Introducing the 2019 PaCER Student Interns, Part 1: IMAGINE IBD Teams

In our quest for sustainable and effective care, the Patient and Community Engagement Research (PaCER) unit at the O’Brien Institute for Public Health (University of Calgary) is working to transform the role of patients in health and health care delivery in ways that are breaking new ground.

PaCERs are patient researchers, citizens with a variety of health conditions trained in qualitative health research, who are creating a new collective research voice by patients, with patients and for patients.

With the recent launch of our 2019 training program delivered online through the University of Calgary’s Continuing Education, we are excited to announce 2 new Internships with students from BC, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario; IBD (Sponsor: IMAGINE) and Kidney Health (Sponsor: Alberta Health Services Kidney Health Strategic Clinical Network).

In a 2-part series, we will be introducing each team by sharing their profiles, written in their own words. 

We are PaCER.


“When you engage patients and give them a voice — the inside knowledge, the truth and all of the things they have experienced truly get heard.”

Susanna Koczkur

PaCER Program Manager

Meet the PaCER IMAGINE IBD Alberta team   We’ve Got Guts

Our IBD Alberta team represents a broad range of experience with IBD/IBS, with the common goal of better understanding these diseases as they impact ourselves and our families, and with the desire to help others who have been or will be confronted with IBD/IBS in the future.

Student Interns

Marcia Bruce -- I am a mother of three kids ages 4, 8 and 10. I have a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Calgary. I am on the Board of Directors of the Calgary Chapter of the Celiac Association and I am an active volunteer at my children’s’ schools and with Alberta Health Services. 

My husband of 19 years and I were both recently diagnosed with celiac disease and we suspect our children may also be affected by this genetic disease, so I am very interested in learning more about digestive health issues which is what attracted me to PaCER and the IMAGINE patient-led research internship program. 

Doug MacKay -- I am a husband, father of 4 (2 married), grandfather to 3 (plus 1 on the way), as well as a teacher of 37 years (B.Ed., M.A), and community volunteer.  I joined PaCER to better help in my volunteer roles with Alberta health Services (YEHAC, Central Zone PCN Committee and Transitions subcommittee), and to more completely understand the issues that my son faces as he deals with his severe ulcerative colitis (diagnosed 4 years ago). 

Sherri MacLean --I have been diagnosed with Crohn's disease and a number of my family members have IBD. I live and work in Calgary and am originally from Nova Scotia. After hearing about PaCER through the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation Chapter Meeting (a group I've volunteered with in the past), I decided to apply because the program provides patients a unique opportunity to conduct, participate in and impact research.

Lindsey Rizkalla -- I am a born and raised Calgarian and University of Calgary graduate (BComm, BA Sociology 2013) with an IBD diagnosis since 2015. I am taking part in the PaCER program as I am interested in helping people amplify their voice in a healthcare setting and in learning more about IBD and other chronic illnesses. 

Kendra Vandenhoven -- I am a current student at the University of Calgary with the goal of ending up in a research career relating to the connection between the human microbiome and behaviour. Three members of my family have been diagnosed with complex autoimmune diseases, one of whom suffers from ulcerative colitis. By joining PaCER, I hope to make a difference in the way that my family and other IBD patients navigate the healthcare system and improve their treatment experience. I also intend to gain a better understanding of what matters to patients as a way to inform my future career as a quantitative researcher.

Jeanette Van Roosmalen P. Eng. -- I’m a retired professional engineer, married and mother of 3 young adults. I am an APEGA Life Member with a B.Sc. in Engineering, University of Alberta (1983) and a Unit Clerk Certificate, Bow Valley College (2018). I have two family members with IBD. My primary interests are in assessing barriers to timely diagnosis and improving outcomes for youth and young adults with IBD.

PaCER Mentor

Esther J. Halton, P.Eng. -- I am married to a wonderful guy, Joe, with three (3) children.  I am an uber patient (auto-immune, GI, eyes, lung, heart, GI, liver, concussion, mood, bladder), to name just a few.  I have had a broad reaching career including experience as an ion exchange, membrane and fuel cell researcher; professional processes engineer; project director; gas marketer and consultant.  In 2015 I joined the PaCER team and am active as a researcher, instructor, curriculum writer and Intern Mentor.

Meet the PaCER IMAGINE IBD National team      The MOB

Our IBD National team is interested in how individuals diagnosed with IBD cope with their illness on a day-to-day basis. More specifically, topics that we are interested in include mental health, sexual health and diet. 

Student Interns

Jenna Rines  -- I am a Registered Social Worker with a specialization in health and mental health from the University of Toronto, currently working in inpatient Gastroenterology and Surgical Oncology at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Ontario. I am living with Crohn’s Disease and a pelvic pouch (diagnosed with IBD in 2010) and am interested in ways to promote emotional health and healthy coping for individuals affected by IBD and chronic illness.

Sunny Loo -- I am a pharmacist with a history working with health technology, eHealth and patient support programs.  Since diagnosed with a rare vasculitis disorder, I have focused my lived experience with this chronic illness to actively participate as a member of various governance councils for the Vancouver Island Health Authority, as past chair for the BC SUPPORT Unit Patient Council, and as an engaged advisor on various SPOR related engagements.

Kim Daley -- Through my background as a 911 call taker, I have learned interviewing skills, have an attention to detail and a desire to help others; which I believe will transfer over to the techniques used in the PaCER program to help create positive change in health care.  Having Crohn’s disease for 24 years I have become active in the IBD community. I was previously on the Winnipeg Ostomy Association board. Currently, I am active through the Alberta SPOR Support Network courses, the University of Manitoba IBD Advisory Board, and as a Patient Research Partner on various research projects including IMAGINE-SPOR on the Sex & Gender, Psychology and Patient Engagement studies. I also assist a local GI with a CCC grant proposal. Outside of the IBD community, I am active in my small-town community as a wife and a mom to 3 active kids (7mths, 4yrs & 11yrs) and am the volunteer coordinator with the local elementary school and fundraising coordinator at the nursery school.

Kwestan Safari -- I am in my last year of my Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (honours) at Simon Fraser University. I did an internship with the BC Children's Hospital Research Institute where I researched the role of the FcγRIIA receptor in inflammation, with the hopes of elucidating new knowledge about IBD. I myself have Ulcerative Colitis and I hope that through PaCER I can give back to the IBD community in another way by helping to implement positive change in the health care system. 

PaCER Mentor

Deirdre Walsh  -- I am a patient, researcher, health coach, mindfulness teacher, communicator, parent, wife, sister and friend to many. I have spent time in my career involved in developing patient programs for pharma, event marketing, wellness coaching and teaching mindfulness programs. I am part of the PaCER team both as an Intern for a 2018 co-hort and currently as a Mentor. 

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