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PhD student Stephanie Lake wins 2017 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Doctoral Scholarship

Jul 05, 2017 |

Doctoral student Stephanie Lake has won a 2017 Pierre Elliott Trudeau doctoral scholarship, the third School of Population and Public Health (SPPH) student to win the award.

Miss Lake’s research is titled ‘Exploring the health and social impacts of cannabis use during an ongoing opioid crisis among people who use illicit drugs in Vancouver, Canada’ and would look into how cannabis legalization might affect people with long-term experience using illicit opioids in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, she said, stemming from American research which found associations between cannabis use and lower rates of opioid dependence and overdose among people suffering from chronic non-cancer pain.

Stephanie Lake

2017 Pierre Elliott Trudeau doctoral scholarship winner Stephanie Lake

Miss Lake said of the three-year scholarship that it was an honour to represent SPPH and the BC Centre on Substance Use to communities across Canada. As part of the $60,000 annual scholarship package, Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation scholars work with a community of scholars who support their professional growth. Miss Lake said she was excited to have the opportunity to connect with such a diverse group of academics.

“It really reminds me, knowing that others…have invested in my research and education, that my work has an importance beyond the advancement of my own career.”
2017 Pierre Elliott Trudeau doctoral scholarship winner Stephanie Lake

Canada is facing a major public health challenge in the opioid crisis, and a major public health question about the potential impacts of cannabis legalization, Miss Lake said. Her project addressed these two public health issues, which affected so many people, and would look at the marriage of both.

While there would be no one solution to the opioid crisis, findings from her research could potentially be used as a harm reduction strategy for this particular population, she said. Her interest in this area of research was sparked when studying supervised injection sites as an undergraduate, the evidence showing their benefits, and the lack of discussion around expanding them.

“It kind of fuelled a passion in me to contribute to at least trying to remove the gap between scientific evidence and policy, especially among people who use illicit drugs. I could see this was a population that was being overlooked because we tend to moralize and stigmatize this issue of drug use.”
2017 Pierre Elliott Trudeau doctoral scholarship winner Stephanie Lake

Miss Lake’s supervisors are SPPH Professor Jane Buxton and Department of Medicine Assistant Professor M-J Milloy. She is the second SPPH student supervised by Dr. Buxton to win a Pierre Elliott Trudeau doctoral scholarship.

“Stephanie is truly deserving of the the Trudeau Scholarship. Her research is timely and will provide much needed insights on responding to the overdose crisis and may influence public policy.”
Professor Jane Buxton

In the future, Miss Lake hopes to contribute to knowledge around the public health impacts of cannabis legalization. As to why public health is important, health is a human right, she said. “Public health is important because it reminds us that everyone is of equal value in terms of your health.”

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