Research Team

The UBC Sexual Health Lab collaborates with physicians at the BC Centre for Sexual Medicine (Rosemary Basson, Miriam Driscoll, Shauna Correia), the Department of Psychiatry (Andrea Grabovac), the Department of Anatomy (Joanne Weinberg) as well as researchers on other university campuses.

Lori A. Brotto, PhD

Director, UBC Sexual Health Laboratory, Canada Research Chair in Women’s Sexual Health
Professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, UBC
Executive Director, Women's Health Research Institute
Dr. Brotto completed her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of British Columbia (UBC), where her research focused primarily on psychophysiological aspects of sexual arousal in women diagnosed with sexual dysfunctions. Her psychology internship at the University of Washington (UW) specialized in the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for mood, anxiety, substance abuse and psychotic disorders. Following her internship, Dr. Brotto’s Fellowship in Reproductive and Sexual Medicine at UW was mentored by Dr. Julia Heiman, director of the Kinsey Institute. As a registered psychologist, Dr. Brotto offers psychological therapy to patients referred from both UBC Departments of Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Psychiatry, as well as the BC Cancer Agency. Dr. Brotto also sees private patients. Dr. Brotto has been awarded many scholarships, fellowships and research grants. For a complete list of Dr. Brotto’s credentials, research and funding records, please view her CV below.

Bozena Zdaniuk, PhD

Research Associate
Bozena has a PhD in Social Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh (1999), a postdoc from Carnegie Mellon university, and she has held multiple roles as a data analyst, methodologist, research associate, and writer. She is particularly strong at aggregating complex sets of data into usable units for analysis, and she has ushered several projects through to completion and knowledge translation. Working on this team gives her opportunity to pursue her ongoing interest in female sexuality research. 

Kira McNamee

Lab Manager (on leave)
Kira has a Bachelor of Business Administration from Simon Fraser University and 10 years of experience in project and team management working on multidisciplinary projects. She has held roles in project management, change management, project coordination, and organizational development. Working on this team gives her opportunity to pursue her interest in women’s health.

Pheth Sengdy

Lab Manager (interim)
Pheth Sengdy completed her Bachelor of Science in Psychology at the University of Waterloo. After graduating, Pheth pursued her passion for health research in various labs and worked for 13 years in the UBC Frontotemporal Dementia Research Program as a research coordinator and then later as the program manager.

Cara Dunkley, MA

Graduate Student
Cara completed her B.A in Honours Psychology at the University of Victoria in 2009. After graduating she worked as a study coordinator in two University- and Hospital-based sexual research laboratories. Cara received her Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 2015. She is currently in her third year of the Ph.D. Clinical Psychology Program at UBC, working under the supervision of Dr. Lori Brotto. Her doctoral program of research examines the association between disordered eating and sexual dysfunction among clinical samples of women with an eating disorder and women with provoked vestibulodynia – a chronic and distressing vulvar pain condition. Additional ongoing research projects focus on the role of attachment style in relation to adult sexuality, as well as mindfulness and alternative sexual practices.   Clinically, Cara works as a group facilitator for the DESIRE program at the UBC Sexual Health Lab. 

Silvain Dang, MA

Graduate Student
Silvain completed his BSc in Psychology in 2011 and his MA in Clinical Psychology in 2014. He is currently working towards his PhD in Clinical Psychology. His research interests include sexual attitudes, paraphilias, attachment style, perfectionism, culture/ethnicity, and the neurobiology of sexual behaviours.

Natalie Brown, BA

Graduate Student
Natalie is a second-year MA student in the UBC Clinical Psychology program, working under the supervision of Drs. Lori Brotto and Alan Kingstone. She completed her BA in Psychology at Queen’s University in 2017. Natalie's MA thesis explores the cognitive mechanisms underlying sexual attraction and desire, with a specific focus on asexuality and Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder. She is also involved with IMMERSIVE, a study investigating women's subjective sexual responses to virtual reality erotica, and she plans to evaluate virtual reality as a clinical tool for women with genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder (GPPPD) in her PhD. Natalie is involved with the COVERS study, which investigates the short- and long-term impacts of COVID-19 related social changes on sexual and reproductive health. Overall, her research program aims to improve our understanding of sexual difficulties and develop evidence-based interventions for individuals with distressing sexual concerns.

Faith Jabs, BA

Graduate Student
Faith is a MA student in the Clinical Psychology program at UBC. She completed her BA in Anthropology in 2014 and a BA in Psychology in 2017. Her master’s research, the APPROACH study examines how sexual motivation influences sexual wellbeing and attentional processes to sexual stimuli. She is a co-investigator on the IMMERSIVE study, which examines women’s subjective sexual response and user experience with virtual reality erotica, which may help inform future treatment for women’s sexual concerns. Faith is also a co-investigator on the COVERS study, which examines the short- and long-term impact of the COVID-19 social distancing measures on sexual health, motivations for sex, and sexual coercion. She also works as a study coordinator on the DESIRE study that examines the efficacy of two kinds of group therapy for women with Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder.

Bibiana Kemerer

Graduate Student
Bibiana is a first-year MSc student in the Department of Reproductive and Developmental Sciences at UBC. She completed her BSc in Biological Sciences with a minor Psychology: Brain and Cognition at the University of Guelph in 2019. Bibiana’s interest in sexual health began in Guelph, where she presented research examining the impact of health on the sexual functioning of midlife Canadians. Currently, she is involved in the INTROSPPECT study, which examines the use of mindfulness and CBT interventions for prostate cancer survivors and their partners who are experiencing sexual dysfunction. The goal of the study is to translate the research into a useful format for prostate cancer survivors, their partners, and the medical professionals who treat them.

Kelly Smith, PhD

Collaborator
Dr. Kelly Smith completed fellowship training with Dr. Brotto from 2011-15, during which her research focused primarly on the pregnancy and post-partum experiences of women with chronic vulvar pain. Dr. Smith has a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Queen’s University and completed fellowship training at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School prior to joining our lab. Her accomplishments to date include receipt of awards from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and the Canadian Pain Society during her fellowship training, and receiving the 2016 Nelly Auersperg Award from the Women's Health Research Institute to study the impact of vulvar skin diseases on women's quality of life. Dr. Smith currently works as a Psychologist in the BC Centre for Vulvar Health (BCCVH) and in private practice. She also continues to faciliate therapy groups for studies in our lab. 

Paul Yong, MD, PhD, FRCSC

Collaborator
Dr. Paul Yong is Assistant Professor in the UBC Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Division of Gynaecologic Specialties, and is actively involved in clinical and translational research in endometriosis, pelvic pain, and vulvodynia.  Dr. Yong completed a MD/PhD degree in Experimental Medicine in 2006, followed by a Residency in Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Fellowship in Endometriosis, Pelvic Pain & Advanced Laparoscopy in 2012 at the University of British Columbia. His clinical practice is focused on pelvic pain, with particular interest in endometriosis, vulvodynia, sexual pain, painful periods, co-existing bladder and bowel problems, and pain related to the musculoskeletal system. His surgical interests include laparoscopic excision of endometriosis and prevention of adhesions in women with pelvic pain (+/- infertility).

Morag Yule, PhD

Collaborator
Morag completed her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of British Columbia in 2016. Her research interests lie largely in investigating the many different aspects of asexuality, including patterns of sexual attraction and sexual arousal, mental health correlates of asexuality, and factors differentiating asexuality from a sexual dysfunction. Through this research, we hope to better understand the experiences of those who lack sexual attraction in the hopes that this will reduce any stigma that might be associated with asexuality. Clinically, Morag works to help individuals dealing with issues related to sexuality and gender, sexual dysfunction, and a range of anxiety disorders.

Laurel Paterson, PhD, R. Psych.

Collaborator
Dr. Laurel Paterson completed a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Brotto from 2013-2016, during which they developed and tested two types of group therapy for low sexual desire in women.  This research was supported by fellowship awards from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.  She has a PhD in Clinical Psychology from McGill University and has completed extensive training in sex and couple therapy, as well as cognitive-behavioural and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.  She currently works as a registered psychologist in private practice in Vancouver, focusing on individual and couple therapy for sexual difficulties.  She also continues to facilitate therapy groups for the DESIRE Study and regularly presents workshops in the community on the impact of mental and physical health on sexuality.   

Sonia Milani, BA

Study Coordinator
Sonia is a MA student in the Clinical Psychology program. She joined our lab in 2015 and has been the coordinator for the EYES, TRACE, and JUNIPER studies. She is currently working on the BRACE study which is a large-scale, online study examining sexual identity. She is a co-investigator on the IMMERSIVE study investigating women’s subjective sexual response and user experience with virtual reality erotica. She is also a co-investigator on the COVERS study which examines the short- and long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sexual and relationship well-being

Julia O'Loughlin, MA, RCC

Study Coordinator
Julia received her BA (Hons) in Women's Studies from the University of Victoria in 2006 and her MA in Counselling Psychology from the University of British Columbia in 2016. She is currently in the PhD Counselling Psychology program at UBC. Julia coordinated the study “Mood, Stress, and Sexual Desire in Women” (MODEST) and contributes to the DESIRE study as a clinical interviewer and group facilitator. She is also a co-investigator and group facilitator on the INTROSSPECT study. Julia's research projects focus on identifying physiological and psychosocial contributors to women's sexual interest and arousal difficulties and improving intimacy between couples post-prostate cancer treatment.

Shannon Woo

Research Coordinator
Shannon recently moved from London, England after completing a MSc Health Psychology at City University of London. She completed a research study on how people evaluate the acceptability of a treatment. She also worked as a researcher and clinic manager of an osteopathic clinic and research centre which reported on various patient reported outcome measures including psychosocial measures of wellbeing. She plans to continue training in clinical and counselling psychology. Shannon joined the team in January 2020 as a Research Coordinator for the BREAST study, a randomized clinical trial assessing psychosocial interventions for survivors of breast cancer who experience sexual difficulties following cancer treatment. This project is a collaboration between the UBC Sexual Health Lab (UBCSHL) and the Tom Baker Cancer Agency (Calgary).

Brynn Lavery, BA

Social Media and Participant Recruitment Coordinator
Brynn is a 2017 BA Psychology graduate from UBC with a minor in Critical Studies in Sexuality. Passionate about the field of sexual health, she volunteers with Options for Sexual Health on their Community Relations team, with BLUSH (Bold Learning for Understanding Sexual Health) as a Youth Educator, and in the past as a research assistant in the UBC Sexuality Lab. Brynn is the Social Media and Participant Recruitment Coordinator for the lab and runs their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages and is also a research assistant on the DESIRE and SUPPORT studies. Her research interests include sexual education, women's sexual disorders, and paraphilias.

Maggie Bryce, BA

Research Assistant
Maggie Bryce has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from UBC. She is a youth educator with Vancouver Coastal Health’s BLUSH (Bold Learning for Understanding Sexual Health) program, which brings sexual health workshops to high schools around Vancouver. Maggie is working on a number of studies in the lab related to female sexual health, dysfunction, and cervical cancer prevention. She recently completed a directed studies project regarding female genital self-image, and partner perceptions of the vulva, and is the research assistant for the SAFE study.

Natasha Zippan

Research Assistant
Natasha is an undergraduate psychology major at the University of British Columbia. She is working toward a PhD in psychology with the view to becoming a clinical and research psychologist in the area of sexology. Her clinical interests are sexual and developmental psychopathology, including hypersexuality, disordered attachment, childhood sexual abuse, paraphilias, and sexual orientation. She is the coordinator of the EXCITE study, researching the usability of taking mindfulness and CBT-based treatments for female sexual dysfunction online.

Alyssa Greco

Volunteer
Alyssa is currently a student at SFU studying psychology.  She very much enjoys stepping into new environments and learning new things, which is why she is very appreciative of her time at the UBC sexual health laboratory, where she can learn and explore something new every time she comes in.  In the future, Alyssa is interested in perusing a career in the field of psychology.     

Ellen Dipple

Volunteer
Ellen is an undergraduate psychology student currently attending the University of British Columbia. Her research interests include sexual interest and arousal, especially in relation to mood disorders, chronic stress, and different approaches to sexual education. At present, she is a volunteer for the EYES study. She plans to one day continue her education in either a social or clinical psychology graduate program.

Brett Makarenko, BSc

Volunteer
Brett recently completed her BSc in Biology with a minor in Psychology at the University of British Columbia in 2017. She is a Crisis Line and Educational Outreach Volunteer for WAVAW (Women Against Violence Against Women), where she provides anti-oppressive emotional support to survivors of sexualized violence. Her research interests include psychophysiological manifestations of sexual dysfunctions, long-term effects of sexualized violence against women, and improving sex education. She is working towards being accepted into a Clinical Psychology graduate program in order to pursue her interests of human sexuality. 

Isha Rajvanshi

Volunteer
Isha is an undergraduate psychology student at the University of British Columbia. She is interested in research topics such as sexual dysfunction, its relation to mental health, and asexuality. She believes that mental health and sexuality are intertwined which is why she is passionate about volunteering in the lab. She hopes to continue on to graduate school to pursue a career in Counseling Psychology. Currently, she is working as a volunteer on the DESIRE study.

Julia Bradshaw, BMus

Volunteer
Julia Bradshaw previously received her Bachelor of Music in Voice from McGill University and is currently pursuing a second degree in psychology at UBC with the goal of entering a PhD program in clinical psychology. She has also previously volunteered with the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter. Julia is working on the IMMERSIVE and SPACE studies, for which she assists with patient recruitment, intake, and communications. Her research interests include sexual pain disorders, sexual attraction and desire, Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder, and personality disorders. 

Smruthi Ramachandran, Bsc

Volunteer
Smruthi is a 2019 graduate from the University of British Columbia with a BSc in Biology and a minor in Psychology. She is currently involved with the data cleaning and analysis of the PRECIOUS study. Her interests include using a comprehensive approach to consider the relationship between physiological and psychological factors in healthcare such as women’s sexual health and mental wellbeing. She is also very interested in nutrition and fitness and plans to continue exploring these themes in graduate school. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career as a clinician scientist where these topics can be further applied. 

Nikola Pokorná

Volunteer
Nikola is an undergraduate psychology student currently on an exchange at the University of British Columbia. Her research interests include female sexual dysfunctions, especially in relation to mental health and anxiety, attachment style, and improving sex education. Nikola is currently a volunteer for a study of asexuality and digit ratio. She hopes to be accepted into a Clinical Psychology graduate program and to pursue her research interest in sexual health.

Kira Knight

Volunteer
Kira Knight is a Global Resource System undergraduate student at UBC, with her focus being on Sexual Health in International Contexts. Her current research interests concentrate on female sexual desire, support systems regarding sexual health and violence, as well as the intersection between sexual health and the law. She is very excited and appreciative to be participating in and supporting the SHR Lab team in order to further delve into an academic space focusing on her passions.

Jennifer Zhang

Volunteer
Jennifer is currently a second-year undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia studying kinesiology. She is involved with data collection on the JUNIPER study. Her interests relating to human sexuality include women's health, improving sexual health education and dispelling the stigma behind discussing sexual health. She is hoping to pursue a career in healthcare, specifically in obstetrics and gynaecology.

Niki Oveisi

Practicum Student
Niki completed her BSc in Biology in 2019 and is currently a Master of Public Health student at UBC. With a strong background in advocacy for women's health, Niki is researching the effects of sexual quality of life on the mental well-being of undergraduate cis-gendered women at UBC. The goal is to use the results from this research to advocate for policy change to integrate sexual health as part of mental health services at UBC.

Muskaan Berry

Volunteer
Muskaan is an undergraduate psychology student at the University of British Columbia. Her research interests focalize around consumer behaviour, neuromarketing, and customer analytics. As a volunteer for the COVERS study, Muskaan is excited to build on her research experience and be a part of such topical, engaging work. She hopes to pursue an MBA in Marketing and delve deeper into the psychological aspects of consumer decision making patterns.

Maya Ellison

Volunteer
Maya completed a BA in psychology at the University of British Columbia in 2018, and a BSN at the University of British Columbia in 2020. She is currently a Registered Nurse with Fraser Health. As a volunteer on the BREAST study, she hopes to learn more about the psychosocial implications of breast cancer, and how this knowledge can improve practice and have widespread effects on health care.

Yana Svatko

Volunteer
Yana completed her BA (Hons) Psychology degree in 2019 at the University of British Columbia. For her honours research project at the lab, she investigated the relationship between Emotional Intelligence and Sexuality in undergraduate students. Over the last three years, she has been a research assistant for studies examining disordered eating and sexual dysfunction in clinical and non-clinical samples. Currently, Yana is investigating cultural differences in disordered eating and sexual function.    

Alexandra Yam

Student
Alexandra is a fourth year undergraduate student in Honours Psychology at the University of British Columbia. Her research interests are centered around dyadic linkages in health and wellbeing. She is currently writing her honours thesis at the SHR Lab.

Raveena Gowda

Volunteer
I am an undergraduate student majoring in Biology and Psychology (B.Sc). I am passionate about sexual health research because it provides knowledge that significantly impacts mental and physical wellbeing. My research interests include understanding how biological and sociocultural factors impact development of sexuality and sexual dysfunction. Currently, I am a volunteer for the INTROSPPECT study. In the future, I want to pursue a career in clinical psychology with a focus on women’s health and sexuality.