Chronic Disease at Work

February 8-9, 2022 | Virtual event

Alison Dantas, chief executive officer, Canadian Chiropractic Association

Alison Dantas is an accomplished association executive with a passion for social change and organizational effectiveness and innovation.

She joined the Canadian Chiropractic Association as chief executive officer in July 2012 following an exemplary advocacy and management career in not-for-profit professional healthcare associations—including positions as the chief executive officer of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors and the executive director of the Association of Ontario Midwives. She has obtained valuable experience in government (Ombudsman Ontario), social services (Community Social Planning Council of Toronto), community involvement (Peel Rape Crisis Centre) and social housing (Peel Living). Dantas is also the recipient of awards from the Canadian Society of Association Executives and the Peel Institute. The Peel Rape Crisis Centre honoured her with its remarkable woman award for significant contributions toward ending violence against women and children. She was recently honored by the University of Western States with an honorary doctor of laws degree for her work in setting up a national Student Chiropractic Association to help Canadian chiropractic students stay connected to the CCA while they complete their studies and to integrate into the profession seamlessly once they graduate.

Kristy Dickinson, founder and chief executive officer, Chronically Simple

Kristy is a mom to three kids, a wife to a first responder and an entrepreneur. She’s also a rare disease patient. Prior to her diagnosis, Kristy ran a successful staff recruitment firm. Her lift was kept busy meeting with clients, traveling for work, and running a busy household. When Kristy was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome at 37, her life changed in an instant. Following her diagnosis, she closed her firm so that she could manage her health full-time. When she went looking for a solution to manage all of the administrative tasks that accompany life with a chronic illness, nothing existed. Kristy created Chronically Simple to manage her healthcare and with the intention to empower others to do the same.

Dr. Mary Forhan, scientific director-elect, Obesity Canada

Dr. Mary Forhan is an occupational therapist and scientist. For over 20 years, Dr. Forhan has worked as an occupational therapist in acute care, tertiary care and community settings. Dr. Forhan’s clinical experience includes working with clients living with mental health disorders and clients living with chronic health conditions including obesity. In 2013, Dr. Forhan launched the bariatric care and rehabilitation research group with a vision to better understand and address factors that contribute to the disability experience of individuals living with obesity. Such factors are physiological, psychological and can be situated in the built and social environments. She has won a number of awards for innovative occupational therapy practice and contributions to science in the area of obesity and bariatric care. Dr. Forhan is chair and associate professor in the department of occupational science & occupational therapy, Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto and is the scientific director-elect for Obesity Canada.

Richard Jonkers, principal medical science advisor, Medtronic

Richard Jonkers completed his education in biomedical engineering at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. He is the (co)author of 14 articles published in international, peer-reviewed journals, stemming from both his masters thesis, which analyzed the effects of physical activity status on human skeletal muscle tissue characteristics and his PhD, where he continued this research by expanding the focus to different models of insulin resistance in both pre-clinical and clinical studies. Upon completion of his PhD, Richard began working as a clinical research specialist for the endovascular therapies division of Medtronic Bakken Research Center in Maastricht, the Netherlands (NLD). In 2013, he moved to Medtronic Canada, where he now holds a position as principal medical science advisor in the diabetes division.

Marie-Josée (MJ) Lafleur, IBD patient advocate

Marie-Josée (MJ) Lafleur has worked for over 20 years in public policy and program delivery for the government of Canada. Her diagnosis in 2011 of crohn’s disease - one of the primary forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) - as well as IBD-related inflammatory arthritis, led to a massive shift in her professional aspirations. Her experiences navigating the challenges of managing a chronic illness and weekly medical treatments, have propelled her to advocate for IBD patients as well as for better access for and inclusion of persons with disabilities due to chronic illness in the workplace. Drawing on her background in public policy and lived experience as an IBD patient, MJ has most recently partnered with Crohn’s & Colitis Canada on their campaign for patient-centred treatment decisions.

Kate Lee, vice-president of research and patient programs, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada

Kate Lee joined Crohn’s and Colitis Canada in April 2017 to lead research & patient programs. Prior to joining Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, Kate was vice-president, research and career development at the Arthritis Society. She has also held leadership roles at the Canadian Arthritis Network - a network centre of excellence funded by CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC - as director of research and managing director. Kate holds a PhD in biology from McGill University and an MBA from Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. When not at work, Kate enjoys gardening and researching restaurants to try in the Greater Toronto Area.

Rachael Manion, executive director, Canadian Association of Psoriasis Patients and the Canadian Skin Patient Alliance

Rachael Manion is the executive director of the Canadian Association of Psoriasis Patients and the Canadian Skin Patient Alliance. Drawing on her background as a lawyer and consultant, Rachael brings a strategic and creative approach to advocating for better patient care. She is also chair of the Patient Advisory Council of the Skin Investigation Network of Canada (SkIN Canada).

Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie, professor of medicine and community health sciences, University of Manitoba

Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie is a professor of medicine and community health sciences at the University of Manitoba. She received her undergraduate degree in chemistry (1992) and her medical degree (1996) from Dalhousie University, both with distinction. She completed neurology training at McGill University. This was followed by a fellowship in multiple sclerosis at the Cleveland Clinic, supported by a Sylvia Lawry physician fellowship award from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Subsequently, she obtained a PhD in epidemiology from Case Western Reserve University (2007). Currently she holds the Waugh Family Chair in multiple sclerosis. Her research aims to understand the influence of comorbid factors, such as other chronic diseases, health behaviours, and critical illness on a range of multiple sclerosis (MS)-related health outcomes. Other areas of research interest include etiologic factors for MS, patient-reported outcomes and pediatric MS.

Dr. Deborah McLeod, clinical director, Carepath Inc.

Dr. McLeod is a clinician scientist in psychosocial oncology and mental health. She is a psychotherapist, marriage and family therapist and the clinical director of Carepath's mental health program.​

Leanne Mielczarek, executive director, Lupus Canada

Leanne joined Lupus Canada in 2008 and was appointed executive director in 2016. In this role Leanne leads the vision and initiatives of the national office while overseeing operations, revenue development, advocacy and research efforts and industry partnerships in Canada. Leanne is committed to increasing public awareness of lupus and ensuring lupus patients across Canada have access to care. With over 25 years experience in the not-for-profit sector, Leanne’s previous roles as the National Walk coordinator and national manager within the organization illustrates Leanne’s commitment to ensuring those impacted by lupus have a voice.

Andrea Minaker, manager, client & partner engagement, Sun Life

As a manager, client & partner engagement, integrated health solutions (IHS) at Sun Life, Andrea supports the evolution of organizational health consulting best practices and client engagement activities. The IHS team provides strategic consulting to support our clients in achieving their organizational health goals and improving employee health outcomes.

Andrea received her bachelor of science in kinesiology from McMaster University and completed graduate studies in workplace wellness & health promotion. Andrea joined Sun Life in 2017. Prior to the IHS team, she spent several years in disability claims management. Andrea is passionate about workplace culture and its effect on employee health and well-being across all stages of the health continuum.

Dr. Donna Mojdami, clinical research physician, diabetes, Eli Lilly Canada Inc.

Dr. Donna Mojdami is a clinical research physician with Eli Lilly Canada. She is a graduate of McMaster medical school and completed her postgraduate training in internal medicine and endocrinology at Western University. Her main practice areas include obesity medicine and diabetes.

Kayla O'Connell, sales support associate, Medtronic

Kayla O’Connell has lived with type 1 diabetes since 2009, has worn an insulin pump since 2010 and is currently wearing the MiniMed™ 770G and using Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) and SmartGuard™ Auto Mode. Kayla lives in London, Ont., has a passion for education, is a mother to her two-year-old son, Nixon and partner to her husband, Mike.

Dr. Ian Patton, director, advocacy and public engagement, Obesity Canada

Dr. Ian Patton is a passionate patient advocate and works as the director of advocacy and public engagement at Obesity Canada. In this role, Patton combines his academic background and training with his personal lived experience to help reach individuals living with obesity across Canada, as well as realizing Obesity Canada's mission of improving the lives of Canadians living with obesity. He obtained a PhD from Western University in kinesiology and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto. Patton’s research focuses on body mass index, obesity and childhood physical activity. He’s also lived with obesity for the majority of his life and is a post-surgical bariatric patient who now advocates both nationally and globally for improved access to care for individuals living with obesity, as well as for eliminating weight bias and discrimination.

Sue Praught, organizational health consultant, integrated health solutions, Sun Life

Integrated health solutions is a dedicated business area designed to support the workplace health objectives of Canadian organizations. As a consultant, Sue is part of a high performing team who delivers strategic consulting and insights to Sun Life clients with the goal of improving the health of their employees and supporting organizational health and wellness objectives.

Prior to joining Sun Life, Sue worked as a physiotherapist. Sue received her bachelor of science in physiotherapy from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. She has completed the GBA certification of CEBS and has also received the “Certified Excellence Professional for Healthy Workplaces” designation through Excellence Canada.

Laurie Proulx, vice-president, Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance

Laurie Proulx has lived with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis for over 25 years and it is her experiences that led her to the Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance (CAPA) where she advocates for increased arthritis awareness and the adoption of more inclusive, patient-centred policies and practices. She is currently a board member and a vice-president with CAPA and has been actively involved in the organization for over 10 years. In this role, she represents the patient voice on various health policy issues and research, leads projects to support people with arthritis navigate pregnancy and parenting and supports participation in the workplace. She works as a human resources consultant and has a part-time consultancy providing human resources and patient engagement services.

Dr. Ximena Ramos Salas, director of research and policy consultant, Obesity Canada

Dr. Ramos Salas has a PhD in health promotion and socio-behavioural sciences from the school of public health at the University of Alberta. She is director of research & policy (consultant) at Obesity Canada and technical consultant with the World Health Organization regional office for Europe and the European Association for the Study of Obesity. As a public health researcher, she is exploring the unintended consequences of obesity prevention policies for people with obesity. Her research goal is to spark solutions that will prevent the perpetuation of weight bias and obesity stigma and create more effective clinical and health promotion approaches.

Antonella Scali, executive director, Canadian Psoriasis Network

Antonella Scali is the executive director of the Canadian Psoriasis Network (CPN), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis (psoriatic disease) in Canada and led by a board of directors who are affected by these conditions. Antonella is a registered social worker with a background in direct clinical services and in policy analysis in community mental health in Ontario.


Please email Megan Lepage