The Royal Society of Canada has announced that it is inducting FHS professor Bohdan Nosyk to its College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists in 2023

FHS professor Bohdan Nosyk named to Royal Society of Canada

September 05, 2023

by Sharon Mah 

The Royal Society of Canada announced that it is admitting Faculty of Health Sciences professor Bohdan Nosyk into its College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

The College honours Canadians and permanent residents who have demonstrated a high level of achievement early in their careers, and is one of the most prestigious recognitions for academics in Canada.

Nosyk, who also holds the St. Paul’s Hospital CANFAR Chair in HIV/AIDS Research, is an economist by training whose interests crossed into the realm of healthcare when he took on a role at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, BC. He recounts that he was excited to take on the role from the outset, noting that because a large portion of the government’s budget is allocated to support healthcare delivery, he has the opportunity to provide support to appropriate spending decisions by analyzing potential costs versus benefits for the many different models of health service delivery. “People care a lot about their health and are willing to spend their time and money to preserve it,” he observes. “These are inherently emotional decisions, and it’s very different thinking about population health, compared to making decisions for loved ones. Those nuances make health economics really interesting.”

Nosyk’s work focuses primarily on the prevention and management of two disease areas: HIV/AIDS and substance use disorders. When he started out at St. Paul’s Hospital, his work was oriented to supporting individuals but in recent years, his research has broadened out to address systemic issues challenging populations experiencing these diseases. For example, his interest in HIV continues to grow, even though there are biomedical interventions available that can reduce viral loads to the point where they are undetectable. “We’ve done very well in HIV…but there are still lots of new people getting infected with HIV every year. It’s interesting from a health perspective [and] from a sociological perspective: why do we still have HIV incidence persisting in some parts of the world?” Nosyk points to stigma and structural racism playing a central role. As an economist, his questions are “how can we combat that? How much value would we get if we invested more in tackling structural racism? That’s a really critical question these days.”

By asking the question of how his time could be used to make the biggest public health impact, Nosyk is directing his research and career towards addressing the systemic issues that lie at the heart of many of our province’s biggest health challenges. A quantitative researcher by training, he uses tools such as simulation modeling, and statistical analysis to sort through the large volumes of information that are typical when working on population health questions and concerns. “My interest has always been in generating decisive answers, so I’m drawn to tools that can provide the strongest evidence in support of one strategy or another,” he says. “I still find myself learning, even 20 years into my career, and I think that’s one of the exciting parts of the job.”

Although Nosyk is thrilled to have his work recognized by the Royal Society of Canada, he admitted that it feels bittersweet. He and his team at the Centre for Advancing Health Outcomes (formerly the Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences) have worked for years on finding solutions to the opioid crisis, which is now killing 2,300 people a year in BC alone. “We are seven years into a public health emergency and things are only getting worse, so it’s hard to reflect back on any degree of success. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us.”

While Nosyk is focused on generating evidence that supports health policy development and implementation, for him, it is the people living with HIV, people living with substance use disorders, and frontline workers, doctors, and prescribers who are frequently in his thoughts. “They are central to our mission. Many have been generous with their time in helping my research team understand the context [of their experiences], and help us understand their needs. If we can make some positive impact on their lives and on their work, that’s what I’m really focused on – how to help them as best as we can.”

Nosyk will be officially inducted into the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists at a ceremony in November.