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Patient Partnering

Get to Know the Council

Group photo of Health Quality Ontario’s Patient, Family and Public Advisors Council

Council Member Biographies

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.

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.

Crystal is a racialized young female immigrant with a visible disability and a passionate advocate for young people who face intersectional barriers to quality care and education.

As a pediatric patient, and now as an adult patient, Crystal has received a range of care for her neuromotor congenital condition. She has accessed home care service since adolescence, first through CCAC, and currently as a self-manager on direct funding through the Centre for Independent Living Toronto. As a result, over the years Crystal has experienced many of the challenges that accompany transitions of care.

Crystal is a member of the Patient, Family Advisory Council and a Foundation Ambassador at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto, and also serves on the boards for the Richmond Hill Mobility Access Foundation and Patients Canada.

As a Council member, Crystal is focused on intersectionality: examining the social determinants of physical and mental health in relation to age, gender identity, culture and ethnicity, and physical and intellectual differences, and how these factors affect each individual’s access to equitable healthcare on all levels.

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.

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.

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.

An educator and artist living in Toronto in long-term care, Judy was diagnosed with ALS in 2005. Before ALS, she loved working as a daycare teacher, volunteering in hospice, and getting out in nature to ski and canoe.

Judy has been involved in the healthcare system in a variety of ways over the years. When her mother passed away after 20 years with cancer, Judy wanted to get involved. She began volunteering in hospice care and developed a passion for palliative care. This experience served her well when she was diagnosed with ALS – the volunteer became the recipient.

When her disease progressed and Judy moved out of her apartment and into long-term care, she received a box of blank cards from a friend. This simple gift became a therapeutic project. Judy began crafting and sending cards to the people in her family and community – she felt connected and like she was making a difference in peoples’ lives.

In long-term care at Kensington Gardens, Judy joined the team working toward accreditation to offer resident input and served as a keynote speaker at its 2017 annual general meeting – and, to her surprise, earned a standing ovation.

Judy wishes to bring to Council her experiences working in palliative care, advocating for her parents and herself, and as a resident in long-term care. Since becoming disabled, Judy’s desire to live a life with meaning and purpose is stronger than ever.

Paul has spent the past two decades drawing on his knowledge of and passion for Indigenous Control of Indigenous Education. His ongoing efforts are centered around foundation work with the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres and the development of educational supports within the community college system.

A life-long learner, Paul has supported scores of community-based programs and services, has worked to improve accessibility for urban, rural and remote First Nations communities, and remains passionate about culturally focused programs that support the educational needs of Indigenous learners and their parent communities.

Paul is the Manager of Indigenous Services at Loyalist College and resides in the traditional territories of the Bay of Quinte, (Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory), better known as the Land of the Peacemaker. He is married with one son, and foster parent to several young and old people. He is particularly interested in growing awareness and access to public health services and traditional medicines practiced by Indigenous communities.

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

Brenda is a caregiver for family members with a history of cancer, heart conditions, addiction and mental health issues, and has turned to her culture to help guide them 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 communities 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.

At 16 years old, Justina Marianayagam was diagnosed with widespread chronic pain syndrome as a pediatric patient at SickKids Hospital. Today, an adult patient at the Ottawa Hospital, Justina has experience navigating both rural and urban healthcare systems, from her hometown of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories to larger centres in Mississauga and Ottawa.

Justina looks at health not only as a patient, but also as an advocate and researcher. She currently serves as a Patient Advisor at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and the Ottawa Hospital, as well as at SickKids in Toronto. Justina also works with the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care on developing a provincial strategy on transition for pediatric chronic pain patients moving into adult care. At a local level, Justina runs monthly workshops with young patients (eight to 17) and their caregivers on the challenges of living with chronic pain. Justina’s advocacy work has been well recognized through multiple national patient scholarships, and she has spoken at conferences from Goose Bay to Copenhagen.

Justina is a Loran Scholar who is completing her bilingual (French and English) undergraduate degree in Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa. Her research interests include pediatric pain and Northern Canadian health issues (drowning prevention, traditional medicine access and emergency medevacs).

Justina looks forward to continuing her advocacy work for pediatric and young adult patients as a Council member, engaging with her colleagues and healthcare professionals to develop patient-centered programs that can be implemented locally.

Born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Kim has worked for 27 years at Community Living Algoma, in service of ensuring that people with intellectual disabilities receive the same options and standards of care that other people receive.

Kim experienced firsthand the impact of health care on the family when her mother was diagnosed in 2011 with colon cancer and died two years later. Through this, Kim recognized there are always improvements that can be made and different points of view to be heard – all of which can help improve the patient experience. And so she applied to be part of the Algoma District Cancer Program (ADCP) Patient and Family Advisor Council at the Sault Area Hospital.

She has since been involved with other volunteer initiatives within the hospital, including a project to improve appointment scheduling for cancer patients, and bringing patient and family perspectives forward as improvements were made to SAH’s website to make patient information more accessible.

Kim has also navigated the health system for her two children, who received care in Sault Ste. Marie and currently access follow-up specialist care in Toronto and London as they attend post-secondary school. Ultimately, Kim wishes to help ensure that access, ease and standard of care is the same for all people in all parts of the province.

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.

Farrah is a passionate advocate for people with disabilities and chronic illness.

A graduate student at SOAS University of London, Farrah is currently completing her Master’s in Poverty Reduction studies. Having long been involved in community work, she directed her focus towards disability soon after being diagnosed with several chronic illnesses, including systemic lupus, in her 20s. At the 2018 Active Citizens Social Enterprise Summit, run by British Council Canada and the United Nations Association of Canada, Farrah was awarded Most Promising Young Innovator for her app concept, which simplifies the hiring of people with disabilities.

Farrah has worked with several federal government departments and non-profit organizations, and has volunteered with many organizations on issues ranging from genocide prevention to Canadian newcomer integration. She wishes to create positive change, driven by her experiences gained over many years as a patient and volunteer.

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.

Scott has experienced the full spectrum of health care – from healing to harmful – as he lives with two chronic conditions. His experience with these stark contrasts in care is what motivates him to contribute to Health Quality Ontario’s Patient, Family and Public Advisors Council.

As a person living with HIV since 1998, Scott, upon receiving his own life-saving treatment with antiretrovirals, set about working to increase access to care and treatment in sub-Saharan Africa, which experiences the greatest global need for HIV medications. Scott joined forces with a medical humanitarian non-governmental organization to implement community-based HIV/AIDS care to the Zomba District of Malawi.

During this time, Scott developed a passion for triathlon and became the first person living with HIV to compete at the Triathlon World Championships. Scott went on to represent Canada at three triathlon world championships, complete three Ironman triathlons, and win multiple medals at the Gay Games.

In 2012, 10 days before Ironman Mont-Tremblant, Scott became gravely ill with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). As he received medical treatment for ME, Scott was struck by the institutional bias that exists against ME and those living with it, an experience that lead to his cofounding the ME advocacy organization Millions Missing Canada.

While Scott says he can accept the ME diagnosis and its bleak prognosis, he cannot accept the perpetuation of institutional bias and harm against people living with ME.

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.

Born and raised in El Salvador, Angela moved to Canada more than 25 years ago. She’s very familiar with the challenges of navigating the immigration process, as new laws and cultural differences are compounded by a language barrier.

Angela is a licensed paralegal, immigration consultant and translator who provides legal and immigration advice and advocacy in English and Spanish through her Sarnia-based, Spanglish Legal Services. In this role, Angela finds herself advocating for patients as she travels with them through their health journey.

Angela can comment on access issues that her clients face and she herself faces as a visible minority with a North American husband in a northern community.

Over the years, Angela has served on the advisory panel at Bluewater Health Hospital, on the Health Care Information Committee for Immigrant and Refugee Women, on the board of Windsor Women Working With Immigrant Women for 18 years, and on the AIDS Committee of Windsor.

Bringing with her the perspectives of a patient, caregiver and invested community member, Angela wishes to raise the voices of immigrants and refugees and work to improve their health and wellbeing.

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.


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