MacKillop will bring ‘innovative approaches to studying addiction’ to McMaster

James MacKillop

Following an international, multi-year search, renowned addictions researcher James MacKillop has been chosen as the inaugural holder of the Peter Boris Chair in Addictions Research at McMaster.


Following an international, multi-year search, renowned addictions researcher James MacKillop has been chosen as the inaugural holder of the Peter Boris Chair in Addictions Research at McMaster.

The appointment was announced Wednesday at an event that also marked the official opening of the Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research at the West 5th campus of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

MacKillop is now the director of the centre and a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, in addition to his new role as an endowed chair holder.

He comes to Hamilton from the University of Georgia, where he was a faculty member of the psychology department and associate director of the Owens Institute for Behavioral Research.

The research, academic and clinical interests of the Peter Boris Chair in Addictions Research are to encompass a broad and comprehensive range of addiction issues, with a particular focus on alcohol addiction.

Funds for the chair are from the Boris family of Hamilton who committed $7.6 million to St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation to establish the research chair and the centre dedicated to addictions research to honour the memory of Peter Boris. The youngest child of Owen and Marta Boris, he lived with alcohol dependence for many years before passing away due to complications of his addiction at age 44.

“We are excited by the enthusiasm, expertise and dedication that MacKillop brings to his new role,” said Les Boris, who attended the announcement with his sister, Jackie Work, and mother Marta Boris on behalf of the family.

“We only wish that these resources had been available to help our brother Peter during his struggle with alcohol addiction. But through this centre, Peter’s name will live on and his legacy, paired with Dr. MacKillop’s research, will help tens of thousands of others who struggle with a similar affliction.”

John Kelton, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences, added: “The advantage of the partnership between McMaster and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton is that the academic research of the Peter Boris Chair in Addictions Research will be quickly ready for use and evaluation in the clinical setting.

“This uniquely integrated centre is an excellent example of new ways to address addictions of all kinds and to support the people who live with them.”

Regarding his appointment, MacKillop said: “My goal is to bring innovative approaches to studying addiction in order to help bridge the gap between the research world and the real world application of our findings.”

MacKillop’s research investigates addiction as a disorder of maladaptive decision-making. He hopes that his studies, which use various methodologies including human laboratory approaches, brain imaging, behavioral genetics, and clinical investigations, will help guide the practice of clinicians by providing them with novel insights and tools that can be adapted to each patient’s unique needs.