Hilary McGregor

Past HARC Contributor

Hilary McGregor is an MSc Candidate in Community Health Science at the University of Northern British Columbia.

Thesis Project: Envisioning Change: Women’s lived experiences of substance use and mental health in northern BC through photography

Thesis Supervisor:     Dr. Sarah de Leeuw

Thesis Committee:     Dr. Margot Parkes, Canada Research Chair in Health, Ecosystems & Society; Assistant Professor, School of Health Sciences; Cross-appointed, Northern Medical Program, UNBC

Dr. Candida Graham, Academic Physician, Psychiatry, Northern Medical Program, UNBC

Envisioning Change incorporates participant photography to explore women’s experiences of mental health and substance use within the unique context of the northern city of Prince George, British Columbia. To learn more, please visit the project website at www.envisioningchange.ca.

Mental health has been a long-standing interest of mine, beginning long before I obtained an undergraduate degree in psychology from McGill University in 2004. Some years later, I decided to pursue graduate studies in community health, in part because I wanted to incorporate broader conceptualizations of health; for example, the social, economic, and political factors that contribute to experiences of wellness and un-wellness. I have a deep interest in social justice and a desire to make a positive impact within my community and more broadly.

My interest in photography began in earnest when I inherited an old Nikon in my early 20’s. I remember how differently I engaged with my surroundings when holding a camera – the familiar became new again. As a creative art, I appreciate how accessible photography is, both for the one taking photos and for those viewing them. In September 2010 when I began my graduate studies, I heard a CBC Radio IDEAS episode that reminded me of the power of creativity. This provided the inspiration to include photography in my thesis and lead me to discover Photovoice.

Photovoice is a research method that uses photography to engage people in a topic and to guide interviews and discussions. As a method, it values people’s lived experiences by (1) enabling their own visual representation of their lives; (2) using their photos to guide the interview and group discussions; and, (3) engaging participants in the analysis and interpretation of the images (see Wang, 1999).


I have received several graduate scholarships and awards including the Intersections of Mental Health Perspectives in Addictions Research Training (IMPART) Graduate Fellowship, UNBC Graduate Entrance Scholarship and UNBC Graduate Research Award. I have presented this project to local, provincial, national and international audiences at multiple conferences including the Canadian Collaborative Mental Health Care Conference, an international health promotion conference in Mexico City, and most recently at an international conference on addiction therapy in Las Vegas.


I work as a Research Associate for the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health and volunteer as a board member for the Canadian Mental Health Association – PG Branch.



Casey, L. & McGregor, H. (2012). A Critical Examination of Experiential Knowledge in Illicit Substance Use Research and Policy. Journal of Addiction Research and Therapy, 3(140). http://www.omicsonline.org/2155-6105/2155-6105-abstract.php?abstract_id=10302