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Staff Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

Researcher on the rise: Gagan Fervaha

Three years ago, Dr.Gary Remington, CAMH’s lead for subspecialty clinics in the Schizophrenia Program, got a surprise visit from a young man named Gagan Fervaha.

“He just showed up on my doorstep one day, I didn’t know him from Adam. He came and asked if he could work with me. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.”

He would not regret the decision to take Gagan on.

Gagan Fervaha

Three years after that initial meeting, Gagan has become one of CAMH’s rising stars in research. He’s a PhD student at the University of Toronto doing research under Dr. Remington. Gagan completed a bachelor’s degree at McMaster University -- a double major in biology and psychology focusing on neuroscience. Then he decided to come to CAMH and do some research.

“It was through volunteering in labs and getting exposed to different research projects, working with different investigators that I realized I really liked the research aspect of it,” says Gagan. “When I started off in undergrad I worked on various different projects -- healthy people with various traits, depressed people during their menopause period.”

He developed an “underlying fascination” in research work around schizophrenia. “I think schizophrenia is probably the most interesting and complex disorder of our time. The fact that it strikes so early, is so debilitating and sometimes folks are not even aware of that, is really interesting.”

One of Gagan’s most recent accomplishments was being published in JAMA Psychiatry for his research on the effect of motivation on cognitive measures in people with schizophrenia.

“This is a man who comes to me with ideas, he doesn’t wait for ideas,” says Dr. Remington. “The JAMA Psychiatry article is a good example of that. He drove that project right from the get go. It’s an idea that’s not entirely new but he’s obviously set it in a unique enough way that one of the most important publications in psychiatry would publish it and it has profound implications. This will impact the field and how it impacts psychological testing going forward.”

Last year, Gagan played a lead research role in at least 10 published studies. He’s also a recipient of a 2013 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship for his work in the mental health field. And he continues to hold a passion for the work he’s doing at CAMH.

“I enjoy doing this really multifaceted stuff and the people here, for example my advisor Gary, is open to this type of research,” says Gagan. “Gary is a great mentor in the way that he also tackles problems from an array of methods: psychological, neurobiology, treatment, stuff like this, so the opportunity to work on so many questions simultaneously is pretty unique.”

Dr. Tony George is the Chief of Schizophrenia at CAMH. “Gagan is an outstanding graduate student who exemplifies the utmost in excellence that we want to cultivate here at CAMH and the U of T. His many early accomplishments are a testimony to his potential to be a leading scientist in the field of schizophrenia research, and also is indicative of the excellence in mentoring he receives from Dr. Remington. We expect great things from him in the future."

The satisfaction that Gagan gets from doing schizophrenia research comes not only from exploration but also from what it means for people with the illness. “I think if you put something out there that affects how somebody is treated, how their care is managed or how someone is understood, I think any of those factors is a check mark that would make it all worthwhile. That’s why I like this multifaceted approach of looking at these things, the hopes that bringing these together might make it stick.”

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