Conference Biographies

Read about our presenters below. (More bios to come.)

2019 Speakers

Read about our 2019 presenters below.

Dr. Evan Adams - Keynote

Evan Tlesla II Adams is a Coast Salish actor & physician from the Tla’amin First Nation near Powell River, BC, Canada. Evan stars as Thomas Builds-The-Fire in Miramax’s SMOKE SIGNALS, written by Sherman Alexie & directed by Chris Eyre. He also won Best Actor awards from the American Indian Film Festival, & from First Americans in the Arts, & a 1999 Independent Spirit Award for ‘Best Debut Performance’. He won a 2011 Gemini Award for co-hosting the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards along with Adam Beach.

 Aside from his career in the arts, Evan has completed a Medical Doctorate from the University of Calgary in 2002, & a residency in the Aboriginal Family Practice program at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, BC. Dr. Adams has a Masters of Public Health (2009) from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. He was the first-ever Aboriginal Health Physician Advisor in the Office of the Provincial Health Officer, BC Ministry of Health (2007-2012). He was the Deputy Provincial Health Officer for the province of BC from 2012 to 2014. He is currently the Chief Medical Officer of the First Nations Health Authority. 

Twitter Handle: @doctoreonline
Facebook URL:

Jennifer Johannesen - Keynote

Jennifer Johannesen’s son, Owen, had multiple severe disabilities all his life. He died in 2010 at the age of 12. Jennifer’s experiences as Owen’s caregiver and advocate led her to ask broader questions about disability and society, special education and clinical healthcare practice. Specifically: why do we do what we do, and whom does it serve?

Jennifer now writes, lectures and consults on healthcare practice and policy related to patient-centred care, patient engagement, and critical thinking in clinical practice. Jennifer recently earned a Master of Science in Bioethics from Clarkson University (Schenectady NY), and is based in Toronto.

Twitter Handle: @jenjohannesen
Facebook URL:

Stirling Bryan

Stirling Bryan is the Scientific Director, British Columbia SUPPORT Unit, BC Academic Health Science Network and Professor, UBC School of Population & Public Health, and

Senior Scientist, Centre for Clinical Epidemiology & Evaluation Vancouver Coastal Health

Professor (part-time), and Health Economics Research Unit, University of Aberdeen. Stirling is a university-based health economist with extensive experience of engagement with the policy and decision-making world. He began his career in the UK with appointments at St Thomas' Hospital Medical School and then Brunel University, before moving to the University of Birmingham. His research track-record reveals a long-standing goal of informing policy and practice, demonstrated, in part, through an extensive engagement with the National Institute for Health & Care Excellence (NICE). For many years he led the University of Birmingham team that conducted economic analyses for NICE, and subsequently served for three years as a member of the NICE technology appraisals committee. In 2005 he was awarded a Commonwealth Fund Harkness Fellowship and spent one year at Stanford University, researching technology coverage decision making in a US health care organizations. He immigrated to Canada in 2008, taking on the roles of professor in UBC's School of Population & Public Health, and Director of the Centre for Clinical Epidemiology & Evaluation. Over recent years, Stirling has become a strong advocate for, and practitioner of, patient-oriented research, and now partners with patients in all of his research activities. In 2016, he was appointed Scientific Director for the BC SUPPORT Unit, a component part of BC’s Academic Health Sciences Network, focused on promoting patient-oriented research.

Twitter: @StirlingBryan


Minnie Downey

Minnie Downey, as the BC SUPPORT Unit’s Executive Director, provides operational leadership and oversees the implementation of the Unit’s business plan. In her most recent position with the Fraser Health Authority, she worked in the strategic projects division of the Office of the CEO. In this role, she championed Community Action and Resources Empowering Seniors (CARES), a collaborative project that spanned BC and Nova Scotia and proactively engaged with seniors to delay or reverse frailty. Previously, she was program director for Fraser Health’s Cardiac Services, providing leadership for the development and execution of services across the health authority’s 13 facilities and community programs. This work led her to receive the 2015 Golden Apple Innovation award from the Health Employers Association of BC for her leadership in the regionalization and standardization of the Implantable Cardiac Electrical Devices (ICED) project. Minnie holds a Master of Arts in Health Leadership from Royal Roads University, Bachelor degrees in Technology and Business Administration from Memorial University of Newfoundland and a Diploma in Medical Laboratory Technology Science from the College of the North Atlantic. She has completed a fellowship in Executive Training in Healthcare Improvement with the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement and is a Certified Healthcare Executive with the Canadian College of Healthcare Leaders.

Twitter: @Mpikedowney

Kimberlyn McGrail

Kimberlyn McGrail is an Associate Professor in the UBC School of Population and Public Health and the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research. She is Scientific Director of Population Data BC and Data Director for the BC Academic Health Science Network. Her research interests are quantitative policy evaluation, aging and the use and cost of health services, and the ethical and technical aspects of the development and operation of large linked data systems. Her research is conducted in partnership with clinicians, policy-makers and the public. Kim is a founding member of the International Population Data Linkage Network and founding Deputy Editor of the International Journal of Population Data Science. She was the 2009-10 Commonwealth Fund Harkness Associate in Health Care Policy and Practice, a 2016 recipient of the Cortlandt JG Mackenzie Prize for Excellence in Teaching, and 2017 recipient of a UBC award for Excellence in Clinical or Applied Research.

Twitter: @kimchspr

Erin Michalak

Erin Michalak is a Professor in the UBC Department of Psychiatry, Program Director for the APEC Digital Hub for Mental Health, and the Patient Engagement Methods Clusters Lead for the BC SUPPORT Unit. Her background is in psychology, with a PhD awarded from the University of Wales College of Medicine in the United Kingdom. Her research interests are in bipolar disorder, quality of life, knowledge translation, self-management, e-health, seasonal and nonseasonal depression, and assessment scales for mood disorders. Her research has been supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, and the Vancouver Foundation, amongst others. She has secured over two million dollars as a PI on operating grants, and over five million as a Co-I. She is the founder and leader of CREST.BD and has over 80 publications in the mental health arena.

Twitter: @erin_michalak

Tom Noseworthy

Tom Noseworthy has been the BC Academic Health Science Network’s CEO since June 2018. A critical care physician and graduate of the Harvard School of Public Health, his record of leadership spans numerous health innovation, academic and health care delivery settings. He previously served as Associate Chief Medical Officer for Alberta’s Strategic Clinical Networks, head of the Department of Community Health Sciences in the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Medicine, chair of Public Health Sciences at the University of Alberta, and CEO & President of the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton. Tom is highly recognized for his numerous contributions to the field. He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2007, has been named one of the “100 Physicians of the Century” in Alberta, and is a recipient of the Alberta Centennial Award. He also received the Leadership Award while at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

Elder Roberta Price

Elder Roberta Price from the Snuneymuxw and Cowichan First Nations has worked tirelessly over the past three decades to educate and raise awareness about issues affecting First Nations people in a positive, informative, and productive manner. She does this by working as a First Nations educator, sharing her traditional knowledge in schools, within the community, and with First Nations people. Healing is something Roberta is familiar with as she recalls a very painful childhood survived in foster care. Feeling isolated and separated from her culture took a toll on her. Today, she has “risen up” and is completely devoted to being an agent of positive change. The mother of four and grandmother of eight shared for the longest time, she thought she was doing the work for her children, but now realizes it’s for her grandchildren.

Peggy Frank

Peggy Frank, a community artist/facilitator/researcher, has always been concerned about the deep red stigma and purple isolation associated with HIV in rural communities. It colours her world and the world of too many other positive women. Locally, she co-founded the Southern Gulf Islands (HIV) Support Society and, focusing on the pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa - positively AFRICA. She is happiest with a mit full of colored markers, or a brush, pen or meditation in hand. Peggy teaches Body-Mapping and Energy healing (Therapeutic Touch), and has traveled extensively in Canada, the US and Sub-Saharan Africa, and a wee bit in India, Mexico, South America and Nepal. Learning from and sharing with the locals is always relevant to her experiences.

Valerie Nicholson

Valerie Nicholson, honouring her given names The One the Eagles watch over, NoDe WenDa {wolf eyes} and Auntie from the Torres Straight Islanders, Valerie is Mi'kmaq,  Haida, and gypsy. She is a mother of 4 boys and grandmother of 4 grandsons and 1 grand daughter. Living with HIV for 15 years, Valerie currently works at the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS as a Peer Researcher and co investigator and is the recipient of the 2018 CAHR Red Ribbon Research Award. Valerie is the board Chair of Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network and an Indigenous Peer Navigator with Positive Living Society of BC. She is an Elder for Camp Moomba, YouthCo, First directions, and Yuusnewas. Her new adventure is in Artivism.

Angela Kaida

Angela Kaida is an epidemiologist and Canada Research Chair at Simon Fraser University whose global research program centers on a rights-based, evidence-informed, and community-driven approach to sexual and reproductive health among women and youth affected by HIV. She is the co-Principal Investigator of the Canadian HIV Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Study (CHIWOS) and the Women, ART, and The Criminalization of HIV (WATCH) study. Angela practices active allyship with women living with HIV throughout her work.

Mary Kestler

Mary Kestler is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at UBC. She is an Infectious Diseases specialist with particular expertise in HIV, TB, and Global Health.  Today she works in Vancouver at St. Paul’s Hospital, the BC Centre for Disease Control TB Clinic and the Oak Tree Clinic, a provincial referral centre for women and children living with HIV at BC Women’s Health Centre.  She is involved in two large community-based research cohorts of women living with HIV – the Canadian HIV Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Study (CHIWOS) and the Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS: Women’s Longitudinal Needs Assessment (SHAWNA).  She is currently leading the Infectious Diseases curriculum for the UBC Medical School.

Becky Gormley

Becky Gormley is a research coordinator for two national, community-based studies focused on the sexual and reproductive heath and rights of women living with HIV in Canada. She is privileged to work and learn beside women living with HIV and is constantly working to practice allyship in a good way.