“The UTCSP has provided me with an unparalleled network of scientific and collegial support. It has broadened the scope and potential of my pain research to change clinical practice. In addition, the centre has provided my doctoral trainees with unique development opportunities. Taken together, the UTCSP has strengthened my ability to be a productive scientist and therefore contributed significantly to my tenure appointment.” -Dr. Craig Dale


The establishment of the UTCSP in 1999 was novel for that time since no such centre existed elsewhere in the world. It was also somewhat fortuitous in that the University of Toronto administration decided at this time that its different faculties and programmes needed better integration in their educational and scholarly programmes. With that in mind, it developed in the late 1990s a request to faculties for applications to establish a pioneering UofT-funded academic programme that would bring together staff and students in different faculties to engage in interfaculty/interdisciplinary educational and scholarly activities.

Also fortuitous was that the Council of Health Sciences Deans was chaired at that time by Barry Sessle, the Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry who happened to be a pain researcher and President of The International Association for the Study of Pain. It also happened at that time that there was a cadre of pain clinicians, researchers, educators and trainees spread around the different UofT health science faculties and their affiliated hospitals, but there was limited collaboration and coordination of their educational and scholarly activities. Dr Sessle and several others in the UofT pain community (e.g. Drs. Jonathan Dostrovsky, Allan Gordon, David Mock, Michael Salter, Bonnie Stevens, Judy watt-Watson) realised that pain was an ideal topic for such an interdisciplinary focus as envisaged by the UofT administration and an opportunity to bring together the diverse group of pain clinicians, researcher and educators and trainees in a Centre fostering collaboration and advancement of pain education and research at UofT.

Such an approach also was in line with emerging concepts of the value of adopting a biopsychosocial approach to pain education, research and management. The cooperation and support of all the health sciences deans were gained, an application was put together and submitted, and this proposal was the one selected for the UofT funding.

Administrative History

The administrative HUB of the UTCSP is based in the Faculty of Dentistry, with an administrative structure and governance model that was developed over time. The 4 current active committees include the Executive, KT, Research, Education committees, as well as subcommittees, working groups and the IPC infrastructure. Dr. Michael Salter from the department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine and Sick Children’s Hospital was the first UTCSP director (2000-2009). Dr. Bonnie Stevens from the Lawrence S Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing and Sick Children’s Hospital then became Director (2010-2019). Dr. Robert Bonin from the faculty of Pharmacy assumed the intern directorship role (2020). For the past 4, the UTCSP has been co-directed by Rob Bonin from the Faculty of Pharmacy and Rachel Bosma from the Faculty of Dentistry. Membership is from across campus across 7 different faculties and includes members from the Toronto academic hospitals.

Key Initiatives

For over 20 years, the UTCSP has delivered each year the Interfaculty Pain Curriculum to approximately 20,000 students from 78 different disciplines at UofT. These include Dentistry, Medicine, nursing, pharmacy, social work, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, physician assistants,

100 Members of the UTCSP contribute to this one-week educational initiative each year by helping to formulate each year’s programme, by giving lectures, or by acting as facilitators in break-out small-group sessions with students.

The UTCSP is also part of an educational initiative at UofT, The Pain Medicine Residency Program, which links residents with UTCSP scientists and supports pain training.

The UTCSP’s Annual Scientific Meeting brings together its members to learn more about the Centre’s recent activities and recent pain research findings from presentations by its members and invited external speakers.

Support of UTCSP trainees is provided through travel awards (e.g. to Canadian Pain Society annual meeting) and UTCSP Pain Scientist Awards, trainee orientation/welcome events, pain schools, professional development and training opportunities, and more. This has had a substantial impact; approximately 80% of UTCSP trainees remain in pain research today.