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Dr. William Honer

Investigator, BC Mental Health Substance and Use Services Research Institute

Primary research areas

  • Schizophrenia
  • Treatment-resistant psychosis
  • Aging, synapses
  • Homelessness
  • Substance use

About William G. Honer, MD, FRCPC, FCAHS 

  • Investigator, BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services Research Institute
  • Investigator, BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute
  • Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia
  • Jack Bell Chair in Schizophrenia, University of British Columbia
  • Honorary Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Hong Kong
  • Lecturer, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University 

Dr. William Honer received his MD from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario in 1984. Following the final year of a residency in psychiatry at the New York State Psychiatric Institute/Columbia, he began working as a research fellow at Columbia University and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. For the next three years, he was a member of a neuropathology research group led by internationally renowned Alzheimer’s researcher Dr. Peter Davies. In 1991, Dr. Honer moved to Vancouver, and served as head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia from 2011-2018.

In 2012, he was elected to a fellowship in the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Dr. Honer’s recognition from peers includes a Scientist Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Young Investigator Award in 1997 followed by the Heinz Lehmann Award in 2008 from the Canadian College of Neuropsychopharmacology. In 2018, he received the JM Cleghorn Award for Excellence and Leadership in Clinical Research from the Canadian Psychiatric Association. 

Dr. Honer is the author of over 400 peer-reviewed publications. In addition, he has co-authored the assessment and pharmacotherapy sections of the Canadian Clinical Practice Guidelines for Schizophrenia and the Treatment Response and Resistance in Psychosis working group guideline on diagnosis and terminology.

Current projects

Dr. William Honer’s translational research interests include the neurobiology and origins of illness in schizophrenia and other neuropsychiatric disorders, including the overlap of mental illness, addiction and viral infection. He looks at the mechanisms of illness, brain structure and treatment response in first-episode and difficult to treat patients in order to develop new treatments. In addition, he is working with an international cohort that are looking at clozapine as a treatment for patients who don’t respond well to the antipsychotic medicines. 

His other major clinical research is a decade-plus-long study focused on people who experience homelessness or are tenants of insecure housing. People living with schizophrenia and other related disorders are often in this group. As it’s called, the Hotel Study is named for the single-room-occupancy hotels where many of the participants live.

“Broadly speaking, schizophrenia afflicts one percent of the general population,” Dr. Honer says. “In this community, it’s about 15 percent.” 

Another 25-30 per cent have other psychotic disorders, all sharing the common feature of loss of touch with one or more aspects of reality. “We’re trying to understand how impoverished living conditions affect their lives.” 

So far, the study has generated over 20 papers, and received regular inquiries from health authorities and the City of Vancouver to improve service delivery.

Recent publications

See Dr. Honer’s publications on ORCID

Boyda HN, Procyshyn RM, Tse L, Yuen JWY, Honer WG, et al. (2021) A comparison of the metabolic side-effects of the second-generation antipsychotic drugs risperidone and paliperidone in animal models. PLOS ONE 16(1): e0246211. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0246211

Martin St-Jean, Xinzhe Dong, Hiwot Tafessu, David Moore, William G. Honer, Fidel Vila-Rodriguez, Paul Sereda, Robert S. Hogg, Thomas L. Patterson, Kate Salters, Rolando Barrios, Julio S.G. Montaner, Viviane D. Lima, Overdose mortality is reducing the gains in life expectancy of antiretroviral-treated people living with HIV in British Columbia, Canada, International Journal of Drug Policy, 2021, 103195, ISSN 0955-3959, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2021.103195

Jones, A., Gicas, K., Mostafavi, S., Woodward, M., Leonova, O., Vila-Rodriguez, F., . . . Honer, W. (2021). Dynamic networks of psychotic symptoms in adults living in precarious housing or homelessness. Psychological Medicine, 1-11. doi:10.1017/S0033291720004444

Junhong Yu, Iris Rawtaer, Lei Feng, Johnson Fam, Alan Prem Kumar, Irwin Kee-Mun Cheah, William G. Honer, Wayne Su, Yuan Kun Lee, Ene Choo Tan, Ee Heok Kua, Rathi Mahendran, Mindfulness intervention for mild cognitive impairment led to attention-related improvements and neuroplastic changes: Results from a 9-month randomized control trial, Journal of Psychiatric Research, Volume 135, 2021, Pages 203-211, ISSN 0022-3956, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2021.01.032.

Sherry Kit Wa Chan, Hei Yan Veronica Chan, William G Honer, Tarun Bastiampillai, Yi Nam Suen, Wai Song Yeung, Ming Lam, Wing King Lee, Roger Man King Ng, Christy Lai Ming Hui, Wing Chung Chang, Edwin Ho Ming Lee, Eric Yu Hai Chen, Predictors of Treatment-Resistant and Clozapine-Resistant Schizophrenia: A 12-Year Follow-up Study of First-Episode Schizophrenia-Spectrum Disorders, Schizophrenia Bulletin, Volume 47, Issue 2, March 2021, Pages 485–494, https://doi.org/10.1093/schbul/sbaa145

Yuen JWY, Kim DD, Procyshyn RM, Panenka WJ, Honer WG, Barr AM. A Focused Review of the Metabolic Side-Effects of Clozapine. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2021;12:609240. Published 2021 Feb 25. doi:10.3389/fendo.2021.609240

David D. Kim, Alasdair M. Barr, S. Evelyn Stewart, Randall F. White, William G. Honer, Ric M. Procyshyn. Relationship between clozapine dose and severity of obsessive-compulsive symptoms, Medical Hypotheses, Volume 148, 2021, 110506, ISSN 0306-9877, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2021.110506

Stubbs JL, Thornton AE, Gicas KM, et al. Characterizing Traumatic Brain Injury and Its Association with Losing Stable Housing in a Community-based Sample : Caractérisation d’une lésion cérébrale traumatique et de son association avec la perte d’un logement stable dans un échantillon communautaire. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. March 2021. doi:10.1177/07067437211000665

Thompson D, Delorme CM, White RF, Honer WG. Elevated clozapine levels and toxic effects after SARS-CoV-2 vaccination. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2021 Mar 5;46(2):E210-E211. doi: 10.1503/jpn.210027. PMID: 33667055.

Consensus statement on the use of clozapine during the COVID-19 pandemic 2020 

Traumatic brain injury in homeless and marginally housed individuals: a systematic review and meta-analysis 2020

Clozapine Combination and Augmentation Strategies in Patients With Schizophrenia —Recommendations From an International Expert Survey Among the Treatment Response and Resistance in Psychosis (TRRIP) Working Group, Schizophrenia Bulletin, May 2020

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