KPU researcher creates digital memorial for individuals affected by fatal overdoses

Tue, Oct 27, 2020

KPU researcher Dr. Aaron Goodman has received Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s 2020 Chancellor’s Chair Award to support his collaborative research project to commemorate individuals affected by the ongoing opioid overdose crisis.


The award is $60,000 over three years for the project titled ‘Creating a Digital Memorial for People Who Have Experienced Fatal Overdoses: A Community Based Participatory Research Project in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.’


“The voices and experiences of individuals who experience fatal opioid overdoses and those who care about them are often silent in the media and public memory,” says Goodman. “My intention is to assist community members in creating an innovative digital memorial that will enable them to publicly grieve, honour lost loved ones, and send powerful messages to policy makers that more must be done to prevent further deaths.”


The Chancellor’s Chair provides multi-year support to faculty who are active scholars, have demonstrated excellence in their scholarly field and will continue to contribute significantly to the advancement of their field of scholarship and creative activity, and which will contribute to the university’s profile and reputation.


Goodman draws on 20 years of experience as a communication studies scholar, digital journalist, documentary maker, and photographer specializing in working collaboratively with marginalized communities in order to highlight social and humanitarian issues. He has been a faculty member in the Journalism and Communication Studies department at KPU since 2012.


He says while we are facing two health crises in Canada, coronavirus and the opioid crisis, only the coronavirus is receiving a lot of media attention. Between January 2016 and March 2020, B.C. accounted for one-third of Canada’s opioid overdoses. Across Canada, 77 per cent of the opioid deaths are attributed to fentanyl.


Goodman wants members of the Downtown Eastside community to own this digital memorial and feel proud of the work that will exist for years to come.


“I feel humbled and grateful to receive the Chancellor's Chair Award, and delighted to be able to work closely with community members and residents of the Downtown Eastside in order to produce a digital memorial that will highlight the impacts of the opioid overdose crisis in nuanced, personal and productive ways,” he adds.


“The digital memorial will be accessible to members of the public. I will also publish a number of scholarly papers about the study, edit a book, and work with participants to share the knowledge that we collaboratively produce with the wider community in a number of ways.”


Dr. Deepak Gupta, KPU’s associate vice president of research, innovation, and graduate studies, says Goodman’s project addresses a current social and health crisis of vital importance to Canadians.


“It exemplifies community-engaged scholarship, student experiential learning, and digital innovation at their finest,” he says. “By serving the needs of marginalized populations and their loved ones in a respectful and collaborative approach, it also embraces social inclusion. The adjudication committee found it to be a stellar proposal and worthy of Chancellor’s Chair Award.”