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Engaging Patients

Get to Know the Council

Health Quality Ontario Patient, Family and Public Advisors Council

Council Member Biographies

As an active volunteer in Ontario’s not-for-profit sector for over two decades, Lucie Allard has a keen understanding of the growing importance of the community and health care sectors, as well as the need to expand and sustain services and support delivered to residents.

Lucie has held positions with United Way Centraide Ottawa, and at Ontario Trillium Foundation where she was chair and member of the Waterloo Wellington Dufferin grant review team. She currently serves on the Board of Community Support Connections – Meals on Wheels and More of Waterloo Region.

As a francophone residing in southwestern Ontario, Lucie is aware of the importance of respecting cultural challenges when services are delivered. Through her volunteer work as well as personal difficulties navigating the health system and accessing acute health resources and community support, Lucie has a perspective she hopes will help identify gaps and help shape a more equitable, flexible, and responsive health care experience across the province.

Cathy lives in St. Mary’s Ontario, a community located in rural southwestern Ontario and is part of the Southwest Local Health Integration Network. For 28 years, she was a dedicated and passionate teacher and was a recipient of the Avon Maitland District School Board Engage, Inspire, Innovate…Always Learning Award.

Her teaching career came to an abrupt halt when she developed necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating disease resulting in a lengthy stay in an intensive care unit. That expanded into working with a complex web of health care professionals addressing her diverse medical needs for survival, recovery and continuing rehabilitation. Intensive physiotherapy helped her to relearn activities of daily living, striving to rebuild mobility. Cathy is motivated to extend the knowledge and observations from her health care journey to help build an increasingly effective health care system.

Cathy has volunteered with the Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance and has collaborated with local and national initiatives, including the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement and Registered Nurses Association of Ontario. She has international experience presenting on the integration of patients and families into health care teams and the particular contributions they bring to the change process that positively impacts patient satisfaction, safety, engagement, and staff satisfaction.

Jean is a wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who lives in the small community of Parry Sound, Ontario located in the North East Local Health Integration Network. She has disabilities of her own but also worked and volunteered across many different areas of the health care and social service systems for the last 50 years.

Jean is passionate about issues affecting underserved rural and remote communities. She also speaks about areas in need of improvement such as mental health, issues affecting older adults, survivors of sexual abuse and other childhood trauma. She is a feminist who believes in human rights for all, including the LGBTQ community and Indigenous-people.

Jean is an active advisor and patient advocate in her community at the regional, provincial and national levels, including the Resource Development Advisory Group at Health Quality Ontario, and its Health Equity Committee. She has experience as a patient, caregiver, health care worker and advocate.

Donna Brown-Bowers brings her personal experience as a cancer patient to the Health Quality Ontario Patient, Public and Family Advisors Council. During her nine-month journey at Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton, she became aware of the need for mentorship and psychosocial support during and after treatment. She has been cancer free since 2011.

Retired for 10 years after a long career in the life insurance industry with a background in paediatric nursing, Donna now focusses her time and energy volunteering for many local organizations. At Hamilton Health Sciences, she is a member of the Patient and Family Advisor Team, and a Patient Advisor on the Clinical Planning and Advisory Council and the Patient Experience Steering Committee. She also volunteers in the chemotherapy suite at Juravinski Cancer Centre.

Donna strongly supports personal advocacy and empowered community relationships. Through her participation on the Advisors Council, she wants to help focus on patients’ needs and ultimately make positive changes for people using the health system in the future.

Samira Chandani views the health care system through many lenses. She has been a patient and a caregiver. She is a visible minority and lives with a disability. Through her volunteer work focused on women’s development, health and disability, poverty alleviation, elderly and aging and settlement, she has also witnessed the challenges faced by many communities.

Samira has been an advisor to a number of organizations, focusing on helping to improve cancer screening and related services for people with disabilities, and South Asian Women. She has been a volunteer with Health Canada, York Central Hospital, Willow Breast and Hereditary Cancer Support, and Centre for Independent Living in Toronto. 

As part of the Health Quality Ontario Patient, Family and Public Advisors Council, Samira’s diverse background and experience will help give a voice to the needs of many groups and help ensure they are represented in the pursuit to improve health quality in Ontario.

David Chilton was drawn to the Health Quality Ontario Patient, Family and Public Advisor Council by his particular interest in psychology, psychoanalysis and mental health, and his own history of depression. His first major depressive episode occurred when he was 25 years old, and he has suffered from similar episodes each decade since.

After graduating from York University, David attended Ryerson University to study journalism, and has worked as a professional journalist for 30 years. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, he writes and edits crime and literary fiction, and sometimes mentors emerging writers. David hopes his contribution to the Advisors Council will encourage others to seek professional help for their depression, particularly those who don’t do so for reasons of misunderstanding, cultural bias or social stigma. He further hopes to emphasize how important social supports are to mental health.

Lilac is a first-generation Chinese-Canadian currently living in Toronto, Ontario. A graduate of Centennial College, Lilac has held various leadership positions in retail operations and marketing before her 24-year career ended due to medical issues in 2012. In her fifteen-year journey as a patient living with renal disease, Lilac became aware of the importance for a newly diagnosed patient to learn how to be an empowered patient.

A strong advocate for patients, families and caregivers, Lilac is passionate about the challenges facing our health care system at the provincial level. Based on her own health care journey, Lilac also understands the unique challenges facing patients navigating a complex health care system and is an advocate on their behalf.

Beyond the Council, Lilac has been a patient advisor with Health Quality Ontario in various capacities and is a volunteer with the University Health Network’s Partners in Care Program where her contributions help important hospital planning and decision-making activities. She also works with the Kidney Foundation as a Peer Support Volunteer. Through her participation in the Health Quality Ontario Patient Family and Public Advisors Council, Lilac hopes to help patients in their journey navigating through the health care system.

Sharon lives in London, Ontario. She has provided and received care within her Aboriginal community. Sharon has also helped to advance efforts to address fetal alcohol syndrome in the province.

Sharon’s knowledge and understanding of issues facing Aboriginal communities in Ontario brings a unique perspective to the Council. By sharing, listening and learning, Sharon hopes that conversations can be had to bring an understanding to the issues faced by Aboriginal women in Ontario.

Renee lives in the rural Northern Ontario community of Dryden.

Renee brings a wealth of experience to the Council including about living with physical disabilities, palliative care and access for people living in rural and remote communities in northern Ontario.

As a caregiver to her son with muscular dystrophy and recently losing her sister to cancer, Renee shares her caregiver experiences as the Council works towards improving the quality of care in our health system. Specifically, Renee is an advocate for those navigating and accessing the health system who have physical disabilities.

Renee serves as co-chair of the Dryden Regional Health Centre Patient and Family Advisory Committee and has been a member of its accessibility committee. Renee brings insights from the lived experiences of dealing in many areas of the health system such as homecare, telemedicine, air ambulance transfers, living in hospital and being a full time caregiver.

Marisa Granieri brings a multifaceted perspective to the Health Quality Ontario Patient, Family and Public Advisors Council. She is the mother of two healthy children, the daughter of a woman diagnosed with cancer, and a patient living with fibromyalgia. Through her diverse personal experiences, she brings unique, multigenerational insights that she hopes can help improve the health system for others of all ages and stages of life.

A graduate of the University of Toronto, Marisa is a Professional Engineer and has experience in manufacturing, project engineering, and marketing. She has held volunteer roles with York Region Catholic School Board, the Town of Richmond Hill, and the Regional Municipality of York.

Marisa is also a trained English Second Language instructor and has always been passionate about learning and teaching others. She believes her lifelong enthusiasm for improvement can help improve the health system in Ontario.

Micheline has lived in the small Northern Ontario town of Wawa for 46 years with her husband and four children. Micheline volunteered with several community organizations connected with her children's interests and her church's activities. She has also volunteered with her local WaWa Town Council in various roles and committees. Micheline is also a Personal Support Worker for The March of Dimes.

Micheline was a caregiver for her husband with end-stage emphysema while he waited for a double lung transplant. During this time, she faced many different challenges, including coordinating his care in southern Ontario.

Micheline has a passion for volunteerism and brings a strong voice to the Council. She hopes to bring to light concerns facing northern communities in Ontario and the difficulties many face coordinating their care.

Kira currently lives in Toronto and is an advocate for issues around equitable health care access. As a member of the Council, Kira hopes to get a closer look at patient participation in health system change.

As part of her ongoing work in food security initiatives, Kira has spent several years as front line staff in a supportive housing provider in Toronto. Her focus there is on food security education for adults living with mental health and addictions. Kira also chairs the Board of Directors at the West End Food Co-op in the Parkdale neighbourhood of Toronto. There she focuses on reducing barriers to food security for marginalized residents in the area. Both roles have widened her lens on the strengths in Ontario’s health system as well as the opportunities for improvement.

Kira’s passion stems not only from her professional work but from extensive personal interaction with the health system in Ontario. Watching her mother navigate the cancer care system as a child coupled with Kira’s efforts to manage her own physical and mental health concerns has impressed upon her the need for more effective patient advocacy at the clinical level.

Brenda Laurin lives in the community of Tiny, Ontario, located on the shores of Georgian Bay. She is passionate about her Métis culture, community and a strong advocate of Aboriginal health issues including access and participation in care.

Brenda is a caregiver for her members of her family with a history of cancer, heart, addiction and mental health issues. In dealing with some of these issues, she has turned to her culture to help guide her and her family through some challenging health experiences. She hopes to share her culture and learn from others on the Council to help build an understanding and awareness of the issues that face remote and Aboriginal communicates across the province.

Outside of the Council, Brenda continues to attend and participate as a member of the Family Connects Program at the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care.

The majority of Micheal Low’s experience in Ontario’s health care system is from his role as a caregiver. At Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto he has served as a Family Leader, and has been a member of the Quality Steering Committee. He recently joined the measurement and evaluation working group with Change Foundation.

A graduate of University of Toronto, Michael holds a Bachelor of Applied Science and currently works as a process develop engineer in the high-tech and automotive industries. His primary focus is to improve processes and uncover efficiencies to help organizations become more cost-effective and sustainable.

As part of the Health Quality Ontario Patient, Family and Public Advisors Council, Michael is committed to sharing his personal and professional experiences to help ensure that as health care demands increase, the system will grow in a sustainable way and patients will remain unique individuals with health needs that will be fulfilled.

Claude Lurette is an experienced, bilingual leader in patient engagement. He first became a volunteer in mental health and addiction services when he formed the first patient advisory committee at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre following his own treatment for a life-altering illness.

Claude went on to engage patients and clients in the community while sitting on a number of policy and planning committees with the Champlain Local Health Integrated Network and the City of Ottawa. Claude currently sits on the Board of the Canadian Mental Health Association – Ottawa Branch; is Co-Chair of the Central Canada Depression Hub; and is a Lived Experience Team Leader for the Canadian Depression Research and Innovation Network.

Claude passionately shares his personal experiences at conferences, symposiums and in the media. He is supported by his life partner, two step-children, his siblings and his community to continue his work as both an advisor and advocate in Ottawa and across the country.

Charles is a community development and engagement enthusiast who moved to Ontario in 2010 and currently lives in Etobicoke, Ontario.

Inspired by his own health journey, Charles strives to support improvements in the coordination of health care services in Ontario. To that end, Charles took an opportunity to give back and help inspire change in his own community by becoming an active patient and family advisor with St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto, Ontario.

Charles is also a Board Member at LAMP, a Community Health Centre that provides a variety of integrated programs and services to meet the health needs of the East Mississauga and Etobicoke community.

A parent of a child with a disability, Gideon Sheps joined the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital Family Advisory Committee, where he has participated in a wide range of projects and committees at the hospital over the last decade. In 2013, he became a founding member and co-chair of the Bloorview Research Institute’s Family Engagement Committee. Gideon helped develop the framework for family engagement in research that is now being implemented. He has also presented at conferences about family engagement in medicine and research.

Gideon has worked in Information Technology for over 25 years in North America, Europe, and Asia. He hold a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of Toronto, and post-graduate credentials from the University of Surrey Business School and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

As a member of the Health Quality Ontario Patient, Family and Public Advisors Council, Gideon aims to make sure the challenges faced by people with disabilities, and their families, are considered.

Toby lives with his wife in Newboro, Ontario, a small rural town located in southeastern Ontario.
Toby’s interaction with the health system has mainly been through primary care, as well supporting and advocating for his wife through two recent knee replacement surgeries.

As a retired public servant working with Aboriginal groups, Toby has professional experience in program evaluation and risk management along with an interest in the diverse needs of people from across the province.

Toby is an active member for the Perth & Smith Falls Patient and Family Advisory Council and shares his insights on the rural communities of southeastern Ontario. He also volunteers as a driver for the Westport Lions’ Medical Van – which takes rural neighbours (without their own transportation) to medical appointments. While Toby is new to the role of a patient and family advisor, he has a keen interest in how health care is administered at a provincial level and where quality improvements can be made.

Gene Szabo’s life and career was refocussed over 30 years ago when he suffered a heart attack and committed himself to making a difference in the health system. Gene joined Health Canada’s then Medical Services Branch in the Northwest Territories as Head of Accounting Operations, and later as a research consultant in Community Health in Indian and Northern Health. Years later, Gene had bypass surgery and was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2012.

Over the past forty-five years, Gene has held volunteer leadership roles in organizations including Kiwanis Club, Scouts Canada, Ontario Lacrosse, Kanata Youth Centre, 872 Kiwanis Air Cadet Squadron, and the local Legion. Gene was a member and Vice President of the Ottawa Heart Institute Alumni, member of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute Human Research Ethics Board, and member of the Queensway Carleton Hospital Board of Directors. He is currently Co-Chair of the Hospital's Patient and Family Advisory Council. In 2003, Gene received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for community service.

Through the Health Quality Ontario Patient, Family and Public Advisors Council, Gene hopes to help patients and families become full partners in their health care and create better options for seniors.

Calvin Young has been actively involved in the Thunder Bay health community as a result of his own lung disabilities. After attending a local rehab program, Calvin saw opportunities for improvement and formed Every Breath Counts – a monthly peer group for people living with and affected by lung disease. The group educates patients, caregivers and family members and provides guidance for navigating the health system.

For 25 years Calvin worked in broadcasting, directing, and producing award-winning news and public affairs programs. During this time, he was one of the producers and directors of an annual telethon, which raised over $2 million for local cystic fibrosis research. Since retirement, Calvin has been a volunteer at Cystic Fibrosis Canada, The Canadian Red Cross, Catholic Family Development Centre, St. Joseph’s Foundation, Canadian Mental Health Association, Persons United For Self Help, and many more. In 2007, Calvin was named Thunder Bay’s Volunteer of the Year and was honoured by The Council of Canadians with Disabilities in 2005.

Let’s make our health system healthier

Join Our Patient, Family and Public Advisors Program

Patients, families and the public are central to improving health quality.

Claude Lurette and Kowsiya Vijayartnam, Health Quality Ontario Patient, Family and Caregiver Advisors Council Co-Chairs

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