Meet the team behind PaCER

The Patient and Community Engagement Research (PaCER) program, in partnership with Alberta Health Services through the Strategic Clinical Networks, is committed to transforming the role of patients in health care and health culture through engagement research. The PaCER advisors, researchers and educators play a key role in ensuring the progress of the program's partnerships and projects. To connect with any of the PaCER team members, please contact pacergroup@ucalgary.ca


Nancy J. Marlett, PhD

Director

I have been fascinated by social innovation throughout my career, but PaCER is a force to be reckoned with because it is transforming basic roles in health care and health research.
— Nancy Marlett
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When the Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies program was invited to join the Cumming School of Medicine, Nancy saw the opportunity to expand her work with populations struggling to have a say in the services they relied upon. An open access textbook, written with Seniors who wanted to learn how to conduct research (Marlett and Emes, Grey Matters), intrigued both health researchers and the emerging Strategic Clinical Networks (SCN) and the seedling of PaCER was planted.

Nancy, in collaboration with Tracy Wasylak (Senior Program Officer, SCN, Alberta Health Services) and Deborah Marshall (Canada Research Chair Health Services and Systems Research, O’Brien Institute for Public Health, University of Calgary), secured a grant to train patients in engagement research to bring a new patient voice to the SCN.   Nancy created the idea of an internship where groups of patients designed and conducted their own research, fostering an incubator of new research ideas.  As graduates joined the team, this new research was offered to the SCN, health researchers and communities. 

Nancy works with the Advisory Board, PaCER staff, the University of Calgary, Health Researchers, Health Systems and Associations, Government Agencies and Communities to change patient roles and relationships in their health and health care.  The challenge is to build and spread training in patient research and leadership and to incubate new approaches to health research within a sustainable social enterprise that incorporates small business offerings, ongoing partnerships and grants. 

Nancy’s PhD was a grounded theory study of innovation and social change (United Kingdom). She has worked for the Canadian, Ontario and Alberta governments; nonprofit organizations; private consulting and as a faculty member in Education and Medicine to study new social organizations and social movements. In these capacities, Nancy has led and managed large-scale programs and projects including psychiatric hospital deinstitutionalization in Ontario, Director of Community Rehabilitation and Disability studies when distance education and communities of learners models were being created, policy development in health care and social services, educational reform to include students with profound disabilities, the future of Health Care (Rainbow Report) in Alberta, and international educational curriculum development.  In addition to this distinguished body of work, Nancy has over 12 years of consultancy experience with Industry Canada where she worked in health technology (computer assisted learning and assistive devices) and as an advisor to the Secretary of State initiatives with disability and seniors. She has a special interest in recovery models in tertiary prevention and health capacity building among those who struggle to be heard.


Svetlana Shklarov, MD, PhD, RSW

Instructor & Research Advisor

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Our belief is in promoting research conducted and controlled by people who have lived the experiences of what is being researched.
— Svetlana Shklarov

Svetlana has been involved with the PaCER Program since its initiation in 2011. She coordinated and evaluated the program’s first two-year pilot initiative, and upon its completion, was instrumental in the co-design, oversight and operation of the first contract research projects. Svetlana’s work with PaCER includes course development, teaching and supervision in the internship program, advising on ethical research design, as well as oversight of PaCER applications for ethics approval.

Svetlana brings to the PaCER program her experience as a physician with over 20 years of learning, teaching and research in the field of disability studies and mental health. In addition, her knowledge of patient-led initiatives, both in research and in the community, is key in delivering the program’s mission.

Svetlana has practiced as a pediatrician both in Russia and Israel. She earned her PhD from the University of Calgary in 2009 for a grounded theory study of the narratives of Soviet survivors of the Holocaust. Svetlana has been affiliated with the Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies Program (CRDS) since 1997 when she became a coordinator of a 10-year series of large, multi-site Canada-Russia initiatives led by CRDS together with the Moscow Institute of Psychiatry, aimed at enhancing community mental health reforms in Russia. Since 2006, she has been teaching a variety of courses for CRDS, both on campus and online.


Romita Choudhury, PhD

Research Lead

When patients speak about healthcare, they do so not as outsiders but from a sense of belonging
— Romita Choudhury

With a PhD in English from the University of Alberta and twenty years of teaching and research in postcolonial and gender studies, ethnography and humanitarian narratives, Romita wondered what she could bring to patient and community based health research. The answer, as she discovered, lay in her deep interest in the idea of culture. Who owns culture? Who gets to speak for it and who doesn’t? Where do ideas about the culture of people, places and institutions come from? These questions are as important to ask of our healthcare beliefs and practices as they are to our everyday lives as social beings.

Before Romita joined PaCER as a researcher, mentor and Board member, she cut her teeth in health research at CHR (Calgary Health Region) in 2004, working with Recruitment and Retention to develop a three-year Workforce Diversity Strategic Plan. Soon after, she undertook a short-term project as Research Associate with the Department of Community Health Sciences and CHR on a literature and best practices review of health literacy in Alberta and other regions of Canada.

It was with PaCER, however, that Romita got to put theory to work. In her internship project, she and her group of fellow interns completed a qualitative research project on the experiences of younger women with cardiac illness. How the women charted their healthcare journey was nothing if not cultural. As patients, professionals, mothers and spouses, they struggled to speak about their unique experiences in a language not their own, in a language that would be familiar to the system and be recognized as such.

Romita continues to teach part-time at Athabasca University while she explores the richly diverse possibilities in health research to expand the dialogue between healthcare systems, patients, caregivers and professionals.


Marlyn Gill, MSW

Research Lead

I believe in serendipity. How else could a septuagenarian find her most satisfying calling by opening the wrong website.
— Marlyn Gill

A member of the original PaCER group, Marlyn has been with PaCER from the beginning and has completed or is working on research with patients for the Palliative - End of Life Care, Critical Care, Surgery, Bone and Joint Health, and Cancer Strategic Clinical Networks (SCN).  As well, she is active in research studies for the Libin Institute, Choosing Wisely Canada and W21C. Working as a patient engagement researcher has more than compensated for her loss of a high level of physical activity.

Originally a schoolteacher in Scotland, Marlyn emigrated to Canada in 1974 with her husband and two children.  She dedicated her time at home, volunteering with many organizations, until her younger son went to University. Joining him there, Marlyn earned her MSW from the University of Calgary in 1995. Upon graduation, she worked for a large non-profit organization in the roles of therapist and supervisor of a family violence programme. In 2001, three years after the death of her husband, she left Calgary to move to Radium Hot Springs and pursue her passion as an avid golfer, private therapist and workshop presenter. Marlyn joined the original PaCER team in 2012 when she returned to Calgary because of deteriorating heath.


Susanna Koczkur

Research Lead

The single patient story flourishes within the collective patient voice – guiding and empowering patient led research.
— Susanna Koczkur

Program design and management have been the dominating factors in Susanna’s scope of work in the fields of medicine, rehabilitation, mental health services and non-profit community agencies. As a patient and a mental healthcare provider, she understands the impact of patient led research.

After graduating from the PaCER program in 2015/16, Susanna filled the position of Lead Patient Engagement Researcher. With her organizational leadership experience, Susanna is leading the development of the PaCER Inc. initiative to offer specific services in research, quality improvement and health services delivery.  She is also a member of the Addictions and Mental Health Strategic Clinical Network, Core Committee. A member of the Calgary Association of Lifelong Learners, Susanna is the key designer and co-facilitator of Life Writing workshops.

As a Vocational Coordinator with a rehabilitation and research institute, Susanna developed her organizational management skills responsible for several rehabilitation-training businesses. Her experience as a Youth Crisis Worker and as Director of a Youth Crisis Centre gave her opportunity to design service delivery in a rural setting. For seven years, Susanna was the Executive Director of a non-profit agency that served the homeless.  Through designing consumer driven programs, she recognized that the more involved individuals were in creating their own services, the more streamlined and useful the services became in time. 


Jean Miller, PhD

Research Lead

It ‘s so exciting to see how a collective patient voice is helping to transform community-based support for Albertans with arthritis.
— Jean Miller

Jean was a participant in the original PaCER study on the feasibility of training patients to carry out peer-to-peer research in 2013.  She became interested in patient engagement research when she struggled with managing early Osteoarthritis (OA) knee pain.  Jean is a member of the Bone and Joint Health Strategic Clinical Network Committee and the Innovation and Research Steering Committee (Alberta Health Services). She also served as a public member on the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR) Standing Committee on Ethics. Jean is a patient member of the CIHR Working Group developing ethics guidelines for engaging patients as collaborators in research. 

Jean has a BScN (University of Saskatchewan) and PhD in Nursing (University of Alberta) as well as an MA in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Calgary. Most of her professional life was dedicated to Mount Royal College (now University) where she taught nursing, established a distance-delivered gerontology program, and was Director of Nursing and Health Studies. She concluded her formal working life with 10 years of rewarding consulting work. 

PaCER Research

As people with arthritis, Jean along with her PaCER colleague Sylvia Teare, collaborate with Alberta arthritis researchers to improve Albertans’ access to community support for self-managing their arthritis.  Since completing their internship where they conducted a peer-to-peer analysis of The Experience of Waiting for Help with Osteoarthritis, they have worked on three PaCER studies that have brought a collective patient voice of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and First Nations rheumatoid arthritis patients to an Alberta research initiative that is creating an optimal model of care for the efficient delivery of appropriate and effective arthritis care. They co-led the PaCER component of a knowledge translation project (Building Partnerships to Improve Care of Early Knee Osteoarthritis Patients) where patients, family doctors, and researchers are co-designing a tool to help patients better manage their OA. Jean and Sylvia have completed a qualitative study of participant experience in the Employment Arthritis: Making it Work Program which is being followed by a second study of the impact of this program on employment and everyday life for people with rheumatoid arthritis. They have also done PaCER studies in cardiac care (APPROACH: Patient Engagement to Identify Priorities for Shared Decision Making Tools) and seniors health (Meaningful Research for Meaningful Engagement). 


Sylvia Teare, BScN, MEd

Lead Researcher

Transformation in healthcare will only happen with the engagement and involvement of patients in the planning and decision making.
— Sylvia Teare

Sylvia is a trained Patient and Community Engagement Researcher (PaCER), having been a member of the research project leading to the designation PaCER. She is also one of the original members of the Seniors’ Health Strategic Clinical Network (SCN) core committee, as well as a member of several committees of the Bone and Joint Health SCN.

A BScN from the University of Alberta launched Sylvia into the healthcare world where she practiced and taught nursing. She then went on to earn an MEd in Instructional Design from the University of Calgary.  Many years of consulting in program planning, needs assessment and evaluation in a variety of fields led to a fulfilling career. Answering a call to participate in a research project looking at the possibility of teaching people with osteoarthritis how to do peer-to-peer research led to her becoming a PaCER.

PaCER Research

Internship research project on The Experience of Waiting for Help with Osteoarthritis.

Lead in PaCER project for Seniors’ Health Strategic Clinical Network: Meaningful Research for Meaningful Engagement.

Co-lead in

  • knowledge translation KOASK project: Building Partnerships to Improve Care of Early Knee Osteoarthritis Patients: Co Developing a Risk Management Tool
  • qualitative study of participant experience in the Employment Arthritis: Making it Work Study
  • APPROACH: Patient Engagement to Identify Priorities for Shared Decision Making Tools in Cardiac Care

Three PaCER projects relating to creating an optimal model of care for the efficient delivery of appropriate and effective arthritis care (with osteoarthritis patients, rheumatoid arthritis patients and First Nations rheumatoid arthritis patients).


Chelsia Gillis, MSc

Research Mentor

When research is undertaken with patients as equal partners, superior outcomes are realized.
— Chelsia Gillis

Chelsia was drawn to PaCER after hearing a presentation given by Nancy Marlett and Marlyn Gill. This presentation made her realize that patients were the missing link in her research. Chelsia decided to become a Patient Engagement Researcher and in 2016/2017, she completed a PaCER internship with a project focus on understanding parents’ experiences with stillbirth, sponsored by Alberta Health Service’s Maternal Newborn, Child and Youth Strategic Clinical Network.  As a PaCER graduate and Research Mentor, she is currently working towards creating sustained patient engagement in surgical care settings. 

Chelsia is a PhD student in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Calgary. She is a Registered Dietitian and completed her MSc at McGill University in Human Nutrition & Dietetics. At McGill University, Chelsia also worked as a Research Associate on studies that readied patients for surgery, a process known as prehabilitation. While Chelsia has worked with patients in her research, through PaCER her approach is to work with patients as partners in research.


Patrizia Ranieri, B.A.

support and marketing

“It’s an honor to lend my expertise to this dedicated team of researchers who are working towards a future where patients and their families are fully engaged in their health care experience.”
— Patrizia Ranieri

A strategic and multidisciplinary communicator, Patrizia has worked with a wide range of corporations, from publically traded companies to start-ups, leading targeted marketing initiatives.  JoiningPaCER in 2017, she brings more than twenty years of experience in marketing communications and operations support to the program. Her role at PaCER is to provide a seamless operations environment that allows team members to focus on their core research. As well, she is a key resource in facilitating the continued evolution of the PaCER program.

Patrizia graduated from the University of Calgary in 1984 with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.). After completing her degree, she continued her studies in the area of Journalism/Communication Arts at SAIT leading to a position as an Account Manager for FWJ Communications, a full service advertising and PR firm based in Calgary.  With a strong foundation developed through her client/ agency collaborations, Patrizia moved to NovAtel GPS where she worked with engineers to build a world-class technology brand and profitable publically traded company. Most recently, she has devoted her time as a marketing writer and editor for companies in the financial, construction, engineering, and apparel industries.