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, Research Associate with the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use, former Addiction Nursing Fellow and Associate Director of the BC Centre on Substance Use Addiction Nursing Fellowship, 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. Her contributions to knowledge translation include numerous media citations, including opinion editorials in The Globe and Mail, Maclean's, Vancouver Sun, and the Times Colonist. 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 was Secretary of the GlobalMedic West Coast Chapter, which provides emergency response services to international disaster zones.