Dr. Marilou Gagnon, RN, ACRN, LLM, PhD is a Professor at the School of Nursing, Faculty of Human and Social Development at the University of Victoria and Scientist at the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR). She also holds a casual position as Clinical Nurse Specialist in Urban Health at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver where she supports in-hospital harm reduction policy, research, and practice.

Her program of research seeks to address gaps in knowledge that have the potential to inform public debate and policies, while also advancing the rights and the health of marginalized communities, including communities of people who use drugs, people at risk or living with sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBI), and people who are unstably housed or experiencing homelessness. Her program of research focuses on three axes:

  • The first axis concerns structures that create inequities and injustices. Her theoretical and empirical work focuses on the intersections between law, policies, human rights, and health. Areas of interest include: 1) health, housing, and drug-related policies, 2) criminalization of HIV non-disclosure, drug use, and homelessness, and 3) prevention and reduction of socially and structurally mediated harms.
  • The second axis takes an in-depth look at the government (management) of risk, bodies and behaviours. Her approach blends concepts and theories from philosophy, social sciences, health sciences, and ethicolegal studies. She uses this approach to critically analyze topics such as HIV testing policies (e.g., mandatory testing in prisons, routine testing, self-testing, and incentivized testing), public health surveillance (e.g., big data, viral load, community viral load, contact tracing, molecular surveillance, and phylogenetic analysis), and high-impact prevention and treatment (e.g., Treatment as Prevention, contingency management, and technotherapeutics – microchipping of medications to enhance adherence).
  • The third axis examines issues related to the health equity and social justice. More specifically, she is interested in improving access to care, including self-care (e.g., cannabis for symptom management) and grassroots approaches to community care (e.g., overdose prevention sites and tent cities). She is also interested in improving the quality of care by addressing stigma and discrimination in health care and improving nursing education. Finally, she takes a particular interest in social justice issues, including whistleblowing. She is actively developing a program of research, scholarship, and advocacy on whistleblowing in nursing as part of a Nursing Observatory she co-founded. 

In recognition for her advocacy and activism, she has received many awards including the 2015 Outstanding Advocate Award from the Canadian Association of Nurses in HIV/AIDS Care, the 2018 Leadership in Political Action Award from the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, the 2018 Hero Nurse Award, and the 2022 Provost Award for Advocacy and Activism from the University of Victoria.

Passionate about media and communication, she is a prolific op-ed writer, an experienced commentator, and amateur radio host at the French community radio in Victoria. In 2023, she will be completing the Media and Medicine: How to Tell Stories that Make a Difference certificate at Harvard Medical School.