Mary Beaucage (Co-Chair)
North Bay, Ontario Renal Network
Mary Beaucage is Anishnaabe, from Nipissing First Nation, outside of North Bay. Mary has type 2 diabetes and developed end-stage kidney disease in 2013, for which she received dialysis. In March 2015, she received a living donor kidney transplant from her cousin. She is a member of the Ontario Renal Network’s Patient and Family Advisory Council and North East Patient and Family Advisory Council, the Can-SOLVE CKD Network’s Patient Governance Circle and Indigenous Peoples Engagement Research Council. She has been a keynote speaker, panel member and presenter at national and international nephrology conferences. She brings a wealth of knowledge, enthusiasm and passion to her work. She is interested in educating and advocating in matters of Indigenous health, patient partnership, chronic kidney disease research, and organ donation and transplantation awareness.
Thornhill, Central Region
Naomi Abrahams has a Master of Social Work and is a PhD student at the University of Ottawa. As a young individual who has lived with a chronic disease for 10 years, Naomi knows how relevant and valuable it is to incorporate patients’ lived experiences in research promotion and in the design, delivery and evaluation of health care. She is passionate about participation opportunities for marginalized individuals. She is eager to use her knowledge as a patient combined with her experience as an advocate to improve the health system in a way that benefits all service users.
Espanola, North West Region
Yves Carriere is a Francophone living in a small, rural community. He is passionate about finding solutions that will help make people’s health care experience better. He is a member of the patient and family advisory committee at the Espanola Regional Hospital and is a volunteer on various committees and boards. As a previous hospital board chair for the Matheson, Iroquois Falls and Cochrane group and vice chair for the Espanola Regional Hospital, he has a good understanding of how the health care system functions and the unique challenges people experience in Northern Ontario. Yves is motivated to serve as an advisor so he can contribute to improving the quality of life for people in Ontario.
Toronto, Ontario Health Patient and Family Advisors Network
Crystal Chin uses her experiences as a racialized young female immigrant living with both visible and invisible disabilities to advocate for health and education issues. In addition to being an active consumer of home care service since adolescence, she serves in many capacities and for many organizations. She most recently worked with the Standards Development Committee in tertiary care services and in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility. She is actively involved with the Citizenship Advocacy Group, which helps bring the patient voice and perspective to health care regulation in Ontario. She is currently a member of the Patient Family Advisory Council at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and a Patient Partner with the Ontario Brain Institute. She also volunteers with the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
Oakville, Central Region
Sangeeta Chopra-Charron has more than 30 years’ experience delivering strategic initiatives for financial service organizations looking to transform their business models to adapt to a new market environment. She considers volunteering for Ontario Health as an essential cause to help give back to the wider community by leveraging both her personal and professional experiences. From 2014 to 2016, she was a member of the advisory board for RainGrid Inc., a climate adaptation start-up. Prior to that, she was on the 2010/11 Board of Directors for Peel Children's Centre and Nexus Youth Services. Her other experience includes mediator for the Region of Peel, president of a non-profit organization, as well as co-chair of parent councils in both the primary and secondary public-school systems. These personally rewarding experiences serve to ground and enlighten her outlook on life.
Natalie Del Signore
Ottawa, East Region
Natalie Del Signore is a former registered nurse who worked in acute care and research, for both adult care and pediatrics. She is a strong advocate for marginalized people who face serious challenges when accessing health care, including newcomers to Canada who experience language barriers. She is also a parent advocate, with a focus on the very under-represented pediatric voice, especially in the areas of mental health and complex care. She has past volunteer experience at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, various women’s shelters, and Hope’s Garden Eating Disorder Support. Currently she volunteers with many organizations, including Pediatric Parents Consultation Network; Evidence in Child Health to Enhance Outcomes Research with the University of Alberta; and SickKids Family Advisory Network. She enjoys yoga and meditation and offers classes to women and children in shelters in and around Ottawa.
Thunder Bay, North West Region
Joan Duke believes patient and family stories need to be heard so that their experiences can influence change in the health care system. This interest was driven by her own diagnosis of a chronic condition and by watching two families struggle to have their children’s life-threatening conditions diagnosed. As a volunteer with the Thunder Bay Regional Hospital Patient Advisory Committee and co-chair of a regional Patient and Family Advisory Council, Joan has worked on issues such as virtual care, digital health, hospital operations, policy review and quality control. She is an active volunteer for many community organizations, where she listens to and carries back people’s experiences and ideas. She is committed to keeping current on health matters and finds it gratifying to be part of a system that listens to the patient's voice.
South West, Ontario Renal Network
Bonnie Field is currently co-chair of the Ontario Renal Network Patient and Family Advisory Council, where she has been an active member for five years. Previously she was involved in the Patient and Family Advisory Council at London Health Sciences Centre and was chair for three years. She has had a broad range of renal care experiences. She had two failed kidney transplants and has done dialysis both incentre and at home. She has done nocturnal home dialysis for the last six years and is a strong advocate for this form of treatment as it works well for her. She hopes her experiences can benefit other renal patients. She enjoys travelling, biking and spending time with her family as much as possible.
London, West Region
Wendi Heal is currently a care partner at St. Joseph Healthcare Centre and Parkwood Institute in London where she takes part in presentations for psychology students and physical therapists. She is also a member of the Ontario West Patient and Family Advisory. She has cared for elderly family members and those with cancer. In late 2020, Wendi was infected with COVID-19 and admitted to an Acute Covid Care Clinic; she continues to suffer from long COVID-19 symptoms. While in hospital, she started a blog to keep people informed on her personal experience with COVID-19. She currently participates in two COVID-19 studies that are focused on the brain and respiratory systems. As a patient and family advisor, her focus is to see improvement in the health care system at several levels by having patients provide input alongside staff, professionals and government.
Richmond Hill, Ontario Health Patient and Family Advisors Network
Lilian Hulme-Smith is a retired public servant who spent her career in social and supportive housing administration and risk management. Diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis in 2007, she now uses a scooter or wheelchair for mobility. She drives a modified van using hand controls, and with the help of her service dog Gavin, she continues to live an independent and active life. She is currently a Patient Partner on the Advisory Council at Mackenzie Health Richmond Hill Hospital and sits on the hospital’s Complex Care, Falls Quality Aims and Rehab Committees. She is a patient advocate with several organizations, including the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technology in Health: Ontario Health Central Region, West York OHT and Collaboration Council. She is particularly interested in raising awareness about equitable access for people with disabilities.
Hamilton, Cancer Care Ontario
Lester Krames is Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, and a retired registered psychologist who maintained a private clinical practice working with caregivers. He is a cancer survivor and was caregiver for his wife who passed after fighting cancer for 27 Years. He volunteers as a patient and family advisor with many health organizations, including Juravinski Cancer Centre; Ontario Caregiver Organization- Caregiver Mental Health Working Group; Caregivers as Partners in Care Learning Collaborative; Ontario Health Rapid Response Team; and Cancer Care Ontario. He is passionate about recognizing the role of caregivers, who are willing to learn and assume the duties necessary to provide better care, and a strong advocate for building better partnerships with health care teams.
Lindsay, Ontario Health Patient and Family Advisors Network
Residing in a rural area of the City of Kawartha Lakes, Consuelo Kuettner has navigated the health system and many governmental organizations for more than 30 years as the caregiver of a family member with complex health needs. She is a strong advocate for people facing barriers or who have been silenced or excluded by the system. She is involved with several organizational boards and is a founding board member of the Home and Community Care Support Services Central East. Her work has been recognized with several awards, including a caregiver award from the Access Centre, advocate award from the Teacher Assistance Association, and a nomination for woman of the year for the City of Kawartha Lakes. While she continues to work full time during the summer, she supports seasonal farm workers from Mexico.
Robert Little has had type 1 diabetes for 38 years, which resulted in eye complications and an amputation of his left leg below the knee. He has volunteered his time with CorHealth Ontario. He is passionate about sharing his personal experiences with the health care system.
Toronto, Quality Health Ontario
Michael Low’s experience in Ontario’s health care system has primarily been 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 also participated in a measurement and evaluation working group with the Change Foundation and has been a co-chair of an Ontario Health Patient, Family and Public Advisors Council. He currently works as a process development engineer in the high-tech and automotive industries, where he helps improve processes and uncover efficiencies to help organizations become more cost-effective and sustainable. He is committed to sharing his personal and professional experiences to help ensure that the health care system will be sustainable, and that patients’ unique health needs will be fulfilled.
Stratford and Port Franks, West Region
Matthew Maynard has lived with an inherited blood disorder since birth. He regularly accesses the health care system in Hamilton, London, Stratford, Grand Bend and infrequently Toronto. He is also a caregiver, providing home and long-term support for family and friends. Matthew has extensive experience in advocacy, co-design and community development, holding positions at the clinical, regional, provincial, national and international levels. He is excited for the opportunity to participate as a patient and caregiver partner in the development of an accessible and compassionate care model for all.
Toronto, Ontario Health Patient and Family Advisors Network
Jamaican-born Jennifer Monteith was the first Black woman featured in Eaton’s catalogue, an experience that launched her modeling career and work in Black community advocacy. A single mother and sole family provider after the loss of two husbands, she was propelled into entrepreneurship. Recognizing the need for diversity in the fashion world, she began to identify and promote black youth through her business venture, Different Faces Model and Talent Agency. She also founded and operated The Exhibitor Support Centre – “The Office Away from the Office” from 1998 to 2019. In January 2010, she received a second chance at life when she became a heart transplant recipient. As a role model and spokesperson for the Trillium Gift of Life Network, she shares the story of her life-changing experience with health care professionals and gives encouragement to other patients who have received or are waiting for their own gift.
Marie Murphy Foran
Elliot Lake, North East Region
Marie Murphy Foran, along with her siblings, helped her parents navigate long-term care and end-of-life care with a focus on quality of life including palliative care and a dignified death. Along with her husband, she continues assisting a family member to arrange social and health services while aging in place in a group home. A long career in community care and an understanding of psychosocial needs and social determinants of health have contributed to her advocating for all persons from birth to death. She has provided training in Service Excellence in Healthcare and in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act throughout Ontario. Marie is a member on the leadership Provincial Geriatrics Leadership Ontario Older Adult and Care Partner Advisory Council and serves a s a resource to Home and Community Support Services in special projects. She is also a member of the East Algoma Health Team Leadership Council. As a member of the Citizen Advisory Group, she provides input that helps bring the patient and caregiver perspective to health care regulation in Ontario.
Guelph, Trillium Gift of Life
Janet Parr is a former educator from Guelph, Ontario. At the age of 43, she began to experience heart failure. Over the next 8 years her condition deteriorated, demanding progressively intensive interventions until she received a heart transplant at age 51. Upon learning of the need for transplant, she became a volunteer educator and advocate for organ and tissue donation with Trillium Gift of Life Network. As a volunteer with the Heart & Stroke Foundation, she has participated in both national and provincial donor campaigns, sharing her heart disease journey. The cause of Janet’s heart disease was genetic, and her children now face the same diagnosis. It is with hope that she looks forward to what medical science and health care have in store for the future of diseases such as hers.
Ottawa, Trillium Gift of Life
At the age of 19, Tina Proulx was diagnosed with chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension, a progressive lung disease in which blood clots and scar tissue block the arteries of the lungs, forcing the heart to work a lot harder than what it is designed to do. She received a lung transplant in 2015, giving her the gift of being able to do things that she never imagined she would be able to do. However, post-transplant, her immune system has been compromised, which comes with its own share of health care needs. With her husband, Tina currently co-chairs the Ottawa Gift of Life, a volunteer-based organ and tissue donation advocacy group. Inspired by her transplant journey, she also volunteers as a patient ambassador for StayWell Charity, a non-profit organization that provides temporary accommodations for out-of-town patients requiring health care services available only in Toronto. Motivated by her personal experiences, she is a strong advocate for patients with invisible disabilities.
Toronto, Toronto Region
As a cisgender, racialized immigrant woman living with visible and invisible disabilities, Janet Rodriguez receives care from many health care providers who help her manage multiple chronic conditions. She volunteers as a co-creator and facilitator of education modules. She is also a co-chair of the Disability Justice working group, University of Toronto Office of Inclusion and Diversity, as well as a committee member of the Social Determinants of Health at St Michael’s Hospital, and with Unity Health Toronto Patient and Family Council. Janet is committed to equity and accessibility. She is an organizer of the Toronto Annual Disability Pride march and a past producer/host of a local Spanish radio program on accessibility.
Thunder Bay, North East Region
George Saarinen worked as a developmental service worker in group homes for the developmentally disabled for 30 years and as a funeral director for 10 years. Now retired, he supports aging family members navigating the health care system by arranging services with various agencies as their needs change. He believes in giving back to the community when and where possible. In his role as co-chair of a Patient and Family Advisory Council in the North Region, he connects with other health system users to share experiences and perspectives with health care providers to ensure care is patient and family centred. He is also a school board trustee with Lakehead Public Schools and has been an active labour union advocate.
Carlton Place (Ottawa), Ontario Health Patient and Family Advisors Network
Driven by passion to end the stigma around mental illness, Andrea Schaefer uses her personal lived experiences to support, educate and bring awareness in our Health Care System. She currently serves as President of the Board of Directors for Ontario Peer Development Initiative. She has been involved with the Ontario Patient Quality Improvement Network since 2020, working on a variety of issues. including postpartum depression, insomnia, naloxone use and more. She is an inaugural member of the Caregiver Advisory Committee for Open Doors Child and Youth Mental Health of Lanark County. As a Certified Mental Health Peer Supporter, she also works with individuals living with severe and chronic mental health challenges. She was diagnosed with complex PTSD and severe mental illness in her 30s. In her 40s, she was diagnosed with ADHD and suffered two major concussions, losing speech, thoughts, memories and some fine motor skills. With a lifetime of experience as a patient, a parent and a caregiver, Andrea understands the barriers to navigating our system, especially when a person is unwell.
Scarborough, Ontario Health Patient and Family Advisors Network
Jenny Tang has experience with the health care system as both a patient and a caregiver. She lives with post-traumatic stress disorder, the result of severe trauma dating back more than a decade. Her PTSD led her to be hospitalized and has required emergency care numerous times. She and other family members also cared for her elderly mother through surgery, stroke and rehabilitation. She volunteers with various health organizations, including as a member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario Citizen Advisory Committee; as a facilitator with the University of Toronto Health Care Inter-Professional Education; and as an advisor on a UHN research project on immigrant woman’s participation. She enjoys public speaking and is an executive officer of Peer Talk of Mood Disorder Association of Ontario. Jenny advocates for mental health through connection to nature, as well as workplace safety for mental health. She is an avid gardener who promotes non-artificial/chemical methods and is a garden photographer.
Durham, East Region
Anne-Marie Yaraskavitch’s diverse experiences as a care partner include supporting family and friends living with cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, mental illness and end-of-life diagnoses, in home and long-term care settings, in urban and rural communities. These journeys have highlighted for her the need for patients, families and care partners to be involved in identifying health and social care needs and co-designing solutions. She co-chairs the Durham Ontario Health Team’s Patient, Family and Care Partner Advisory Council and the Provincial Geriatrics Leadership Ontario Older Adult and Care Partner Advisory Council. She has been an advisor on various other regional and provincial health system planning tables over the last 16 years. Caring for her father sparked a special interest in the needs of older adults, leading her to complete a degree in gerontology after her retirement. She now focuses her primary advocacy efforts on care and support for older adults.
Toronto, Toronto Region
Alexander Zsager lives in Toronto. In his role as a researcher, advisor, presenter and board member of several committees, he draws on his own personal journey from success to homelessness and back, and his lived experiences with addiction, depression and anxiety. He is currently working with Upstream Labs on the Sparks study and Healthy Hearts for the Homeless projects, as well as with Homeless Connect Toronto on the Journeys to Home project. For over 20 years, he has been a strong advocate for the homeless community. He has been a research team member with such organizations as the Mental Health Commission of Canada at Home/Chez Soi project, Dixon Hall’s Out of the Cold project, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, St. Mikes Star Learning Centre, and many more groups focused on mental health, addictions and homelessness.