Colleen Anne Dell Ph.D. was appointed a Centennial Enhancement Chair in One Health and Wellness at the University of Saskatchewan in 2016, with a focus on addiction and mental health. She is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and School of Public Health. She is also a Senior Research Associate with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, Canada’s national non-governmental addictions agency. Dr. Dell is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University and a past Research Associate with the Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre. She is a graduate of the Canine Behaviour Psychology Academy, Extreme K-9 Professional Dog Training, in Illinois, USA (2013) and completed a certificate course at Harcum College in animal assisted therapy & animal assisted activities in 2014. She has over 3,000 hours of experience providing community-based service animal assisted interventions.
Grounded in an empowering and community-based participatory approach, Dr. Dell’s research focuses on wellness, with specific attention to animal assisted interventions and addictions and mental health. She has three St. John Ambulance registered therapy dogs who are involved alongside her and various community and academic partners in studies examining how the human-animal bond, and more specifically animal assisted interventions, can help enrich wellness among individuals and communities. This ranges from addictions treatment facilities through to university and criminal justice institutions. The often unacknowledged welfare of animals is of particular interest to Dr. Dell. She has also trained a service dog with AUDEAMUS for a project involving veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. You can follow her therapy dogs and service dog on Facebook. Dr. Dell has also worked with horses in a research capacity and aims to work with other species in the future.
Prior to her appointment as the Centennial Enhancement Chair in One Health and Wellness, Dr. Dell held a Research Chair in Substance Abuse at the U of S. Funded by the Government of Saskatchewan from 2007-2016, her work concentrated on research, community outreach and training. In this appointment, Dr. Dell secured 4 million in external funding for her community engaged research program as a Principal Investigator and more than double that amount when including her role as a co-applicant and collaborator. In this work she addressed innovative areas in substance abuse, ranging from horse assisted therapy for youth in treatment to knowledge translation efforts addressing the role of identity and stigma in the healing journeys of Indigenous women from problematic substance use. Her work has been successfully translated into over two dozen artistic forms, such as music videos, paintings and fact sheets for community organizations. She also published over 40 peer-reviewed journal articles, with lead authorship on over half, and over a dozen book chapters in this position. She co-edited a Special Edition of the Substance Use & Misuse journal, which included 20 articles representing 12 countries. She also published over 25 technical reports over the 9 year period as the Research Chair in Substance Abuse. You can access the outcomes of her work here: http://www.addictionresearchchair.ca Dr. Dell continues to lead studies in this field, including as a co-Principal Investigator with the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse, Prairie Node.
Dr. Dell’s teaching and student supervision is concentrated in the general area of health and wellness. Her classroom assignments frequently translate into community action, ranging from informing an animal assisted intervention in a federal penitentiary through to a student-driven binge drinking prevention initiative—What’s Your Cap?—on the U of S Campus.
Dr. Dell contributes to a large number of academic and community-based committees, including the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health Mental Health and Addictions Plan Reference Group, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine & University of Regina School of Social Work joint Veterinary Social Work Initiative Committee, and as a Board Member for the Canadian Foundation for Animal Assisted Support Services. She is an organizing member of the U of S One Health Leadership Experience. She is also the founder and co-Chair with Student Health Services of PAWS Your Stress, the therapy dog visiting program on the U of S campus.
In addition to a large number and wide range of academic and community talks and poster presentations, Dr. Dell is a member of the U of S Speakers Bureau, with a talk titled—The Health Benefits of Having a Dog in Your Life.
Underlying Dr. Dell’s work is a belief in bringing different ways of knowing together into one space, with an emphasis on lived experience and Indigenous knowledge. For example, her research work with the Sturgeon Lake First Nation on equine assisted learning hosted a community ceremonial horse dance in each year of a four year project. Her commitment to facilitating the exchange of understanding was recognized in 2010 when she was awarded the YWCA Saskatoon Women of Distinction Award with a colleague from the First Nations University of Canada in the category of Research, Science and Technology. Dr. Dell was appointed as Member (Investiture Recipient) to The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (The Order of St. John) for her humanitarian work in animal assisted interventions. This honour was officially sanctioned by His Excellency, the Governor General of Canada on September 7, 2016. Most recent, in 2018 Dr. Dell was recognized with Dr. Darlene Chalmers as the Prairie Region Nominee for the Correctional Service Canada National Taylor Award for Outstanding Dedication and Volunteer Efforts with therapy dogs at the Regional Psychiatric Centre (SK) and Dumheller prison (AB).
Prior to her arrival in Saskatoon, Dr. Dell was an Associate Professor at Carleton University, Department of Sociology & Anthropology and had also taught classes at the University of Ottawa, Department of Criminology. Before this, Dr. Dell worked extensively at the community and national levels, including with the Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba, Correctional Service Canada and the Senate of Canada.