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Heroes walk the halls of Markham Stouffville Hospital every single day. Whether a physician, nurse, volunteer or hospital staff member, someone who provides excellent care or goes above and beyond can be a hero. The MSH Heroes program gives patients and their families an opportunity to express their gratitude by honouring their hero with a donation to Markham Stouffville Hospital. 

Read about some of the most recently honoured MSH Heroes below, as showcased in various editions of our Healthy. Together. Markham. Stouffville.™ magazine.

Dr. Mateya Trinkaus Medical Oncologist

Spring 2018 - Dr. Mateya Trinkaus would love to talk to you about her patients and the exciting developments in cancer treatment — that’s if she wasn’t so busy actually treating those patients. For Dr. Trinkaus — who joined MSH in 2011, having completed her residency at the University of Toronto, and additional sub-specialty training in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia — her work is truly a labour of love.

She is proud of what MSH’s Cancer Clinic is able to provide for its community. “As a smaller centre, we can offer individuals a unique touch at a time when they and their families need it most,” says Dr. Trinkaus.

MSH’s small and dedicated oncology team provides patients with a holistic treatment approach addressing the many aspects that come with treating cancer, which often includes getting to know patients’ families, too. And patients tend to appreciate the relatively intimate size of the clinic. “Everyone knows their name, their hopes and fears and they see the same doctor at each appointment.” Many patients, she adds, “are reluctant to go elsewhere for further treatment.”

Why oncology? Dr. Trinkaus says cancer patients are a vulnerable population, who are “extra special, and wonderful to treat.” And, after all, everyone has had their life touched by cancer at some point. This drives her passion for not only treating the disease, but also “changing the trajectory of cancer.”

Dr. Trinkaus says that a large part of her job is helping patients achieve their goals and find meaning in their lives, while delivering the best available treatments with the fewest side effects.

“This can’t be done alone,” she says. “I work with a strong group of caring nurses, allied health professionals, the diagnostic imaging and lab departments at MSH — and we especially rely on the community to continue supporting our growing Cancer Clinic.” While she hopes she can help cure many of her patients, when this is not possible, she strives to ensure her patients have a good quality of life for as long as possible.

As cancer care improves, Dr. Trinkaus says her job is becoming all the more challenging. “It is getting harder to predict prognoses as patients are living longer. To deliver the best treatments closer to home and keep up with our patient needs, our Cancer Clinic continues to grow at a rapid pace.”

Jacquie Dunne Registered Nurse, NICU

Spring 2018 - Fifteen years ago, Jacquie Dunne asked to work at MSH on a student placement. Happily, she’s still here today.

Jacquie, a Registered Nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), particularly loves the culture at MSH, which notably includes the whole staff being on a first-name basis. She says lots of patients and visitors have commented to her about the positive mood that permeates the hospital over the years, and she takes great pride in that.

Jacquie, who began her work as a post-partum nurse, is proud of what she can offer in the NICU. “It’s the best place in the hospital to be,” she says. “There are highs and lows, but I have the chance to turn the hospital experience around for our families.”

She recalls one particular family that spent three weeks in the NICU over Christmas because their baby had meningitis. Jacquie and her team asked Santa to visit with presents for the whole family. They truly appreciated it, as did the whole team in the NICU: they were able to give a little something extra to a family that needed a smile.

Jacquie now has two young boys of her own, and says being a mom has entirely changed her nursing. Having kids has brought her to a new level of compassion in her job, along with a keen awareness. “I know now that there isn’t one solution for everyone, and that nothing is black and white.” Her beloved family and her years of experience have also taught her that she has to be 100 per cent while at the hospital, and then leave work at work. This balance, she says, gives her the energy to face each day and the new challenges it brings.

So what does spending an entire career (to date) at MSH feel like? “I still feel lucky to be here,” she says. “I couldn’t picture being anywhere else.” 

Ethylene Ricafort Scheduling

Spring 2018 - Ethylene Ricafort has been registering patients and booking their appointments at MSH for nearly 22 years.

That’s more than two decades of pure kindness.Patients lucky enough to meet her at the desk when they walk in for an appointment, or hear her warm voice on the other end of the phone, seldom forget her. Ethylene knows that the people she is scheduling appointments for are often under a lot of stress, so she and her team, “try to help as much as we can.”

Her typical day is a juggling act. “A big part of it is trying to get people squeezed in for appointments,” she says. “Especially the walk-ins.”

Ethylene organizes patient scheduling and books diagnostic and oncology appointments. She knows patients are often worried, so she endeavours to be calm and helpful. “We like to go above and beyond, despite knowing we can’t accommodate everyone.” Ethylene loves her team, many of whom have worked together for years. “MSH is a great place to work,” she says. “Even when the work is stressful we try to have fun together.”

They tend to know and care about each other’s lives and families, which she came to appreciate in a whole new way 10 years ago when she was diagnosed with cancer. That experience also showed Ethylene a whole new side of MSH – from the patient’s perspective. She had long considered herself lucky to have such a great job, and as a patient she felt fortunate to receive such great treatment.

“I really appreciated the level of care.”

Ethylene finds her work satisfying because she knows she’s helping people, but it certainly doesn’t hurt when patients stop by to show or express their gratitude. She adds, “It is always appreciated.”

Brenda Young Volunteer

Spring 2018 - In high school, she was a ‘candy striper’ at her local hospital and always felt a strong connection to helping others. When she walked through the doors at MSH seven years ago to begin volunteering, Brenda Young had a powerful feeling.

“It was like returning home,” she says.

She was stepping into a hospital once again with a strong desire to help. And help she does. Brenda volunteers at the Plastics Clinic every Wednesday, and at the Fracture Clinic on Thursdays — often arriving with home-baked treats for everyone. Much of her time is spent managing patient charts, and doing whatever it takes to keep things “moving smoothly.”

As a Markham resident for more than four decades, Brenda had long wished the community would get a hospital of its own. “I had seen how traumatic it was for families when patients had to travel out of the community for hospital stays or emergency treatment,” she says. So, she was thrilled when MSH opened its doors in 1990. Since then, each of her eight grandchildren were born at the hospital, and many other family members and friends have been treated here.

The connection makes her volunteerism that much more valuable. “I love being with patients, and giving them a little extra.” Sometimes that means holding their hand, getting a nervous child to smile, answering general questions and other times it’s just being there to listen. My priority is the comfort of the patient.”

And that, she says, is incredibly fulfilling. “You can’t put a price on helping people,” says Brenda, who fondly recalls a patient who returned from overseas travel with a token of their appreciation for her kindness. She couldn’t believe they had thought of her while they were away, and she will forever treasure the gift — a lovely, little jewelry box.

Brenda also loves to help MSH’s doctors and nurses, who really make her feel like part of the team. And she knows her time is appreciated when the staff tell her they don’t know what they’d do without her. She takes this compliment with much gratitude. “The staff and volunteers here have my utmost respect,” she says. “I see the tireless dedication that is given. I am very proud to be part of MSH.”

Andrea Forrest Palliative Care Nurse

Fall 2017 -Maybe singing isn’t what you’d expect to hear echoing through a palliative care unit, but nurse Andrea Forrest starts each day with, “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning,” as she walks down the hall at MSH. She is known as the singing nurse, and many patients have asked for a bedside recital from her over the years. And she is always happy to oblige.

Andrea became a nurse in 2009, having always dreamed of the job. She comes from a family of caregivers — her mother is a nurse, and two aunts are midwives in Jamaica. She grew up listening to their stories, and seeing her mother care for complete strangers in their home. She knew her life’s work was, “a quest to alleviate suffering.”

Her quest has been recognized along the way. Andrea was nominated for, fittingly, the Toronto Star Nightingale Award in 2015, and this year won MSH’s Robert J. Gall Award of Excellence in Nursing. She is flattered by the recognition, but unfailingly modest. “I am just going about my job and always reflecting on my practice as a nurse.”

Garnering awards, she says, won’t change who she is. “Palliative care can be a sad unit, but I am there to serve, and deliver solace.”

Andrea characterizes her unit as “a cohesive team, with lots of communication. The team is always cheering each other on, and helping each other with patients.”

It’s her unwavering belief that she should stop and show kindness wherever possible — whether that’s “just holding a hand, making eye contact, or showing empathy.” In return, she is seldom forgotten. In fact, family members of her former patients are invariably checking in with her, either bringing flowers or sometimes just coming to say ‘hi.’

Dr. Dave Austin Chief of Staff

Fall 2017 - Dr. David Austin has an ear for his work. He realized he wanted to become a physician because he was, “fascinated by the prospect of listening to heart sounds.” Turns out that Dr. Austin, one of the first physicians at Markham Stouffville Hospital when it opened in 1990, has a pretty big heart himself.

Dr. Austin spent his early career at Toronto General Hospital, but then became interested in community medicine, which led him to MSH. He describes the group of young doctors who started together at the then new hospital as, “having grown up together,” and quickly adds that most of them are still there. That distinct lack of staff turnover is one of his favourite things about working at MSH. He finds the work environment “very collegial.” The team, “all work together on patient care and there is a lot of consultation.”

Chief of Staff since 2006, Dr. Austin also sits on the hospital and foundation boards. On the MSH Foundation Board, he offers a physician’s perspective on fundraising initiatives, while on the hospital board he’s involved in long-term strategic planning for the hospital.

The highlight of his long career at MSH is the completion of the expansion and renovation project in 2014. The expansion project involved, “advocacy by the hospital board to get approval, and a huge amount of work and fundraising.” Dr. Austin says community members worked hard to get a hospital, and the rightful sense of ownership is palpable.

And that, he says, keeps him motivated to continue working hard for them.

Brad Morris Chair, MSH Foundation Board

Fall 2017 - Brad Morris says he would climb a mountain in support of Markham Stouville Hospital. And this April he’ll prove it. He and number of other supporters from the hospital will head to Kathmandu, Nepal, and then to base camp at Mount Everest on a trek to raise funds for MSH.

Brad, who has been on the MSH Foundation Board for six years, was appointed its chair in June, and is a passionate supporter of the hospital. He is a long-time community member and the list of reasons he got involved at MSH is long, bookended by the birth of his daughters, and the “compassionate end-of-life care” his mother-in-law and grandfather received.

Those experiences are so valued by Brad that he, “couldn’t help but want to help.” And help he has. He has chaired the annual Signature Golf Tournament Committee for the last six years, and proudly shares that last August they netted $230,000 for the hospital. He is also eager to mention that the tournament’s renewal rate is 80-90 per cent each year, which is rare — another special sign of support from the community.

He attributes this specific interest in fundraising to his mom, who was a nurse. From her, Brad learned, “what is and isn’t funded by the government, and that the healthcare system will always need more support.”

Now, he is passing those same lessons on. In recent years his young daughters have donated their birthday money to MSH, making their dad very proud.

It is “worth all the time,” he says, “because more will always be needed.”

Brad says he is even more driven to stay involved now than when he got started because of, “the quality of individuals and care at MSH.”

Dr. Alan Ing General Surgeon

Summer 2015 - “The fact that I’ve been here for 25 years probably speaks to how I feel,” says Dr. Alan Ing. “Obviously I’m happy in the job. I derive great personal satisfaction from it.”

The general surgeon does surgical oncology and endoscopy, as well as hernia and thoracic surgery. He has always been extremely happy at MSH, largely because of the work environment. The doctors and nurses are talented and skilled, he says; they’re also caring and friendly.

Dr. Ing hopes to expand general surgical coverage in Markham so the hospital can care for a diverse population and remain on the cutting edge of cancer care. His job satisfaction comes from knowing he’s made a difference to the patients he has been asked to care for. “You help people and they appreciate it. You go home satisfied, appreciating the time you’ve spent at work.”

Cathy Sutherland Volunteer, Critical Care Unit

Summer 2015 - Stouffville resident Cathy Sutherland first got involved with the hospital in 1983, as a member of the board’s volunteer advisory committee.

When the hospital opened in 1990, she was one of 700 volunteers. Assigned to the intensive care unit, she can still be found there today, stocking supply carts for the nurses.

The 77-year-old still looks forward to coming in. “I work with a wonderful group of people,” she says. “All the nurses, everyone in the critical care unit are great people and they’re appreciative of what we do as volunteers.”

Markham Stouffville is a wonderful hospital that serves the community well, she says. The large number of volunteers is part of what makes the hospital so great, that people give their time to help. “I get great satisfaction out of coming here and hopefully making a difference.”

Sue Pereira Registered Nurse, Emergency Department

Summer 2015 - In 1990, Sue Pereira helped with the actual set-up of the hospital’s first emergency department. The registered nurse’s duties now include triage and prioritizing walk-in patients, as well as those brought in by ambulance. She conducts physical and emotional assessments and does blood work, IV insertions and ECGs.

She likes the uncertainty each day brings. “We never know at a given moment what will come through the doors. It could be anything from a runny nose to a heart attack, stroke, trauma or pediatric emergency,” she says.

Ms Pereira is grateful to her husband and kids for their support during her training and the many years of shift work where she worked weekends and missed birthday and Christmas celebrations. She’s deeply touched by this nomination, but feels she’s just doing her job. Sue loves being part of the emergency department’s wonderful team of doctors, nurses and support staff. She says, “I can’t even think about what life will be like when I can’t be a nurse here anymore.”

Lynne Campkin Director, Diagnostic and Laboratory Services

Summer 2015 - Lynne Campkin started at Markham Stouffville Hospital in April 1989, a year before it opened. She was part of that initial excitement and buzz, and enjoyed being part of it all again during the hospital’s recent expansion. It’s a privilege, she says, to have been part of MSH’s journey.

A true leader, Ms Campkin has worked in a number of roles over the years, guiding different teams and developing new programs and services. She works with physicians and medical professionals of all disciplines to elevate quality of care and position the hospital as a progressive leader in medical technology and patient care.

Satisfaction comes from patients and families who say they’ve had a good experience, and physicians, surgeons and specialists who say her team supported them in delivering high-quality, responsive diagnostic care for their patients. “I love my job,” she says. “No day looks the same and the challenges and opportunities to make a difference never stop. There has never been a dull moment!”

Chris Burden Registered Nurse, Intensive Care Unit

Fall 2014 - A hero inside and outside the hospital walls, Chris Burden gained national attention this summer when he performed CPR on a man struck by lightning at a local golf course, saving his life.

As a nurse in the intensive care unit at Markham Stouffville Hospital, Mr. Burden treats critically ill patients mostly on life support. He is part of a team that can restore health to a large range of medical or surgical patients or help prepare a patient and family for end of life. Both, he says, are rewarding.

“I get the most satisfaction out of helping patients and their families during really difficult, critical times,” he says. “A big part of the job is communicating and connecting with families.”

A graduate of York University and local resident, Mr. Burden did some training at MSH during school and knew it was where he wanted to establish a career. The people, he says, are second to none and the continued growth of the community and the hospital will enable him to build his skills as a nurse.

Bonnie Jean-Baptiste Patient Relations Representative

Fall 2014 - A social worker by training, Bonnie Jean-Baptiste began working at Markham Stouffville Hospital on a casual basis as a member of the mental health crisis team.

Four years ago, she became a full-time social worker for the medicine, intensive care and surgery departments. In 2011, she moved to her current role as patient relations representative.

The focus of her job is to receive and resolve patient feedback—compliments, comments, suggestions, inquiries and complaints.

“It gives patients a voice,” Ms Jean-Baptiste says. “It’s an impartial, confidential and easily accessible process that ensures patients and their families have a mechanism to raise concerns about their experiences and provide feedback.”

The hospital also benefits.

“The hospital gains valuable insight and can use this information to capture service excellence and identify opportunities for improvement,” she says.

Ms Jean-Baptiste was surprised to learn she has been nominated as an MSHero for her work.

“I don’t really see myself as a hero,” she says. “It takes the efforts of all of us to make the best possible experience for the patient and his family. I am just one small part of that.”

Gary Edney Social Worker, Outpatient Mental Health

Fall 2014 - Gary Edney came to Markham Stouffville Hospital seven years ago, after stints at other health care centres around the GTA. Now, he can’t imagine working anywhere else.

“It would be hard for me to find something at this point that I don’t love about being here,” he says. “This is a wonderful community to be a part of.”

As a social worker in the outpatient mental health department, Mr. Edney treats people struggling with a range of emotional and psychological problems. He sees patients for individual counselling and co-facilitates cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy groups.

Because he works with people over the course of many months, he is able to witness their improvements—and he finds it immensely satisfying to “make a depressed person smile, to help an anxious person take a deep breath and let go of something or help someone change an unhealthy to a healthy coping mechanism.”

His MSHero nomination shows his clients are benefitting from his care.

“I was quite humbled,” he says of the award. “I actually view the people we treat as heroes because these people are struggling with profound mental health issues and it’s a privilege to help them.”

Dr. Andrew Patterson Family Physician, Chief of Rehabilitation, Palliative, Complex Care

Fall 2014 - As chief of rehabilitation, palliative and complex care, Dr. Andrew Patterson leads a team of family physicians caring for some 50 patients at Markham Stouffville Hospital. A family physician, Dr. Patterson began his career at MSH before it opened its doors as chief of family medicine and he has long been a champion of the role family doctors can play in the hospital setting, caring for patients with chronic health issues.

“I feel patient care is enhanced when more chronic patients are treated by family physicians whose skills are well honed in that area,” he says.

In recent years, palliative care has become an important focus of his practice.

“What we are able to achieve by working with both patients and families is helping patients deal with the symptoms of their disease and helping families come to terms with what they are going to have to cope with—and that is rewarding in itself,” he says.

Dr. Patterson says a true team approach to care that values the contributions of all has kept him at the hospital—and his MSHero award reflects on the whole team.

“It’s always pleasant to receive recognition for some of the things that you do,” he says. “I feel a great deal of pride in what we’ve achieved at Markham Stouffville Hospital over the years, so I’m more happy that patients and the community are identifying the hospital as a good place to come and receive medical care.”.

Dr. Mark Berber Staff Psychiatrist, Assistant Professor, Queen’s

Spring 2014 - Dr. Mark Berber works with the hospital’s mental health team, which includes nurses, psychologists and social workers, to help people troubled with emotional, psychological or psychiatric problems.

“The best thing about my job,” he says, “is seeing patients recover from very disabling illnesses, helping patients get well and stay well.”

Dr. Berber is also committed to advancing his field through education; in addition to his role as assistant professor at Queen’s University, he regularly shares his knowledge with physician groups and the general public.

When asked what it means to him to have been nominated as an MSHero by patients and their families, Dr. Berber responded by saying: “While it is nice to be recognized by your peers, it is the positive feedback and appreciation from patients that really matters.”

Coleen Allum Volunteer, Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation

Spring 2014 - A volunteer for more than a decade, Coleen Allum spends a day a week—more during busy times—in the foundation office.

“I’m helping the foundation with fundraising efforts in the community, which is so important,” she says, adding she feels a part of the team there.

“It gives me a sense of satisfaction to make a positive contribution to our vibrant community,” says the resident of 15 years. “I feel blessed, my family feels blessed, to be so close to such a state-of-the-art health care facility.”

Ms. Allum says it was both a surprise and an honour to be nominated as an MSHero.

“The staff in the hospital—the nurses, the doctors and all of the caregivers —they are the real heroes,” she says. “I do feel so honoured that someone also thought to include me.”

Sue Bonk Registered Nurse, Certified Diabetes Educator

Spring 2014 - It was the opportunity to provide “proactive” health care that brought Sue Bonk, a former emergency room nurse, to Markham Stouffville Hospital’s adult diabetes clinic eight years ago.

Ms Bonk works with a team of 15 nurses and dietitians, two endocrinologists, as well as a manager and support staff. Together, they help approximately 8,000 patients with type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes, as well as prediabetes (elevated blood sugar levels indicating a risk of developing type 2 diabetes) every year.

“I like it when they realize that they can do something positive for themselves,” Ms Bonk says. “It puts them back in the driver’s seat.”

Her MSHeroes nomination indicates her clients feel the same way.

“It was so nice,” she says, “to hear someone thought I’d really helped them.”

Tom Delaney Redevelopment Project Manager, Construction

Spring 2014 - Hired by Markham Stouffville Hospital six years ago, when plans began for the expansion of the hospital, Tom Delaney has more than 20 years of experience working in construction and facilities management at health care centres around the province.

At MSH, he acts as a liaison between the construction crews and hospital administration and staff. A large part of his role is troubleshooting, finding solutions to the challenges of expanding and renovating a hospital while providing the best care to patients—from handling noise concerns to coordinating movement of staff and visitors through the building.

“It’s interesting and challenging,” he says. “You get to see the project from a hole in the ground to completion, to see positive changes.”

Mr. Delaney says his MSHeroes nomination came as a “total shock.”

“I’m out and about so much, people see me all the time. Someone must have seen me doing something right,” he says.

Carolina Rotella Radiology Technologist

Spring 2014 - On any given day in MSH’s busy diagnostics imaging department, Carolina Rotella is performing CT (computed tomography) scans to help physicians diagnose and monitor illness and injury. She cares for patients with a wide variety of symptoms and conditions; from potential collision victims with internal injuries to cancer survivors. Her patients could include a collision victim who arrives at the emergency department with possible internal injuries or a cancer survivor in for a six-month check-up.

Ms Rotella left her job at a Toronto hospital to work at MSH when it opened—and remembers looking out the office window onto farmland. Although the hospital and city have grown, she still feels that community connection.

“This is my hospital. I live in this neighbourhood. I feel like I’m helping my neighbours,” she says.

“I am honoured that someone decided to go that extra bit to thank me, but I have to say it’s a total team effort here,” she says of her nomination. “Although we are often thanked by others, it means more when it comes from a patient.”

Thank Your MSH Hero Today!

Do you have a hero at Markham Stouffville Hospital? Express your gratitude to that special doctor, nurse, volunteer or hospital staff member who made a difference in your life by nominating them as your MSHero.

Your gift will help purchase life-saving, state-of-the-art medical and diagnostic equipment to support patient care. In addition, your hero will receive a card of appreciation and a commemorative pin to wear with pride in thanks for your generosity.

Thank Your MSH Hero