Division of Geriatric Psychiatry


Dr. Burhan Chair, Division of Geriatric Psychiatry

Dr. Amer Burhan

Chair,  Division of Geriatric Psychiatry  Western University

As Canada’s population grows older with multiple, complex and chronic illnesses, clinical service will need to develop strategies to support the health and wellness of the elderly. The mental health of our seniors is a key factor for determining their quality of life. The Division of Geriatric Psychiatry strives to work in an integrated fashion with all other partners to provide compassionate clinical care to seniors, whose mental health needs exceed those that can be met by the community. The clinical domain is intricately woven with people and programs that strive to discover exciting, new and innovative ways of providing health care to this vulnerable population, as well as provide educational opportunities to all groups of care providers and consumers, with the ultimate goal of improving quality of care for seniors in our community.

The Division has four main components: Clinical Service Leadership, Education, Research, and Community Linkages.


The Division of Geriatric Psychiatry’s key role is to provide academic leadership within the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University. Functionally, the Division also contributes to clinical service provision and leadership by engaging the participation and contribution of individuals from a variety of related clinical disciplines.

Clinical Service Leadership

The Division is the clinical seat of expertise of Geriatric Psychiatry for the Department of Psychiatry, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. The members of the Division and affiliated programs are based at St. Joseph’s Health Care (SJHC), Regional Mental Health Care - London (RMHCL) tertiary hubs for geriatric psychiatry expertise of Southwestern Ontario and London Health Science Centre - Geriatric Mental Health Program (GMHP), the City of London and County of Middlesex.

At the core of our success are strong partnerships with the Division of Geriatric Medicine and health partners such as the Local Health Integrated Networks (LHINs). Together we advocate for and build effective integrated and coordinated service for the care of the elderly. Membership includes an inter-professional group of health care professionals, including geriatric psychiatry, psychology, advance practice nursing, social work, and health care leadership.

Clinical service advocacy and leadership comprise the primary pillar upon which education and research are based.


The second pillar is comprised of education of trainees, partners, the community and our own Division colleagues.

The Division is involved in ongoing educational activities in the following areas at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, The University of Western Ontario: undergraduate medical education for medical students and postgraduate education in geriatric psychiatry for residents in the Department of Psychiatry. The Division participates in and is an active contributor to education of medical and nursing students at Schulich.

Geriatric Psychiatry provides leadership in Continuing Professional Development throughout southwestern Ontario for physicians and healthcare professionals seeking up-to-date knowledge and skill development through Specialized Geriatric Services, the Southwestern Ontario Geriatric Assessment Network (SWOGAN) and the Department of Psychiatry Continuing Professional Development rounds.
Interprofessional teams affiliated with the Division programs provide training opportunities for psychology, nursing and social work students seeking an experience in geriatric mental health care.


Advancing our knowledge and understanding of elderly individuals at risk or suffering from mental illness continues to be a key focus of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry. As a clinical division, our members engage in clinical, applied research in a variety of areas with a focus on early identification, prevention, health promotion, knowledge translation, and best practices in treatment and management, as they relate to senior’s mental health. An example of this expertise is Dr. Marnin Heisel, Basic Scientist, UWO, who is an expert on suicide prevention among older adults and has published extensively in this area. He is based at LHSC and UWO with appointments in Epidemiology & Biostatistics and Psychiatry. In addition, Dr. Heisel has worked diligently with the Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health to develop toolkits for health care professionals and more recently developed information guides for family members.

Division members Dr. Maggie Gibson and Dr. Iris Gutmanis have collaborated extensively with research partners on the psychosocial needs of at-risk elderly. Program evaluation and advancement of knowledge translation of patient and safety data has been led at SJHC and RMHCL by Dr. Ed Black with Dr. Tom Ross, Tony O’Regan and Dr. Jennifer Doherty.

Community Linkages/Partnerships

The Division of Geriatric Psychiatry and affiliated clinical programs collaborate with a wide variety of partners in all areas of clinical service, research and education, with the goals of better service integration, increased capacity to care for older adults, and improving knowledge and best practices.