Conference Biographies

Read about our presenters below.

2019 Speakers

Read about our 2019 presenters below.

Dr. Evan Adams

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. 

Learn More About Dr. Evan Adams:

Twitter Handle: @doctoreonline
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Jennifer Johannesen

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:

2018 Speakers

Read about our 2018 presenters below.

Davina Banner

Davina Banner is a cardiovascular and rural health researcher, nurse educator, and a palliative care practitioner. Davina currently works as an Associate Professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Northern British Columbia and leads an interdisciplinary program of research exploring cardiovascular care, patient and provider experiences and rural health service delivery. Dr. Banner has published and presented nationally and internationally and has a special interest in integrated knowledge translation and patient engagement.

Nick Bansback

Nick Bansback is seconded to the Unit from the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia (UBC), where he is an Assistant Professor. Among many affiliations, he is the Program Head of Decision Sciences at the Centre for Health Evaluation & Outcomes Sciences (CHÉOS), one of the core partner organizations of the BC SUPPORT Unit. Nick holds a PhD in health economics from the University of Sheffield (UK), and completed his postdoctoral training at UBC. Currently a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) New Investigator, Nick’s research is focused on using decision science to maximize the value patients and the public gain from health care.

Erika Belanger

Erika Belanger is Research Associate at UNBC where she is a part of the BC SUPPORT Unit Northern Centre team. Erika is also Masters of Science student in Health Sciences at UNBC. She works as a research associate contributing to both quantitative and qualitative research projects for the Rural Coordination Centre of BC. She also assists the furthering of multi-collaborative research and building capacity for patient-oriented research through the Health Research Institute at UNBC. Erika is experienced as a researcher, research liaison, and volunteer recruiter for research projects through UVic and UBC. She has first-hand experience of the health related barriers northern community members face, which has served as further motivation to improve health care within northern BC.

Stirling Bryan

Stirling Bryan, as the BC SUPPORT Unit’s Scientific Director, develops and oversees the Unit’s methods clusters and leads the planning and implementation of science-related aspects of all Unit operations, including the Provincial Hub’s services and the regional centres. Additionally, Stirling is Director of the Centre for Clinical Epidemiology & Evaluation (C2E2), and full professor in the Department of Medicine at UBC. He is also honorary professor at the University of Birmingham (UK), and an Associate of the UBC Centre for Health Services & Policy Research. In 2005/2006, he was a Commonwealth Fund Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy, based at Stanford. He sits on the UK Medical Research Council’s College of Experts, the Scientific Committee of the International Health Economics Association and the Editorial Board of Health Economics, a journal for which he is also an Associate Editor. Stirling’s research interests span the areas of economic evaluation and health technology assessment from applied and methodological perspectives, including preference elicitation and outcome measurement, and the use of economic analyses in decision-making.

Fred Cameron

Fred Cameron is an outreach and peer support worker for people who use or have used substances.  He is a community researcher with the Reducing Stigma and Creating Culturally Safe Primary Care Research Project and a member of the provincial patient advisory for the BC Support Unit.

Amanda Chisholm

Amanda is the interim project manager for the BC Health Research Connection Project. Amanda completed her MSc and PhD at the University of Toronto in Rehabilitation Sciences. She moved to Vancouver to continue her training as a postdoctoral fellow at the International Collaboration On Repair Discoveries. Her work has involved designing and implementing research studies to develop clinical tools and test the impact of gait-training strategies for people living with neurological injuries.

Leanne Currie

Leanne Currie is seconded to the Unit from the University of British Columbia’s School of Nursing. Her research focuses on the thoughtful application of information communication technologies in health care; this technology supports patients and their families by improving access and ensuring they get the best care they can.  She is particularly interested in how design can support the effective re-use of data to support patient and clinician decision making. Prior to joining the BC SUPPORT Unit, Leanne collaborated with Vancouver Coastal Health in areas of student practice education, clinical education and guidelines for treating Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.  Her work helped to improve the coordination of nursing students’ clinical training programs within the Lower Mainland. Leanne has received more than $11.8 million worth of grant funding in research projects from organizations such as the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute, National Science and Engineering Research Council & the US National Institutes of Health. She presents her findings to international audiences and is routinely published in peer-reviewed journals.

Simon Denegri

Simon Denegri OBE is National Director for Patients, Carers and the Public in Research at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). He was Chair of INVOLVE – the national advisory group for the promotion and support of public involvement in research funded by NIHR – from 2011 unttil 2017. He was Chief Executive of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) from 2006 until 2011 and, prior to this, Director of Corporate Communications at the Royal College of Physicians from 2003.  He also worked in corporate communications for Procter & Gamble in the United States from 1997 to 2000.   He writes and speaks extensively about community and public involvement in health and social care and blogs at He also writes poetry which he publishes at He was awarded the OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2018.

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. Also, 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.

Sharla Drebit

Sharla Drebit is the Manager for the BC Emergency Medicine Network. With a MBA from the University of British Columbia and a MSc in Occupational Health and Safety from McGill University, Sharla has worked as a Project Manager in health care for the last ten years and has led several large international research studies and process improvement projects across BC. Her interests include the use of mobile technology to improve access to care in rural and remote settings, evaluative research, and knowledge translation. In her spare time she enjoys traveling with her family, hiking and playing with her puppy ‘Burger.’

Noreen Frisch

Noreen Frisch is a professor at UVic’s School of Nursing and was the Academic Co-Lead of InspireNet, BC’s health services health research network, an MSFHR grant-funded project (2009-2016) that developed and optimized eCoPs for research teams in the province. That experience has been instrumental in developing a similar service for patient-oriented research teams through the BC SUPPORT Unit, where Noreen is seconded as Expert Advisor in capacity development areas.

Alison Hoens

Alison Hoens is the Knowledge Translation Specialist for the Methods Clusters at the BC SUPPORT Unit. She undertook her undergraduate and postgraduate education in Physical Therapy at UBC and Curtin University in Australia respectively. Alison is currently seconded to the BC SUPPORT from her positions as Knowledge Broker to the UBC Faculty of Medicine Department of Physical Therapy and as the Research, Education and Practice Coordinator for Physical Therapy at Providence Health Care.

Sarah Kesselring

Sarah Kesselring, MPH, is a Special Projects Coordinator with Population Data BC and Data Lead at the BC SUPPORT Unit. Her work involves assisting the BC SUPPORT Unit’s Data Partners to organize and implement the different projects and services that are part of the Unit’s Data Plan. Prior to this, Sarah worked in health research and led studies at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

Lori Last 

Director, Marketing & Communications
Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research

Colleen McGavin

Colleen McGavin is the Patient Engagement Lead for the BC SUPPORT Unit. Her experiences as a cancer patient and as a caregiver for her aged parents prompted Colleen to become actively involved in efforts to improve the health care system. This eventually led her to become involved in health research. Currently, she is a patient member of several health research teams and she leads the BC SUPPORT Unit’s efforts to advance the practice of patient engagement

Linda Li

Linda Li is Professor, Harold Robinson/Arthritis Society Chair in Arthritic Diseases, and Canada Research Chair in Patient-Oriented Knowledge Translation at the Department of Physical Therapy, University of British Columbia. She is also a Senior Scientist at the Arthritis Research Canada. Linda earned a BSc in Physiotherapy at McGill University, a MSc at University of Western Ontario, and a PhD in Clinical Epidemiology at University of Toronto. Funded by Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), she completed a post-doctoral fellowship in clinical epidemiology/knowledge translation at Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. Linda is currently a Michael Smith Foundation Health Research (MSFHR) Career Investigator, and a past recipient of the American College of Rheumatology Health Professional New Investigator Award, and the CIHR New Investigator Award.

Sunny Loo

Sunny is a volunteer with the Patients as Partners/Patient Voice Network. A pharmacist by training with a focus on technology and innovations, Sunny’s 35 years in the profession included development of innovative patient support programs, implementation of medication management pilot programs in several provincial jurisdictions, and participation in the Ontario e-Health initiative as Director of e-Health for the Ontario Pharmacists Association.

Currently Sunny and his wife operate a consulting practice that strives to better understand physician practices.

However, most importantly, Sunny is a patient living with a rare form of vasculitis (Wegener’s Granulomatosis) for the past 7 years. Having been a part of the health care system as both a professional and as a patient, he looks forward to sharing his experience with others.

Kimberlyn McGrail 

Kimberlyn McGrail is Data Director for the BC Academic Health Sciences Network, Scientific Director of Population Data BC, and an Associate Professor at UBC in the School of Population and Public Health and the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research. Her research interests are quantitative policy evaluation, aging and the use and cost of health care services, learning health systems and all aspects of population data science. She conducts research 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

Erin Michalak

Erin Michalak’s background is in psychology, with a PhD awarded from the University of Wales College of Medicine in the UK. Her research expertise lies in patient-engagement in research, Community-Based Participatory Research, knowledge translation, bipolar disorder, quality of life, eHealth/mHealth and implementation science. Erin brings valuable health research experience to the Unit. Her research has been well supported by organizations such as the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research. She is the founder and leader of the Collaborative RESearch Team for the study of psychosocial issues in Bipolar Disorder (CREST.BD,, a CIHR-funded Canadian network dedicated to collaborative research and knowledge exchange in bipolar disorder, and Program Director for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Digital Hub for Mental Health. Additionally, she has published more than 100 scientific articles and several books and book chapters.

Tom Noseworthy

Tom Noseworthy is CEO of the BC Academic Health Science Network. From 2012-2015, Tom served as Associate Chief Medical Officer for Strategic Clinical Networks of Alberta and held interim roles as Edmonton Zone Medical Director and Chief Operating Officer, North Sector. A critical care physician and graduate of the Harvard School of Public Health, Tom is a professor and the former head of the Department of Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, and former professor and chair of Public Health Sciences, University of Alberta. 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 received the Leadership Award while he was at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, where he was the CEO and President.

Alison Orth

Consultant and Project Manager with Clinical Trials BC, a part of the BC Academic Health Science Network

Clinical Research Leader, Population and Public Health, Fraser Health

Alison is a Clinical Research Professional with over 20 years of experience managing health research studies at community and academic sites with a passion for quality, integrity and continuous improvement.  Armed with a Bachelor of Business Administration from Simon Fraser University and Clinical Research Coordinator Certification from ACRP she has facilitated over 80 industry and grant funded clinical trials, outbreak investigations, attitudinal surveys and evaluation projects.  Her past experience as an owner and manager of a large independent clinical research site and now working within a large health authority has provided Alison with diverse experiences that she draws upon to help others navigate their work more effectively.  Currently Alison is working with Clinical Trials BC to engage research participants about their experience with clinical research in order to enhance patient and public participation in trials and their overall experience as a participant.   She also supports various research and evaluation projects within the Population Health Observatory at Fraser Health.  Alison is dedicated to improving the clinical research environment within BC and Canada.

Bernadette Pauly

Bernie Pauly is a Professor in the University of Victoria School of Nursing and a Scientist at the Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia. Currently, she is a University of Victoria Provost’s Community Engaged Scholar and holds the position of Island Health Scholar in Residence.  Her research focuses on understanding the structural determinants of substance use and related harms and application of a health equity lens in the development of programs and policies for people who use substances. Her current research focuses on the implementation and impacts of managed alcohol programs for people with several alcohol use and homelessness, improving access to primary care for people who use substances and enhancing public health responses that promote health equity and prevent substance use related harms. Drawing on principles of community-based research, she works collaboratively with people who use drugs and other community based organizations, health authorities and governments to promote health equity and reduce harms of substance use.  She has been recognized as an Honorary Citizen of Victoria and is a recipient of a UVIC Community University Leadership Award, a Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal, and a BC Community Achievement Award for her work.

Paige Phillips

Paige Phillips is a well-known community leader, public speaker, peer navigator and support worker with SOLID Outreach.  She is a community researcher with the Reducing Stigma and Creating Culturally Safe Primary Care Research Project.

Elodie Portales-Casamar

Dr. Portales-Casamar has a PhD in neuroscience and post-doctoral training in bioinformatics and genomics. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the UBC Department of Pediatrics and the Clinical Research Informatics Lead at BC Children's Hospital. In this role, she helps researchers access, collect, manage, integrate, and analyze data necessary for their clinical studies, with the goal to facilitate the translation of research into improved clinical practices. Her research interests lie at the interface between health sciences, bioinformatics, and clinical research informatics focusing on methodologies to integrate heterogeneous datasets and encourage and facilitate re-use of existing data while ensuring data privacy and security.

Tamara Reichert

Tamara Reichert is the Communications Advisor, Innovation and Development Commons at Northern Health. As part of her duties, Tamara provides communications support to the BC SUPPORT Unit Northern Centre and helps to ensure information pertaining to the Northern Centre reaches the desired audience. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Communication from Royal Roads University and an Administrative Information Management diploma from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. Tamara resides in Prince George, and has been working at Northern Health since January 2011.

Richard Sawatzky

Richard Sawatzky holds a Canada Research Chair in Person-Centred Outcomes at the Trinity Western University School of Nursing and is the Lead on Patient-Reported Outcomes at the University of British Columbia Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences (CHEOS) and on Patient-Centred Measurement Methods with the SUPPORT Unit. He leads a program of research that focuses on the validation and use of person-centred health outcome measures and quality of life assessment instruments, with a particular emphasis on a person-centred palliative approach to care for people who have chronic life-limiting illnesses. His current research includes projects on: (a) the development and evaluation of statistical methods for patient-reported outcomes measurement in diverse populations; (b) the integration of electronic quality of life assessments in clinical practice for older adults who have life-limiting illnesses, and their family caregivers; and, (c) the selection and utilization of person-centred measures for healthcare decision making; the integration of a palliative approach. Rick’s clinical background is in palliative care and medical nursing care. He teaches undergraduate courses on nursing research, medical and surgical nursing, nursing care of older adults, and health assessment and courses on knowledge synthesis and quantitative research methods in the Master of Science in Nursing program.

Viva Swanson

Viva Swanson is a wife and a mother, a sister and a daughter, a nurse and a friend. She is also a Breast Cancer “Thrivor” seeking opportunity to apply both personal and professional experience in the healthcare system to influence positive change, activate quality care improvements and participate in the healthcare system transformation. Born, raised and educated in the north, she is able to provide a unique lens as it relates to the perspective of the patient, the nurse and the family member receiving and providing care in the north.

Rachael Wells

Rachael Wells is the BC SUPPORT Unit Northern Centre Co-Lead, and Manager of Health Research Initiatives at the University of Northern BC. For the past 10 years Rachael has been involved with supporting health research in Northern BC and fostering partnerships for research, mainly with Northern Health (NH) and more recently PHSA.  As Manager of the UNBC Health Research Initiatives she focuses her daily efforts on promoting knowledge creation, synthesis and exchange, and fostering linkages among researchers, stakeholders, and partners to strengthen and enhance research capacity at the UNBC Health Research Institute (HRI).  The BC SPOR SUPPORT Unit Northern Centre is positioned in the HRI and co-lead with NH to build upon the health research and partnerships in the region to develop a culture of Patient Oriented Research.  Rachael is a UNBC alumni graduating with a BA and MA from the Geography Program.

David Whitehurst

David Whitehurst is seconded to the Unit from the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University (SFU). He is an economist who has specialized in the areas of health and health care throughout his career. Prior to his appointment as Assistant Professor at SFU, he held research positions at UBC, and at the Universities of Birmingham and Keele in the UK. David is also an Associate Scientist at the Centre for Clinical Epidemiology & Evaluation (C2E2), a core partner organization to the BC SUPPORT Unit. His current research is focused on the assessment of quality of life in the context of economic evaluation, and he works across a broad range of clinical areas, including spinal cord injury and care for seniors.

Hubert Wong

Hubert Wong is seconded to the Unit from the University of British Columbia (UBC), where he is an Associate Professor at the School of Population and Public Health, Program Head of Biostatistics at the Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences (CHÉOS), and Associate Head of Methodology and Statistics at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Canadian HIV Trials Network (CTN). His research focuses on clinical trial design and foundational issues in statistics, and he collaborates extensively with fellow researchers in diverse areas, including HIV/AIDS, mental health, intensive care, emergency, neurology, orthopaedics, and rheumatology. He received two degrees at UBC: a BASc in Engineering Physics in 1992, and a PhD in Statistics in 2000.