program of study toward a diploma or certificate with Continuing Education, allowing you to gain your qualifications faster. This opportunity is gaining popularity among Mac students and can be easily set up by contacting your Academic Advisor.    

If you’re not ready to jump straight into getting a diploma or certificate you can always try one of McMaster Continuing Education professional development courses or attend our upcoming free Business Entrepreneur Series micro learning session that is running in spring.  It’s a great way to gain valuable and recognized skills in a condensed learning format.  To attend this series you can sign up at mcmastercce.ca/events/free-business-entrepreneurship-series

Regardless of what you decide, by recognizing the demands of today’s job market and being proactive to acquire the skills that businesses are looking for will make you more visible and appealing to employers.  Continuing Education will give you that competitive edge to get ahead and land that job you’re looking for.

To learn more about these valuable learning options visit www.mcmastercce.ca

 

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Canada is currently plagued by an opioid crisis. Opioids such as fentanyl are drugs that are commonly used to relieve pain. These drugs, however, can be extremely addictive and their misuse has led to thousands of overdoses and deaths.

In 2017, 88 Hamilton residents died from opioid overdoses. So far into this year, Hamilton Paramedic Services has already responded to 161 incidents of suspected opioid overdoses. In comparison to other cities within the province, Hamilton has the highest opioid-related death rate.

While there is no publicly available data on the demographics of opioid use in Hamilton, in general, young adults aged 18 to 25 are the most vulnerable to opioid misuse. As the rate of opioid misuse increases annually, it is imperative that students are aware of the availability of naloxone.

Naloxone is a fast-acting drug that temporarily reverses the effects of opioid overdoses until medical emergency services can arrive. As of March 2019, Public Health and the Naloxone Expansion Sites in Hamilton have distributed 2496 doses of naloxone, with 285 people reported as being revived by the drug.  

McMaster University’s student-led Emergency First Response Team and McMaster University security officers carry and are trained to use naloxone nasal kits in case of emergency situations. While Mac’s security officers only recently began to carry the kits, EFRT responders have been carrying them since August 2017.

Fortunately, EFRT has not had to use any of their kits since they began carrying them. While this may imply that opioid-related overdoses have not occurred on campus, this does not guarantee that students are not at risk at opioid misuse.

As EFRT responders and McMaster security cannot always be available to respond to students’ needs off-campus, students should be more aware of their ability to carry and be trained to use naloxone kits.

While the Student Wellness Centre does not carry the free naloxone kit, the McMaster University Centre Pharmasave located within the McMaster University Student Centre does, in addition to the Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies located near campus. To obtain a kit, all students must do is show their Ontario health card.

The fact that this life-saving drug is so readily available to students on and near campus is amazing. It is disappointing then that the university hasn’t done a sufficient job in advertising this information to students.

Students should be given naloxone kits and mandatory opioid information and response training at the beginning of the academic term. At the very least, this information can be distributed during Welcome Week along with other orientation events.

The opioid crisis is one that affects us all, especially here in Hamilton. McMaster University should help fight this crisis by ensuring that their students are equipped with the knowledge to recognize an opioid overdose and have the necessary tools to help reverse them.

 

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Shloka Jetha is a woman who has always been on the move. After growing up in seven countries, the 23-year old has finally settled in Toronto and is pursuing her dream of working with at-risk youth. Part of what appealed to her about the new Professional Addiction Studies program at McMaster Continuing Education is that it’s online, which means she can set her own schedule and study on-the-go when she’s away from home.

But of course the biggest draw is the way Jetha feels the program will complement and expand upon what she learned in her McMaster degree in sociology, as well as what she is currently learning in a Child and Youth Care program at another school. With the goal of someday working in a clinical setting like the Sick Kids Centre for Brain and Mental Health, Jetha believes the more practical information she has about addiction and mental health, the better.

“I’m learning a lot in my current Child and Youth program,” Jetha enthuses, “but for me there is a bit of a knowledge gap that the McMaster Professional Addiction Studies program will help to close. It’s an incredibly complex field, every situation is new, and you need to be able read between the lines and understand the difference between what a troubled kid is saying and what’s actually going on in their life.”

Jetha believes that having the rich background knowledge the Professional Addiction Studies program will provide, and being able to link that information to her work in the field, will help her excel faster. Most importantly, she feels it will make her better and more effective at helping and healing kids in crisis.

“I’m specifically looking forward to gaining more knowledge about pharmacology, but also about other things as it’s difficult to learn on the job,” Jetha says. “I can learn a tremendous amount from the kids I work with, and that’s invaluable experience, but coming to them with a deeper knowledge base will allow me to talk with them about drugs and alcohol in a way I otherwise couldn’t.”

Jetha has been fortunate not to be personally touched by addiction, but has lost friends and people in her community from overdose. She is also familiar with the impact of this complex issue through the volunteer work she has done.

Even though this is an incredibly demanding career path, it’s one Jetha is proud and honoured to walk. She feels the good outweighs the bad and is determined to continue learning and helping as much as she can. The Professional Addiction Studies program at McMaster Continuing Education is uniquely designed to help her achieve that goal.

Applications for Spring term are open until April 29, 2019. Learn more at mcmastercce.ca/addiction-studies-program

 

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By: Lauren Olsen

Last January, McMaster University’s president Patrick Deane took a stand and banned all forms of smoking on school grounds, making McMaster Ontario's first 100 per cent tobacco and smoke free campus. This included banning the on-campus use of cigarettes, cigars, hookah, pot and most importantly, the ever-popular vape pens.

The ban on campus was a welcome sight for those opposed to tobacco, however, the ineffectiveness of enforcing this policy rendered the ban as a bland suggestion rather than a legitimate rule.

You can witness this phenomenon simply by walking around campus. You won’t make it far before encountering students vaping in direct violation of the McMaster ‘ban’, with their discretion being non-existent. Students can be found vaping in classrooms, lecture halls, residences and around campus.

Recently, there was an opening of the 180 Smoke Vape Shop in Westdale which will only further support and make accessible the habits of smokers. The store offers everything including e-cigarettes, vape juice, pens and portable vaporizers, and is located just a short walk from McMaster University.  

They are attracting not only smokers who may be trying to quit, but others who lack the proper information about the hazards associated with vaping, and may only be concerned with becoming part of the current trend. They are promoting this product as a commercialized, socially-acceptable activity rather than a helpful addiction quitting strategy for tobacco smokers.

For McMaster students, it’s just a short stroll to a readily-available addiction which is now a booming industry. According to BBC News, the number of vapers has increased rapidly from about seven million in 2011 to 35 million in 2016. The global vaping products market is now estimated to be worth up to $22.6 billion USD.

The rapid growth of the industry is not a victimless development. New products need new users and stores like 180 Smoke Vape Shop will likely be getting their customer base from McMaster.  

Other than perpetuating the ‘look’ and fueling the industry, students are playing with fire and risking addiction. Although e-cigarettes do not contain any tar, carbon monoxide or other chemicals found in tobacco smoke, they still mimic the familiar action of a smoker and can be addictive. What used to be a method to quit is now becoming a method to start, and making smoking acceptable again.

The smoking population who are slowly cutting back their nicotine addiction to quit smoking have made way for the young adults who are peer-pressured by the new “cool” thing to do and, in turn, are becoming dependent on the addictive drug.

Harvard Health Publishing describes the side effects of vaping to include the potential of diabetes, loss of impulse control, impairment of brain development and elevated heart rate and blood pressure. Thus, the antidote is quickly becoming the poison.

I am not advocating that McMaster shutdown 180 Smoke Vape Shop, or campaign to influence public policy. Rather, the university should enforce the very rule they promised in early 2018, in order to make McMaster a safer environment and community.

Creating a ban was a novel idea, but not following is more than just lazy enforcement — it is potentially dangerous to student health.

More and more youth will be exposed and persuaded to try vaping, which easily perpetuates an addiction whose lasting health implications are still being determined. Moreover, the campus itself is not an inviting space with smoke billowing from its hallways and paths. It’s time to inhale the future and start enforcing the smoking ban on campus.

 

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Next year, students at McMaster will have the ability to declare a minor in the Social Studies of Mental Health and Addiction.

Created by the Faculty of Social Sciences, the new minor was established due to the growing student demand for courses that explore mental health and wellbeing. Students will be able to take courses that address a wide range of topics, including drug and alcohol addiction, aging, sexual deviance and social psychology.

The new minor aims to provide students with the opportunity to build an understanding of the connections between mental health, addiction and society by examining links between mental health and social factors, including marginalization, deviance, and social determinants of health. Students will also be able to develop an in-depth understanding of mental illness, including methods in which factors including social change and other non-biomedical interventions can be related to mental health and addiction.

Any student in an Honours program, within any faculty, is eligible to declare this minor during convocation. To qualify, students will need to take at least 24 units from a list of courses offered by the Faculty of Social Sciences.

To find out more about the program, check out the Faculty of Social Sciences, department of Health, Aging and Society website.

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Dr. Zena Samaan hopes to tackle the stigmatization surrounding drug addiction with her recent study on opioid addiction in women.

Samaan, a Staff Psychiatrist at St. Joseph’s Healthcare and Assistant Professor at McMaster, noticed an alarming trend when speaking to patients about their mental health challenges. Many patients reported opioid prescriptions. Opioids are painkillers that Dr. Samaan has seen given to women post-childbirth, with back pain or have suffered a trauma like a car accident. Painkillers can be prescribed for many years.

“The striking part was that many of them didn’t realize they were addicted to these medications,” said Dr. Samaan, who looked at opiate users within Canada to find a common thread among their addiction.

In order to gather participants for the study, investigators reached out to community treatment clinics. Participants were then asked to identify the factor that first led them to opiate use.

After interviewing 500 people, Dr. Samaan found that 52 percent of the women were first exposed to opiates in the form of a prescription from a physician. This trend was found to be less prevalent in men, with only 33 percent receiving a prescription for the same exposure.

It was also found that male and female addicts had different life circumstances. For example, women with opioid addictions were more likely to have childcare responsibilities. Many of the women in the study were also found to have received an education but not be working, putting them at risk for financial assistance.

The difference might stem from the fact that women are more likely to reach out for medical assistance than men. Furthermore, social stigmas classifying men as risk takers may contribute to a decreased likelihood for men to receive a prescription for painkillers from physicians.

This finding calls for a need in the development of better treatment programs. Dr. Samaan explained, “We need do better in tailoring treatment to what women need and what men need. The treatment at the moment is ‘one size fits all.’”

Nor is the current treatment protocol exactly a quick fix. In the population used for the study, treatments lasted for an average of three years but can extend beyond that.

“At the moment, when somebody has an addiction to opioids, they cannot just stop it. Withdrawal symptoms can be very dangerous — they can have convulsions, seizures, [or lapse into a] coma. The treatment is to substitute what they have been using with a synthetic opioid such as methadone.”

From there, doses are decreased, the ultimate goal being to wean them off drug dependence. Other medications like opioid antagonists do also exist, however methadone remains the first line of treatment in Ontario.

“Some services may have some counselling, but mostly related to how do we make you stop using the drugs rather than what other needs do they have.” In women, this ties back to challenges posed by child bearing responsibilities as well as increased likelihood of familial struggles. The services do not cater to these types of problems at the moment,” laments Dr. Samaan.

With about half of the patients attending treatment centers also suffering from psychiatric problems, there is a dearth of psychological support in treatment.

“What we are advocating for is to have a more comprehensive treatment service [that melds] addiction treatment with mental health [strategies] and social service treatment,” explained Dr. Samaan. This would involve counseling and the cooperation of child protection agencies and social services.

Another option would be to limit the prescription of painkillers in the first place, the use of which for more than a few days is not recommended.

“The other thing this work is showing us is the stigma associated with opioid addiction. People often think that these are young people going out on the streets trying to get high, but in many of these women it is medically induced rather than because of risk-taking behaviours.”

Photo Credit: McMaster Daily News

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Emma Suschkov
The Silhouette

Dear Favourite TV Show,

I love you.  Truly, I do.  The plot twists, the drama, the jokes, everything that makes you special – I love it all.  Maybe, sometimes, I love you too much.  Those are the times when my mind is consumed by thoughts of seeing you, when, despite an imperative 8:30 a.m. lecture, I stay up ‘til the wee hours telling myself, “Just one more episode.”

Every time I finish an episode, I ache for the next one.  You know this, and yet you take no pity on me.   As if it’s not bad enough that I have to wait a whole week – seven gruelling days, 168 dragging hours, 10,080 minutes that each seem to last a lifetime – to see my beloved characters.

But all of a sudden, you up and decide to go on extended vacation, cutting all ties for months at a time.  Yes, those dreaded mid-season breaks.  Perhaps they have some legitimate purpose, be it ‘writing’ or ‘casting’ or whatever the excuse, but I think that the true purpose of these breaks is just to torment your many admirers!

For most of the working world, a vacation lasts a mere one to two weeks.  Not for you.  Your vacations often last six entire months.

Months of waiting and wanting and wondering; of reading outlandish theories on fan forums online; of scouring the internet until my eyes hurt and my brain has turned to mush for trailers, leaked video clips, set photos, anything to keep me going.   For a while, the pain of withdrawal is acute, all-consuming.  It gradually fades to a slow, dull ache, no longer claiming all of my focus but always present in the back of my mind.

I love you, but these mid-season hiatuses are poisoning your perfection.  Please, please, don’t put me through the pain again … though don’t we both know that even if you do, I’ll be there waiting for you when you return.

Yours as ever,

Impatient Emma

 

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