Doris Gillis

Senior Research Professor
Immaculata Hall
(902) 867-5401

Degree PhD, PDt

Dr. Doris Gillis is a Senior Research Professor in the Department of Human Nutrition. She served as Departmental  Chair from 2008 until July 2016. Over her professional career, she has contributed to the field of community nutrition and health promotion as a public health nutritionist and adult educator in a range of health, education and community practice settings. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph and her dietetic internship at Victoria Hospital in London, Ontario. She also earned a Master’s of Science degree from the University of Guelph and later a Master’s of Adult Education from St Francis Xavier University. She completed her PhD at the University of Nottingham.

Central to Dr. Gillis’s research on issues relevant to health literacy, food security and breastfeeding is a concern about addressing health disparities and effecting positive change in practice and policy. She believes in the value of interdisciplinary approaches to addressing complex public health issues. She has been engaged in a number of community – university research collaborations which reflect her commitment to applying participatory research approaches to better understand challenging issues and effect positive change. Dr. Gillis has also been involved in several national health literacy research and policy initiatives, and served as a member of the Canadian Expert Panel on Health Literacy (2006-8).



  • 2016 Dietitians of Canada PEN® Achiever (Canada) Award, June 11, 2016
  • Induction to the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation Decade Club, March 1, 2016
  • Honorary Life Membership Award, Nova Scotia Dietetic Association,  May 8, 2015
  • Adjunct Professor, School of Health and Human Performance, Dalhousie University, 2015-
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Fellowship Awrd, 2006-2008

Recent Publications


Hernandez, K.J., Gillis, D., Kevany, K., & Kirk, S.F.L. (2021). Toward a common understanding of food literacy: A pedagogical framework. Canadian Food Studies, 8(4):8-25. DOI:10.15353/cfs-rcea.v8i4.467.

Hakami, R., Gillis, D.E., Poureslami, I. & FitzGerald, J.M. (2018) Patient and professional perspectives on nutrition in chronic respiratory disease self-management: Reflections on nutrition and food literacies. Health Literacy Research and Practice. 2(3): e166-e174.

Bigelow, A.E., Power, M., MacLean, K., Gillis, D., Michelle Ward, M., Taylor, C., Berrigan, L. & Wang, X. (2018). Mother-infant skin-to-skin contact and mother-child interaction nine years later. Social Development. 1-15, DOI: 10.1111/sode.12307.

Mansfield, E., Wahba, R., Gillis, DE, Weiss, B, & L’Abbe, M. (2018). Canadian adaptation of the Newest Vital Sign©- A health literacy assessment tool.  Public Health Nutrition. 1-8. DOI:10.1017/S1368980018000253

Fox, A., Gillis D., Anderson, B, & Lordly, D. (2017).  Stronger together: Use of storytelling at a dietetics conference, to promote professional collaboration. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research. 78: 32-36. DOI:10.3148/cjdpr-2016-027

Letourneau, N., Whitty, P., Watson, B., Phillips, J.,  Joschko, J. & Gillis, D. (2015). The influence of newborn early literacy intervention programs in three Canadian provinces. Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing. Published on-line: 14 September. DOI: 10.3109/01460862

Wood, J. & Gillis, D.E. (2015). Exploring dietitians’ engagement with health literacy: Concept and practice. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research. 76:1-5. Published on-line: 19 May DOI: 10.3148/cjdpr-2015-003.

Johnson, C. P., Williams, P. & Gillis, D.E. (2015). The capacity building experience of women engaged in determining the cost and affordability of healthy food in Nova Scotia, Canada. Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition. 10:3, 356-378. Published online: 25 July. DOI: 10.1080/19320248.2014.962769

Proudfoot, A. Lordly, D., Anderson, B., & Gillis, D. (2014). Identifying opportunities for enhancing dietetic education through collaboration. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research.75:101-104. Published on-line 19 May 2014. DOI: 10.3148/75.2.2014.101.
Bigelow, A.E., Power, M., Gillis, D. MacLellan-Peters, J., Alex, M. & McDonald, C. (2013). Breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact, and mother-infant interactions over infants’ first three months. Infant Mental Health Journal. Published online: 4 November. DOI: 10.1002/imhj.21424.
Gillis, D.E., Gray, N.J. & Murphy, E. (2012). Multiple domains of health literacy as reflected in breastfeeding promotion practice: A Canadian case study. Journal of Health Psychology 18(8) 1023–1035.DOI: 10.1177/1359105312454041.
Williams, P., Amero, M., Anderson, B., Gillis, D., Green-Lapierre, R., Johnson, C. & Reimer, D. (2012). A participatory food costing model in Nova Scotia. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research, 73(4):181-8. DOI: 10.3148/73.4.2012.181
Williams, P.L., MacAulay, R.B., Anderson, B.J., Barro ,K., Gillis, D., Johnson, C.P., Langille, L.L., Moran, S., & Reimer, D.E. (2012): “I would have never thought that I would be in such a predicament”: Voices from women experiencing food insecurity in Nova Scotia, Canada, Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, 7(2-3): 253-270.
DOI: 10.1080/19320248.2012.704740


Begoray, D., Gillis, D.E. & Rowlands, G. (Eds.) (2012). Health Literacy in Context: International Perspectives. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.


Gillis, D.E. & Gougeon, L. (2021).  Building personal skills for healthy eating: From risk to resilience, Chapter 22 in I. Rootman, P. Edwards, F. Grunberg & M. Levasseur (Eds.). Promoting Health of Older Adults: The Canadian Experience (p. 352-365). Instructors Manual (p.51-52). Toronto, ON, Canadian Scholars.

Gillis, D.E. (2016). Using a health literacy frame to conceptualise food literacy. Chapter 5 in H. Vidgen (Ed.).Food Literacy, (p.85-101). London: Routledge.

Gillis, D.E. (2012). The choice to breastfeed: Examining breastfeeding promotion through the multifaceted lens of health literacy. In R.S. Stewart, & S.A. Korol (Eds.), Food For Thought: A Multidisciplinary Discussion. (p.118-135). Sydney, NS: Cape Breton University Press.

Gillis, D.E. & Gray, N.J. (2012). Health literacy and healthy lifestyle choices. In D. Begoray, D.E. Gillis & G. Rowlands (Eds.) Health Literacy in Context: International Perspectives. (p.33-56). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

Gillis, D.E. & Sears S.A. (2012). Health literacy in rural communities: Challenges and champions. In J.C. Kulig, & A. Williams (Eds.), Health in Rural Canada. (pp. 209-224). Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

Rootman, I., Stachenko, S., Riley, B., Ardiles,P., Provencher, H., Gillis, D., Kaszap, K. & Hancock, T. (2012). Issues as a point of entry into health promotion. In I. Rootman, S. Dupéré & A. Pederson & M. O’Neill (Eds.), Health Promotion in Canada (3rd ed.). (p. 117-137).Toronto, ON: Canadian Scholars' Press, Inc.


Bigelow, A. & Gillis, D. (2020).  Skin to Skin Contact: Benefits for You and Your Baby. Video translating key research findings.  Online at

Bigelow, A. & Gillis, D. (2010). Enhancing Baby’s First Relationship: A Parent’s Guide for Skin-to Skin Contact with Their Infants and Results from a Study on Mother-Infant Skin-to-Skin Contact. Two DVDs including a practitioner version (28 min) and a parent version (20 min) and a guide. On-line at



Research Interests


  • Understandings of the concept of health literacy and how it is integrated into practice and policy
  • Food security and policy change
  • Maternal and child nutrition with a focus on breastfeeding
  • Knowledge mobilization and participatory research approaches