Pauline Voon

Study program:
Population and Public Health
Current affiliation:
University of British Columbia

Pauline Voon (population and public health, University of British Columbia) is exploring how the link between pain management and addiction may affect risky drug use behaviours, health outcomes, and clinical practices and policies.

Doctoral research

Pain Among People Who Use Illicit Drugs: Implications for Health, HIV Risk Behaviours, and Clinical Care

Chronic pain is a mounting public health concern that has been paralleled by a distinct rise in prescription opioid misuse. Individuals with a history of substance use have particularly high rates of undertreated pain and high-risk opioid use. These individuals often avoid health care or self-discharge from health care against medical advice because of perceived stigma and undertreated pain. Instead, they may opt to self-manage their pain in ways that pose high risk for injury, illness and death.           

Pauline’s research aims to fill the current void in research, clinical care, and health policy by exploring the role that chronic pain, clinical practices, and health policies may play in driving risky drug use behaviours and health outcomes among people who use illicit drugs. This work is conducted with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)- and US National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Vancouver Injection Drugs Users Study, one of the world’s longest-running cohorts of people who use illicit drugs.


Pauline Voon is a registered nurse, a research associate with the Urban Health Research Initiative of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, an addiction nursing fellow with the St. Paul’s Hospital Fellowship in Addiction Medicine, and a doctoral student in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia, where she is a Trudeau and Vanier scholar. Her research and nursing practice in hospital, community, and global health settings has focused on health promotion among vulnerable populations with complex health issues such as HIV/AIDS, addiction, and chronic pain.

Pauline has published numerous first-author articles in leading international journals (e.g., PAIN, Journal of Pain, Drug and Alcohol Review). She was the lead writer for the Vancouver Coastal Health/Providence Health Guideline for the Clinical Management of Opioid Addiction and the policy report Together, we can do this: Strategies to address British Columbia’s prescription opioid crisis. Pauline serves on the American Pain Society’s Clinical Guidelines and Resources Committee and Early Career Advisory Group, and has peer-reviewed for top-tier journals such as CMAJ, Drug and Alcohol Dependence, and International Journal of Drug Policy. Her contributions to knowledge translation include numerous media citations, including opinion editorials in The Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun, and the Times Colonist.

Pauline has received over 25 awards, including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Vanier and master’s award, the Nursing Hero Award from Hospital News, the Young Alumni Award from the UBC School of Nursing, and other prestigious awards from the Canadian Nurses Foundation, the American Pain Society, UBC’s Faculty of Medicine, and the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation.

Pauline minored in English during her undergraduate studies and studied technical communication at Simon Fraser University. As a medical writer, she has helped raise over $16 million to support addiction research and training. Pauline is also passionate about global health and international development. She was a HIV/AIDS health programmer in Ethiopia with the Ethiopian Nurses Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, and CIDA; was a HIV/AIDS peer educator and English teacher in Guyana, South America; and is the current secretary of the GlobalMedic West Coast Chapter, which provides emergency response services to international disaster zones. 

  • March 20, 2018
    The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation announces its 2018 matchings Montréal, Quebec, 20 March 2018 – The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation is proud to match its 2018 mentors with its 2016 scholars to support them both professionally and personally. By sharing and actively listening, mentors will find another way to put their expertise to good use.
  • July 5, 2016