Hamilton

Centre of Excellence on chronic pain launched at McMaster University

Almost a year after Veterans Affairs Canada announced it was providing more than $20 million in funding over five years for the Centre of Excellence on Chronic Pain, the national research institute has now been launched at McMaster University.

‘We can feel hope again,’ says veteran, advocate for veterans’ issues and volunteer with the centre

Before becoming the President, CEO, and Medical Director of the Chronic Pain Centre of Excellence for Canadian Veterans, Dr. Ramesh Zacharias had been working with the Department of National Defence since 1994 and treating chronic pain at the Michael G. DeGroote Pain Clinic since 2012. (Chronic Pain Centre of Excellence for Canadian Veterans)

Almost a year after Veterans Affairs Canada announced it was providing more than $20 million in funding over five years for the Centre of Excellence on chronic pain, the national research institute has now been launched at McMaster University.

The Centre of Excellence, an institution that works with veterans and their families, will target the more than 40 per cent of Canadian veterans suffering from chronic pain.

It will focus on pain management research and evidence-based therapies that address veterans' complex chronic pain challenges and needs.

"As veterans, we believe that no one should be left behind," said Derek Speirs, a veteran, advocate for veterans' issues and volunteer with the Centre of Excellence.

"Chronic pain is a vicious cycle where you feel hopeless, broken, and isolated. By getting involved with the Centre of Excellence, veterans can reconnect with each other and break that cycle, and help our brothers and sisters in pain. We can feel hope again."

Derek Speirs, veteran, is an advocate for veterans’ issues and volunteers with the Centre of Excellence. (Chronic Pain Centre of Excellence for Canadian Veterans)

According to Veterans Affairs Canada's 2016 Life After Service survey, 41 per cent of veterans reported living with chronic pain, which is close to double the 22 per cent reported by comparable Canadians.

President and CEO Dr. Ramesh Zacharias said veterans are at the heart of everything they do at the centre — from setting the research agenda, to designing pain management therapies, to working with pain clinics and other care providers so that veterans across the country can access care closer to home. 

"With veterans among our executive leadership, on our Board of Directors, and involved in our research through our nation-wide Veterans Advisory Groups, the Centre of Excellence is truly by and for veterans," Zacharias said.

"We can finally serve those who served."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the centre's launch as he addressed Canadians on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Minister of Labour and Member of Parliament for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas Filomena Tassi​​​​​ said McMaster University is one of Canada's leaders in medical research and the government is proud to be working with McMaster to launch the centre.

"Canadian veterans who are struggling with chronic pain will be well-served by its world-class facilities for years to come," Tassi said. 

"The Centre of Excellence is another example of how the Hamilton community steps up for veterans, and for Canada, when and where it is needed most."

While the mandate of the Centre of Excellence focuses on veterans, its research-based learnings may ultimately help both veterans and civilians alike, and improve the understanding and care of chronic pain for all Canadians.

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