U of R professor appointed to Order of Canada

A professor at the University of Regina has been appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada for his ongoing research, mentorship, and clinical practice in mental health research and treatment.

Dr. Gordon Asmundson, a psychology professor at the U of R, said he is still shocked by being appointed to the Order of Canada, which is bestowed on people who make extraordinary contributions to the nation.

“I was absolutely surprised; it was completely unexpected,” he said. “I was thrilled; I felt honoured that our work was being recognized. I also had a little bit of ‘hold on a second, is this really happening’ type of response.”

For Dr. Asmundson, some of his biggest contributions are his work on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and health anxiety. His research has led to changes in the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association and used by mental health professionals to diagnose and classify mental disorders as well as how they are assessed and treated.

“We’ve made a variety of discoveries, in particular, a better understanding and being able to intervene with PTSD, whether in people in the community or with people who have served in the military and come home with that condition,” he said. “Also, the interplay with PTSD and chronic pain conditions, as well as other stress presentations that people experience in their daily lives.”

Asmundson received his doctorate in psychology from the University of Manitoba in 1991, later joining the U of R in 2002. Through all that time, his goal has remained the same.

“I spent over the last three decades of my life trying to better understand and explain, develop and refine treatments for different types of mental health conditions that are quite common and the way those affect our abilities to function on a daily basis and also their interaction with chronic health conditions, including chronic pain.”

Those common mental health conditions include anxiety-related disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and health anxiety.

Amundson said he didn’t always have dreams of being a psychologist, as it wasn’t until he was in University that he decided to pursue the career.

“I had different types of goals and aspirations as a child, wanting to play in the NHL, wanting to fly CF-18 jets,” he said. “I grew up wanting to do those things, but when I got into University, I took an introductory psychology course as an elective and had an awesome professor who really sparked my interest in things I can relate to.”

“I was intrigued by the idea that people lived with and experienced a lot of anxiety and fear in particular situations,” he continued. “I had some family members that struggled with things like that and experiences with pain and persistent pain, and the combination of those things just gelled.”

Asmundson said he feels a lot of pride in receiving the accolade, something he shares with those who have helped him throughout his career.

“It’s just a sense of pride we are able, and I say we because the work I do isn’t done in isolation; it’s supported by my family, my institution, my colleagues, my students, and everybody I work with, everybody that provides funding and participates in my work,” he noted. “It’s just an immense pride to be able to serve the country and the people that live in it in a manner that is fitting of this honour.”

Despite being able to add an Officer to the Order to Canada to his list of accolades which includes the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, induction into the Royal Society of Canada, and several awards from psychological associations, he said he’s just getting started.

“It’s really nice to receive these recognitions because it validates what we’re doing is on the right track, but it’s not a career compilation award.”

“I feel like I’m just getting started, and there is a lot more to contribute. It’s an excellent pit stop along the way, but we have to keep going and keep moving forward. I guess it instills a greater sense of responsibility that we need to keep doing high-quality, impactful things to help better the quality of life who are struggling with their mental health.”

Asmundson was one of five Saskatchewan residents who received the Order of Canada in 2023.

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