Richard Lester

Associate Professor

Research Classification

Infectious Diseases
Ethics and Health
Health Care Technologies
Global Health and Emerging Diseases
Native Health

Research Interests

Digital health
Mobile health (mHealth)
Precision Public Health
Patient-centered care
Global Health

Relevant Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters


Research Methodology

Randomized Controlled Trials
Pragmatic trials
Implementation science


Master's students
Doctoral students
Postdoctoral Fellows
Any time / year round

Global digital health for patient engagement in care. Work in Canada, Africa and globally. Quantitative and qualitative studies, implementation research, and digital health policy and ethics. Especially among scaling interventions to benefit vulnerable populations.

I support public scholarship, e.g. through the Public Scholars Initiative, and am available to supervise students and Postdocs interested in collaborating with external partners as part of their research.
I support experiential learning experiences, such as internships and work placements, for my graduate students and Postdocs.
I am open to hosting Visiting International Research Students (non-degree, up to 12 months).
I am interested in hiring Co-op students for research placements.

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Postdoctoral Fellows

Great Supervisor Week Mentions

Each year graduate students are encouraged to give kudos to their supervisors through social media and our website as part of #GreatSupervisorWeek. Below are students who mentioned this supervisor since the initiative was started in 2017.


Thank you, Dr. Lester, for your friendly supervision and your dedication during the last years!

Nelson Gorrin (2019)


In our research group, Dr. Lester sparks innovative conversations between students from a wide range of backgrounds. From computer science students contributing to the development of a mobile health technology to public health researchers studying the implementation of this tech globally, he has a knack for translating information that serves a spectrum of interests. It really helps to bring together students who might otherwise work in silos. I've really appreciated his can-do attitude and the positive perspective he has when tackling complex problems in low-resource settings. He always makes his students feel capable and confident in their abilities and reminds us of the importance our research has in a broader context. As a student from a remote and isolated community, I value that Dr. Lester, his family, and the research group offer a sense of community I need to thrive. Thank you, Dr. Lester, for making anyone and everyone feel welcome in your lab. And I am so grateful for the accommodation of my dog as well; this helped me acclimatize to the city and make transitioning back into post-secondary an easier choice. Thank you! 

Alissa MacMullin (2019)


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2021)
Mediation adherence in asthma: a systematic review and concurrent mixed methods studies exploring the impact of text messages on self-reported medication adherence (2019)

The full abstract for this thesis is available in the body of the thesis, and will be available when the embargo expires.

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The value of weekly short message service interventions targeting medication adherence: A multi-national economic evaluation in HIV and tuberculosis infection (2017)

Introduction: The World Health Organization has ambitious goals to eliminate AIDS and TB globally. However, the plan is expensive and financial commitment to achieve this goal is uncertain. Mobile phone-based short message service (SMS) interventions have demonstrated the ability to improve HIV drug therapy adherence. My objective was to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of SMS-based adherence interventions in three settings, which have unique epidemics and health systems, yet struggle with similar adherence barriers. In this thesis, I also consider the value of conducting a cost-effectiveness evaluation before, during and after a randomized trial.Method: This thesis has three parts. First, I evaluated the cost-effectiveness of SMS-based HIV drug adherence interventions in Kenya, where the interventions were first developed. Second, I evaluated the burden of non-adherence and cost sensitivity of SMS-based adherence interventions for latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) drug therapy in British Columbia, where a trial of an SMS-based adherence intervention is underway. Finally, I evaluated 5,836 combinations of 15 HIV interventions, to understand the role of SMS interventions as part of a combination HIV intervention in India where a trial was being planned. Value was expressed in terms of incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs), which were a function of incremental costs and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs).Results: In Kenya, the SMS interventions were highly cost-effective in the base case (ICER=$1,389/QALY), and remained cost-effective across most sensitivity analyses. In British Columbia, hypothetical interventions that brought the population to full adherence to LTBI drug therapy could cost up to $450 per person per year and remain cost-effective. SMS interventions were least sensitive to cost and would likely be cost-effective if their efficacy were confirmed. Finally, in India, the SMS interventions were cost saving and were part of 4 of the 5 most efficient combination interventions out of 5,836 possible combinations.Conclusion: The SMS interventions are cost-effective or cost saving when compared to the standard of care in multiple settings. Findings support the implementation of SMS interventions as part of HIV and TB care and suggest they could play an essential role in global containment of these diseases.

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