Past Event: Chronic Disease at Work: Autoimmune Disorders

June 22, 2016
Fairmont Royal York Hotel, Toronto

Autoimmune disorders can take a large toll on your workforce. Do you understand what it is like to live and work with a chronic disease? Are you interested in learning how to better support your employees living with this reality?

Benefits Canada is pleased to introduce a new half-day conference in Toronto called Chronic Disease at Work: Autoimmune Disorders.

At this conference, don’t miss the opportunity to learn about autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, Crohn’s and colitis from both experts and plan members themselves. This conference will provide an overview of these disorders, treatment options, cost considerations and will present the rare opportunity to hear plan members speak about their experiences on an interactive panel.

You will leave this conference with a more comprehensive knowledge of best practices for supporting your plan members working with these disorders.

This conference is geared towards senior-level decision makers in group benefits plans who are looking to learn more about autoimmune conditions and gain practical takeaways about their impact on the workplace.


This conference has free registration and is only open to qualified plan sponsors, advisors and group insurers.


For information on the conference, please contact Lauren Harris, Conference Editor, Benefits Canada

Untitled Document

Chronic Disease at Work: Autoimmune Disorders

June 22, 2016
Fairmont Royal York Hotel, Toronto
(Please note this is a draft and subject to change)

7:25 - 8:25 a.m.
Breakfast and Registration

8:25 - 8:40 a.m.
Opening Remarks

8:40 – 9:00 a.m.
Session 1 – Painting the Landscape
As a plan sponsor, it is important to understand various autoimmune diseases and how treatments can affect your employees with these conditions. Based on extensive experience in counselling and educating patients, pharmacist Carolyn Whiskin will describe some of the most common autoimmune diseases, how they are treated and what it means for quality of life.

Carolyn Whiskin, director of pharmacy programs, Charlton Health

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9:00 – 9:35 a.m.
Session 2 – The Drug Plan Impact
In the current economic environment, sustainability is crucial. Many plan sponsors are concerned about the growing drug plan costs and the impact of specialty medications. In this session, Suzanne Lepage will highlight opportunities for savings and some important considerations for the decision-making process. This session will use plan member case studies to provide an overview of the different drugs used to treat autoimmune conditions and their corresponding drug plan designs.

Suzanne Lepage, private health plan strategist

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9:35 - 10:10 a.m.
Networking Break

10:10 - 11:10 a.m.
Session 3 – Walk in Your Employees’ Shoes: Plan Member Fireside Chat
Straight from the plan members themselves, learn how you can better support your employees with chronic disease. In this session, two plan members with autoimmune disorders will share their stories and participate in a fireside chat to discuss their experiences working and how their benefits plans played a role in their journeys.

Dawn Richards was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis nearly a decade ago. Since her diagnosis, she has worked for three different employers that have had two different benefits plans. She will provide plan sponsors with insight into the effects of different levels of plan offerings on the patient.

Jacob Moore is a 26-year-old with severe psoriasis and ankylosing spondylitis. He was diagnosed after experiencing a pain-induced seizure at work and faced challenges in terms of health benefits support. He has since returned to work and will provide plan sponsors with a glimpse into the complications in coverage these disorders may present.

Zal Press has been living with Crohn’s disease for over 35 years. He has been treated for nine years with a biologic that has been covered by his wife’s plan. Since his wife turns 65 this June, she can no longer receive benefits under the plan as a teacher. Zal has also been denied coverage from Ontario’s Exceptional Access Program. Zal will provide plan sponsors with an understanding of the impact that transitioning from one plan to another, or from public to private, can have on the individual.

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11:10 – 11:55 a.m.
Session 4 – Understanding and Mitigating the On-the-job Impact of Autoimmune Conditions and Treatment
In this session, registered occupational therapist Karen Joudrey will use her knowledge of health conditions and the impact they may have on an individual’s psychological, mental and physical state in order to help plan sponsors better understand the effects of autoimmune disorders on plan members and how they may affect their performance at work. Plan sponsors will also come away with practical tips on how to better accommodate plan members with these conditions in the workplace.

Karen Joudrey, academic program coordinator, disability management certificate program, School of Occupational Therapy, Dalhousie University

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11:55 a.m.
Closing Remarks

For information on the speakers, please contact Lauren Harris, Conference Editor, Benefits Canada


Karen Joudrey, academic program coordinator, Disability Management Certificate Program, School of Occupational Therapy
Dalhousie University

Karen Joudrey

Karen Joudrey is a registered occupational therapist. Her knowledge of health conditions and the impact a health condition may have on an individual’s psychological status, functional cognition and physical abilities is extensive. Since 2000 she has worked at the cutting edge of disability management.

She holds a faculty position at Dalhousie University as the academic program co-ordinator of the disability management certificate program in the School of Occupational Therapy. Her work at Dalhousie encompasses program co-ordination and use of occupational health self-management interventions and project management. She co-manages the worksafe@dal project (which is a complex intervention effort aimed at reducing campus employee work injury and absenteeism). She has facilitated interdisciplinary workshops on best practices and communication in disability management for the summer health institute hosted by the faculty of health professions at Dalhousie.

In her private practice, she has conducted numerous independent medical rehabilitation evaluations, independent assessments for worker’s compensation, third-party insurers, employers and the courts. Joudrey has served as part of an interprofessional team conducting capacity evaluations and catastrophic impairment determinations for individuals who have sustained polytrauma or traumatic brain injury. She continues to provide medical-legal occupational therapy consultation in her private practice.

In addition to her academic endeavors and private practice, she has served as disability management consultant/health and wellness advisor for a prominent Canadian telecommunications company. In the corporate sector, she uses her diverse skills to partner with a variety of stakeholders for disability management functions such as return to work/stay at work facilitation strategies; attendance management solutions; implementation of employee engagement strategies; and health and mental wellness promotion. She holds a certificate in Workplace Mental Health Leadership (Queens University). She engages in employee accommodation process and policy development. She has supported early career disability management professionals through the provision of educational sessions and workshops to ensure currency of knowledge domains and ethical best practices around disability management from both an individual employee and organizational perspective.

Suzanne Lepage, private health plan strategist

Suzanne Lepage

Suzanne Lepage is a private health plan strategist who bridges the pharmaceutical and group benefits industry.

Prior to beginning her consulting practice, Lepage was national manager for private healthcare at Roche Canada. During that time, she developed and executed private health-care strategies and managed a patient assistance program for biologic medications.

Prior to joining the pharmaceutical industry, Lepage worked in group benefits in a wide variety of roles for almost 20 years. Most recently, she was the product manager for the drug programs at Manulife Financial.

She is frequent speaker and contributor to both private market and pharmaceutical industry conferences and publications.

Jacob Moore, EVS cleaner and union representative
Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG)

Jacob Moore

Jacob Moore is a 26-year-old with severe psoriasis and ankylosing spondylitis. He resides in Ajax, Ont., and is currently employed by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. Throughout his life, Moore has been extremely active in football and rugby despite his illness. Moore was diagnosed two years ago after experiencing a pain-induced seizure at work. Still seeking to remain active in both his personal and work life, he has had to make accommodations as his symptoms progressed. Moore will share his journey living with both psoriasis and ankylosing spondylitis, including how his condition has affected his working life and what has been helpful in minimizing the impact.

Zal Press, executive director
Patient Commando Productions

Zal Press has lived with Crohn’s disease for over 35 years. In 2010, he founded Patient Commando Productions to assist patients and families around the world to amplify their voices through the power of their own narratives. He has organized patients around critical issues such as systemic barriers, community development, access to treatment and creating a culture of community health. He produces narrative-based continuing medical education programs accredited for health-care professionals. He co-chairs the Beryl Institute’s Global Patient and Family Council, an international community of over 50,000 professionals dedicated to improving the patient experience.


Dawn Richards, science and patient consultant

Dawn Richards

Dawn Richards is a science and patient consultant with a PhD in analytical chemistry. Her diagnosis with rheumatoid arthritis nearly a decade ago instigated her journey to combine it with her passion for science and make the most of her diagnosis. As a patient advocate, Richards is vice-president of the Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance, the first patient advisor of the Canadian Medical Association’s Wait Time Alliance, an advisory board member of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis and a member of the British Medical Journal’s patient panel reviewers.

Carolyn Whiskin, director of pharmacy programs
Charlton Health

Carolyn Whiskin

Carolyn Whiskin graduated from the faculty of pharmacy at the University of Toronto in 1986.  She is currently the director of pharmacy programs for Charlton Health in Hamilton, Ont.. As part of her role in developing educational programs for patients and health professionals on advanced therapies for Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory arthritis and psoriasis, Whiskin developed a vaccination protocol in conjunction with immunologist Dr. J. Keystone for patients receiving immunosuppressive treatments. 

Whiskin also practices pharmacy at Brant Arts Dispensary in Burlington, Ont., where she offers consultation in the use of compounded medications. In addition, Whiskin specializes in pain, smoking cessation and women’s health. She is a certified menopause practitioner with the North American Menopause Society.

In addition to her busy practice, Whiskin helped to write the first-year communications course for pharmacy students at University of Toronto and has lectured there as well as at the University of Waterloo and McMaster University. She has also worked at McMaster University’s medical centre, writing continuing education programs for pharmacists. She helped initiate the pharmacist/physician collaboration committee in Burlington and is a member of their diabetes collaborative working group.

As a motivational speaker, Whiskin gives lectures and workshops across Canada to physicians, pharmacists, nurses, family health teams and the public on various therapeutic topics and areas of personal growth. She has been a guest on radio and television.
Whiskin has won many awards, including the national Commitment to Care award in the area of patient care.


Francesca Allman

Yaelle Gang
Joanne Boccia

The Fairmont Royal York Hotel

Just steps away from our famous doors in the heart of Canada's largest metropolis is an exciting mix of activities and attractions that will leave you exhilarated. From the theater, entertainment and financial districts, to shopping, sightseeing, and world-class sports facilities, The Fairmont Royal York hotel truly is ''at the center of it all'' in Toronto.

Fairmont Fairmont

100 Front Street West, Toronto, ON M5J 1E3

Telephone: 416 368 2511
Fax: 416 368 9040

Driving Directions:

From Lester B. Pearson International Airport
Follow signs to 427 South
From 427 South, take the Gardiner Expressway Eastbound
Follow along the Gardiner Expressway Eastbound
Take the Yonge/York/Bay Street exit
Follow along Bay Street going Northbound
Turn left onto Front Street for valet parking; entrance is on right

From Highway 401 (Eastbound or Westbound)
Exit on the Don Valley Parkway (DVP) Southbound
Exit on the Gardiner Expressway Westbound
Exit on Yonge Street North
Left on Front Street (Westbound)
Pass one set of lights (Bay Street)
Hotel is on right-hand side, across from Union Station

Valet Parking:
Valet Parking is available at the east doors of the hotel, off Front Street. In-and-out privileges are included.

Overnight rate for Registered Guests: $42.00
30 minutes or less: $11.00
One hour or less: $16.00
One hour, 30 minutes or less: $21.00
Two hours or less: $26.00
Daytime maximum (7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) or over two hours: $34.00
Evening function rate (5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.): $31.00

For more information, please contact Andrea Buzzetti, Event Coordinator
For sponsorship information contact Francesca Allman at 416-764-3883 or

For information on the agenda, please contact Lauren Harris, Conference Editor, Benefits Canada