July 10, 2023

UCalgary psychologist Dr. Keith Dobson named to the Order of Canada

Dobson was recognized for his work in the field of depression and anxiety, and mental health advocacy
Headshot of Keith Dobson

A world-renowned University of Calgary psychologist has been appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada for his expertise in depression and anxiety and for his advocacy of mental health and wellness in Canada and abroad.

Dr. Keith Dobson, PhD, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology, was one of 85 new appointments to the Order of Canada, which honours Canadians who have made extraordinary contributions to the nation.

For Dobson, the importance of his work has always been the primary motivating factor. He says it’s critical that people have optimal health, and there is no health without mental health.

“I’ve always just done my work, and if rewards or recognition comes that’s great, but it’s like a big cherry on top of a large bowl of ice cream, and I’m happy with the ice cream,” he says. “It’s a great honour to be recognized for the work I’ve done over the decades.”

Dobson has been researching the psycho-social risk factors for depression and using those to develop evidence-based treatments. He says the field has now reached a point where strong arguments can be made for psycho-social therapies being as effective as pharmaceutical or other evidence-based therapies, both in the short-term and even more in the long-term.

“We’re at a great stage in the development of psychological therapies for depression,” he says.

Dobson has done this work both nationally and internationally, having received honorary status from organizations around the world as well as other awards, including fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada.

In recent years he has worked with the Mental Health Commission of Canada, where he has been looking at stigma and developing evidence-based models and treatments for reducing stigma in a wide variety of settings.

At UCalgary, among other roles, he was the first director of the Clinical Psychology training program, sat as Head of the Department of Psychology, served as chair of the Eyes High Strategy Steering Committee, and has received the Order of the University of Calgary.

Developing the clinical psychology training program was a career highlight for Dobson. It took several years to get it going, but by the end of his directorship the program had been nationally accredited by the Canadian Psychological Association. The program has now been operating for over three decades and has produced dozens of clinical psychologists who work in Alberta, Canada, and globally.

“Seeing the accomplishments of the program’s students and the excellent work that they do is certainly one of the highlights,” says Dobson.

Working in the field for over 40 years, Dobson has been able to see the shifts in both treatments and attitudes towards depression and mental health.

Developing evidence-based treatments has encouraged people to identify and assess their mental health and then step forward to receive treatment should they need it.

“There’s a nice synergy between the work being done in the areas of treatment and stigma,” explains Dobson.

Also joining Dobson as 2023 Order of Canada appointees are fellow UCalgary faculty members Dr. Nigel Shrive, Professor Emeritus in the Schulich School of Engineering, and Dr. Samuel Weiss, Professor in the Cumming School of Medicine.

“I think that the fact that there are three appointees to the Order of Canada reflects is the fact that UCalgary has become one of the leading research universities in Canada and is having a major global impact,” says Dobson.

“I know the three of us have worked in our respective fields for decades and each has made major contributions.”