In Memorium: Dr. Henry Moller

The MIE Department was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Henry Moller in June 2020. Moller was a PhD candidate in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering working with the Interactive Media Lab to evaluate his innovative TEMM (technology-enhanced multimodal meditation) virtual reality system. In Dr. Moller’s memory, and to honour his contributions to his PhD research, the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering along with family and friends have established the Henry Moller Graduate Scholarship.

Dr. Moller dedicated his professional life to holistic patient mental health and wellness. He obtained his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1996 from the University of Toronto and specialized in Psychiatry at McMaster University in 2001. In 2014, he opened his psychiatric practice with a focus on community-centred long-term patient wellness. The clinic provided a safe space for his diverse patient community and he was known for exploring the Danforth neighbourhood with interested patients in a weekly walking group during his lunch breaks. Dr. Moller worked hard to better understand his patients’ cultural contexts and issues to provide more effective long-term support. He remained a dedicated care provider throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting patients through telephone and video consults.

In 2016 Dr. Moller began collaborating with the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering to address how to best support the changing relationships and conditions of mental health, urbanization and aging. His project, titled Windows to the World, looked at how immersive mindfulness meditation assisted by virtual reality (VR) could improve mental health and wellbeing, particularly in patients experiencing anxiety or depression. Using VR headsets and a combination of high quality video footage and overlaid computer graphics that he created, Moller immersed patients into beautiful and calming natural scenes and experiences most people would not be able to see, like sunrise in the Swiss Alps. He studied how the brain reacted to these images and considered adjustments and enhancements that could be made for better results as part of an iterative design process; adding sounds, animals, or even a voice to guide the patient through the meditative experience.

“Henry’s approach to health and wellbeing was truly holistic,” Professor Mark Chignell, the director of the Interactive Media Lab noted. “His research will help maximize the benefits of a kind of mindfulness meditation gained from immersive interactions with natural scenes, and make leisure therapy more accessible and available to those who need it.”

Moller’s study into how VR tools can be used to help treat anxiety and depression will continue in the Interactive Media Lab. The team will continue on with the process of testing different combinations of sounds and images to see how the brain reacts and how the greatest benefits can be reached.

In his personal life, Dr. Moller was a lover of travel, art and music. He was a member of the Toronto Choral Society and was passionate about exploring different cultures and sharing them with his loved ones. His creativity, sensitivity and generosity of spirit both set him apart and helped him succeed in his career. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends and colleagues.

In memory of Dr. Henry Moller the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering along with family and friends have established the Henry Moller Graduate Scholarship. The scholarship will be awarded to future graduate students in the Interactive Media Lab, who demonstrate academic excellence and who are undertaking advanced research relating to mental wellness and multimedia.

-Published August 13, 2020 by Lynsey Mellon,

© 2021 Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering