Okanagan (Kelowna, BC)
BA (Psychology), University of Winnipeg
Bachelor of Education, University of Winnipeg
MS (Psychology), Chicago Medical School/Rosalind Franklin University
PhD (Clinical Psychology), Chicago Medical School/Rosalind Franklin University
“What better place to study an issue like the therapeutic uses of medicinal plants than in Kelowna, Canada, where tolerance and freedom are valued and celebrated?”
Shifting attitudes around cannabis allow Dr. Zach Walsh and his team to contribute to a scientific explosion that explores therapeutic uses of medicinal plants
SOMETIMES SCIENCE leads to discoveries that change society. Sometimes societal changes open the door for scientific advancement.
Zach Walsh, Associate Professor of Psychology, studies medicinal cannabis use. He says we are at an historic turning point in the public perception and use of medicinal plants, and our understanding of how to use them to help people suffering from a variety of issues.
“We are at an extraordinary intersection of a social-change movement and scientific explosion that will directly affect the lives of people around the globe,” he says. “Canada and British Columbia are leading the way in the acceptance of using cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Canada was among the first countries in the world to have a medical cannabis program.”
CONNECTING TO THE COMMUNITY
Dr. Walsh, who is a registered clinical psychologist and co-director of the Centre for the Advancement of Psychological Science and the Law at UBC’s Okanagan campus, balances his work as a clinical psychologist with his active research program.
“Researching the medicinal use of cannabis allows for a mix of applied and theoretical perspectives, and gives people in the community answers to pressing issues. The place where community engagement and high-quality science mix is a rewarding place to be as a researcher and an educator.”
SUPPORTING STUDENT OPPORTUNITIES
Since joining UBC Okanagan in 2009, Walsh has supervised students through the Irving K. Barber School Undergraduate Research Award program, which gives undergraduate students the opportunity to pursue innovative and original research.
He also believes in the importance of students working in the community to see the “big picture science” and experience one-on-one contact with practitioners and patient. Students see how research directly affects the lives of people who rely on plant-based medicines.
Walsh’s students have visited local seniors groups to discuss the benefits of medicinal cannabis for ailments such as arthritis, and have presented work at international conferences and to the House of Commons in Ottawa.
“There is so much we don’t know about the use of medicinal plants,” he says. “Refining medicines derived from cannabis and other plants will have a dramatic effect on the health of Canadians and people worldwide. How do we make the best use of these plants and combine them with other therapies to create better outcomes for people who are suffering?”
Walsh believes British Columbia and UBC Okanagan are perfect places to conduct this type of research. “Our campus is small enough that undergraduates can work closely with faculty and senior researchers, and be involved in high-level research at one of the top research universities in the world.
“And, what better place to study an issue like this than in Kelowna, Canada, where tolerance and freedom are valued and celebrated?”
—by Deanna Roberts