Meet our Featured Collaborators

Marshall photo.png

Marshall Beck is the Digital Initiatives Manager for The Allergy, Genes and Environment Network (AllerGen NCE), headquartered at McMaster University in Hamilton. He has worked in communications and knowledge mobilization in not-for-profit and university research settings for 20 years. Marshall leads the digital communications portfolio at AllerGen and developed and maintains the CHILD Cohort Study website.

Marshall Beck took part in the Sandbox Side Chat: When face to face teamwork isn’t an option, how do you use online tools to build and sustain your collaboration?

Zak photo.jpeg

Zak Bhamani is Director of Corporate Development in TELUS Health and Payment Solutions. In that role, he supports TELUS Health’s M&A activities and strategic projects. Previously, he helped develop TELUS’s portfolio in consumer health and patient engagement capabilities. Zak is a member of the CHILD Study KMb Stakeholder Committee. He has also worked with Delisle Youth Services, the Asthma Society of Canada, and the Mental Health Working Group of the Sandbox Project.

During the Summit afternoon, Zak Bhamani moderated the Sandbox Side Chat: When face to face teamwork isn’t an option, how do you use online tools to build and sustain your collaboration?


Dr. Christine Chambers

Dr. Christine Chambers is the Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Children’s Pain and a Killam Professor at Dalhousie University. She has published over 150 scientific articles on the assessment and management of children’s pain. Her “It Doesn’t Have to Hurt” initiative for parents generated 150M content views worldwide, trended nationally on social media several times, won multiple national and international awards, and was featured in The New York Times, The Globe & Mail, and on CBC’s The National. She is the Scientific Director of a new national network, Solutions for Kids in Pain, whose mission is to improve children's pain management by mobilizing evidence-based solutions through coordination and collaboration.

Dr. Christine Chambers’ Sandbox Summit topic was From Evidence to Influence: Making a Difference for Children in Pain.

SKIP (Solutions for Kids in Pain) is a newly formed national network that brings together Canada’s world-renowned pediatric pain knowledge producers, front-line knowledge user organizations, national and international partners, and patients and caregivers to improve children's pain management. Learn More

Jennifer Gerdts headshot.jpg

Jennifer Gerdts

Jennifer Gerdts is the Executive Director of Food Allergy Canada, a national non-profit charity and Canada’s leading patient organization committed to educating, supporting, and advocating for the more than 2.6 million Canadians living with food allergy. Food Allergy Canada focuses on improving the daily quality of life of individuals and families by providing education and support needed to effectively navigate food allergies, building informed and supportive communities, and acting as the national voice on key advocacy issues.

Jennifer’s interest in food allergies is driven by the experience of raising twin boys who have multiple food allergies. Her sons started school the same year Sabrina’s Law was implemented (2005), Ontario legislation that protects children at risk of anaphylaxis. With this, Jennifer and her family experienced firsthand the benefits of the work Food Allergy Canada does, as the organization’s advocacy was critical in passing this legislation.

Her prior professional experience was in business strategy, planning and organizational effectiveness with a focus in sales and marketing functional areas. Her clients stemmed across several industries including pharmaceuticals, financial sector, industrial equipment and consumer goods.

Jennifer Gerdts’ Sandbox Summit focus was Advocacy in Action.

Gruenwoldt 2016.jpg

Emily Gruenwoldt

Emily Gruenwoldt is the President & CEO of Children’s Healthcare Canada (formerly the Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres (CAPHC), and Executive Director of the Paediatric Chairs of Canada (PCC).

Previous to her work with Children’s Healthcare Canada and PCC, Emily spent ten years with the Canadian Medical Association in various Director-level roles including Professional Affairs, Physician Learning and Development, and Strategy and Innovation. Emily has significant healthcare governance experience having served two terms as a board member for both Carefor Home & Health Services and The Ottawa Hospital, and is a current member of the Arnprior Regional Health board.

In 2017, Emily was recognized by the Ottawa Business Journal as a recipient of the Top Forty Under Forty Award. She has also been recognized by the Canadian College of Health Leaders as the national recipient of the Robert Zed Young Health Leader award (2011).

Emily lives outside of Ottawa in the community of Stittsville, with her two young children and her husband.

Emily Gruenwoldt’s Sandbox Summit topic was Purposeful Partnerships to Advance a Child Health Mandate.

For Canadian leaders in children’s healthcare, Children’s Healthcare Canada is the only national association that enables local improvements and contributes to system-wide change by building communities across the full continuum of care. Learn More


Stephanie Mitton

Stephanie Mitton is the new Managing Director at Children First Canada. She is a highly accomplished leader with more than a decade of experience leading campaigns to improve the lives of children and families. She has built a successful career in the private, public and non-profit sectors as a versatile public affairs specialist, project manager and leader. She has dedicated many years to advocating on behalf of children and youth on a wide range of issues relating to the rights and wellbeing of children, including children's health and education. Stephanie’s professional career has included roles with World Vision Canada, National Public Relations, and most recently she served as the Assistant Director of Government Relations at Universities Canada.

Stephanie Mitton’s Sandbox Summit topic was Advocacy & Awareness: Moving the Dial for Canada's Children.

Children First Canada has a bold and ambitious vision that together we can make Canada the best place in the world for kids to grow up.© They are working to improve children's wellbeing by building greater awareness amongst Canadians about the urgent needs of kids in our country, and mobilizing government, lawmakers and influencers to change the status quo. Learn More

Antonio Montes pic.jpg

Antonio Montes

Antonio Montes is the Founder & Community Director of 10x Health. He has 10+ years experience in the Health & Wellness industry and is dedicated to optimizing work-life integration through movement and mindfulness.

Antonio is a Movement Specialist. He helps his clients move with ease, move every day, move for life. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical & Health Education at the University of Toronto. His work specializes in strength conditioning, fitness programming, mobility and physical literacy.

10x Health is a community of dedicated health practitioners and fitness professionals focused on optimizing wellness every step of the way. Its mission is to proactively and holistically advance clients towards optimal health knowing that it is a multi-disciplinary journey. It takes into consideration the various elements of health and puts the emphasis on the collaboration and synergy of each.

Theo photo.jpg

Dr. Theo Moraes

Dr. Theo Moraes, MD, PhD, FRCPC, is a Staff Respirologist at The Hospital for Sick Children, a Scientist in the Program for Translational Medicine at the SickKids Research Institute, and an Associate Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Toronto. He is also the Toronto site leader for the CHILD Cohort Study. Dr. Moraes is interested in the biology of cells in the human respiratory tract. His research focuses on lung diseases, including cystic fibrosis and asthma.

At the Sandbox Summit, Dr. Moraes hosted an Open Space session entitled A seat at the table: Creating a Parent Advisory Council (PAC) for CHILD Toronto. He invited Summit delegates to join an open discussion about strategies to recruit parents to a PAC and how to meaningfully engage them once they’re “at the table.”


Jayne Morrish

Jayne Morrish is the Knowledge Mobilization Officer at Brock University’s Centre for Lifespan Development Research. In her role, Jayne works to co-create new knowledge, authentically engage knowledge users, and build strong connections with key partners locally, nationally and internationally. Jayne has completed a SSHRC funded Master’s Degree in Lifespan Development from Brock University, where her research focused on adolescent risk-taking as related to activity engagement, a Bachelors of Health from York University, the Knowledge Translation Professional Certificate from the University of Toronto, and the Leadership Niagara Certificate. Jayne has received various awards for her work, including the Certificate of Academic Excellence from the Canadian Psychological Association for her Master’s thesis and a 40 Under Forty Award.

Jayne Morrish’s Sandbox Summit topic, Authentic Youth Engagement within the Knowledge Creation Process, was informed by her work on the Brock Healthy Youth Project (BHYP).

BHYP (“Be Hype”) is a project being led by a transdisciplinary team of researchers from Brock University and other Canadian and international universities, as well as partner organizations and a youth engagement committee. The goal of BHYP is to examine the link between health-risk behaviours and adolescent brain development longitudinally. Learn More

Kieran ODonnell.jpg

Dr. Kieran O’Donnell

Kieran O’Donnell is an Assistant Professor of Epigenetics and Epidemiology within the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University. Kieran is also a CIFAR Fellow in Child and Brain Development and a Principal Investigator within the Ludmer Centre for Neuroinformatics and Mental Health.

Kieran’s research seeks to understand how our early experiences affect mental health across the lifespan. Kieran’s multidisciplinary research team combine measures of genomic function with epidemiological approaches to better understand the developmental origins of mental health. Specific areas of interest include maternal perinatal mental health, the development of biologically-informed prediction models of both maternal and child mental health, as well as understanding the biological basis of individual differences in treatment response to programs of early intervention.

Dr. Kieran O’Donnell’s Sandbox Summit topic was Begin Before Birth to Promote Child Brain Development.

Healthy Brains for Healthy Lives (HBHL) seeks to improve the lives of Canadians by advancing understanding of how the individual brain functions in health and disease, throughout our lives. Collaborating with educators and industry, HBHL will develop evidence-based programs that address the specific mental health and neurological challenges of Canadians and promote healthy living through supportive environments. Learn More

TranMaxwell_Environmental (3).jpg

Maxwell Tran

Maxwell Tran has an Honours Bachelor of Health Science degree from McMaster University. Currently, Max is a second-year medical student at the University of Toronto, interested in both the art and science of medicine. On the science side, Max is an AllerGen trainee and he has worked as a Research Assistant for studies on human-centered design, global health, and maternal and child health. He has co-authored an important CHILD Cohort Study publication on food allergy risk and timing the introduction of potentially allergenic foods to infants. On the art side, Max is the founder of Ink Movement, an arts education organization that empowers youth to use the arts as tools for social change.

At the Sandbox Summit, Max gave a plenary presentation entitled It takes a village: cross-sector collaboration in the CHILD Cohort Study.

The CHILD Cohort Study, involving nearly 3,500 Canadian kids and their families, has made exciting discoveries about how early-life exposures (genes, home environment, nutrition, microbiome, screen time, activity and much more!) can influence child health and wellbeing. Hear about CHILD’s latest research findings and how stakeholders across sectors are helping to share these discoveries with their communities. Learn More

Meet the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health Host Team


Melanie Asselin

Melanie Asselin is currently in her third year of studies in psychology and ethics at the University of Toronto Mississauga. She is passionate about mental health, photography, coffee, youth leadership, and any chance to combine any of those together. Melanie enjoys working with not-for-profit organizations and has previously worked with as a mental health advocate and Jack Chapter leader, as well as Bereaved Families of Ontario Halton-Peel as an events and programs intern. She is also a member of the Youth Advisory Group and National Youth Action Council, under the YouthCan IMPACT initiative, with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. She is always looking for more opportunities to engage with other young change-makers and is excited to work with the YCRH as the Director of Grants for this year.


Akosua Tiwaah Bonsu

A passion for politics and economic development coupled with a strong interest in global health make Akosua Tiwaah Bonsu a unique individual. She recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Global Political Economy, completing an undergraduate thesis focused on refugees and mental health. After working at the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, Akosua’s interest in health policy grew – as did her involvement in the YCRH. Today, she is thrilled to serve as the Director of Events with the YCRH.
Her dedication and leadership have won her several awards: Akosua is a YMCA-YWCA Women of Distinction Award recipient, a University of Manitoba Emerging Leader Award recipient, and – most recently – a CBC Manitoba Future 40 Under 40 Award recipient, to name a few. In her spare time, Akosua enjoys reading, baking, and being active. She looks forward to her continued involvement with the YCRH and is committed to ensuring Canada is the healthiest country for children and youth to grow up in.


Timothy Chung

Timothy Chung is an advance care paramedic and aspiring clinician-researcher in the field of emergency prehospital care. Timothy has been with the YCRH since its inception and is passionate about making Canada the healthiest place for youth to grow. He currently resides in Calgary, Alberta.

Aimee photo.jpg

Aimee Coles

Aimee Coles is from St. John's, NL and holds a Bachelor of Recreation with a concentration in Therapeutic Recreation from Memorial University of Newfoundland. She is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist under NCTRC and is employed as a Community Inclusion Coordinator with the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador. As a former Youth Recreation Technician, Aimee has had first hand experience developing programs and initiatives for youth in a community setting and has since then furthered her scope into areas such as inclusion, geriatrics, and health care. She is very excited to have been selected to bring her knowledge and experience to YCRH this year and can't wait to be a part of some exciting youth-health initiatives! 


Zeynab Asadi Lari

Zeynab is a 3rd year student at the University of Toronto (transferred from University of British Columbia) pursuing her Honours Bachelor of Sciences degree. 
She has a strong admiration for medicine, public and global health, STEM education, mental health advocacy, and humanitarian activities. 

Devoted to achieve success in her tasks, she is always willing to challenge herself and expand her knowledge through unique experiences. She is passionate about youth leadership, student engagement, and community work, all helping her step out of her comfort zone and to connect with the outside world. 

Zeynab is passionately looking forward to contribute to Canada's youth health programs through YCRH initiatives, and work with the amazing team to make a positive impact. 

When not studying or volunteering, she enjoys hanging out with her friends and family, catching up with Netflix/stand up comedy, and doing photography.


Kenzie McKeegan

Kenzie McKeegan is the Director of Relations for the 2018/2019 Young Canadians Roundtable on Health. Kenzie is also the Research Analyst and Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator, Strategic Initiatives and Engagement, in the Government Relations Office at the University of Toronto.
Prior to the University of Toronto, Kenzie worked at the Ontario Government in various Ministers offices, including the Deputy Premier, the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, the President of the Treasury Board, the Minister Responsible for Digital Government, and the Minister Responsible for Small Business.
She holds a Master of Arts from York University (2015), and a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from the University of Guelph (2014). Her Master’s thesis analyzed how poverty impacts access to healthcare through examining the experiences of young women in 1920’s Toronto, and tied the social reform program of that era to the government response to the HIV and AIDS outbreak of the 1980’s.
Kenzie is excited to be part of the YCRH, an organization that gives youth a voice, engages their participation in the policy development process, and helps ensure an inclusive and accessible health care system for everyone.


Candice Oliva

Candice Oliva is finishing her degree in Biological Sciences with a minor in Psychology at the University of Alberta. She recently completed a certificate in Interdisciplinary Leadership Studies with the Peter Lougheed Leadership College. Her fields of interest vary from neuroscience, mental health and substance abuse, to foreign languages. She is currently investigating her passion in youth-for-youth matters, i.e., developing of social service projects to empower youth to be engaged in issues that affect them. One of her aspirations is to create a global impact by fostering interdisciplinary and intercultural communications to build a collaborative network of change-maker leaders, especially on the intersections of health and sustainability.

As such, Candice is excited to work with the YCRH team this year as Co-Director of Communications! In her down time, she likes to de-stress by listening to BTS, taking dance classes, or going on hikes.

Parnian photo.png

Parnian Pardis

Parnian Pardis is a second-year MSc candidate at the University of Toronto, under the supervision of Dr. Ofer Agid and Dr. Gary Remington at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Her primary research interest involves factors of treatment-resistance in schizophrenia in relation to long-term outcome. She graduated from her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Toronto, following a double major in Human Biology and Psychology. She is a passionate advocate for child and youth health issues and is excited to serve as the YCRH’s Executive Director.

Vanessa photo.png

Vanessa Schirripa

Vanessa Schirripa is a mental health advocate who is passionate about changing the stigma surrounding the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes towards mental health and illness in Canada. Vanessa recently obtained her HBSc in Psychology at the University of Toronto and wishes to use this knowledge to contribute change to the way that mental health is thought of and discussed. In doing so, she wishes to actively help to create change within the current system and policies of the Canadian mental health system. She is also passionate about fashion, fitness and traveling. Vanessa also enjoys working with not-for-profit organizations such as and is also a mental health speaker for the company Starts with Me, helping to creates spaces for conversations about mental health in schools and workplaces. She is also a member of the National Youth Action Council as well as the Youth Advisory Group with CAMH in Toronto. As a young person, Vanessa believes that peer-to-peer education is a strong value she can use to eliminate stigma within the space of vulnerable youth, paving a way to a future of increased openness for future generations. To Vanessa, a mental health revolution would involve a world where mental health is openly discussed and equally valued as physical health.