MSH Heroes make a difference. You won’t see MSH Heroes in capes or costumes but you will see them walking the halls of the hospital every day. Our heroes save lives, combat illness and go above and beyond to provide compassionate care to our patients. MSH Heroes have been recognized by a grateful patient, family, peer or community supporter and honoured with a donation to support exceptional patient care close to home. 

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

Thank Your MSH Hero Today!

If there is a special doctor, nurse, volunteer, hospital staff or everyday hero who made a difference in your life, this is your opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. Your gift will help purchase life-saving medical equipment and critical technology to support exceptional patient care close to home. When you recognize you MSH Hero, they will receive a card of appreciation and a commemorative pin to wear with pride.

Thank Your MSH Hero
Rona McKey Registered nurse

Fall 2020/Winter 2021 - Rona McKey is one of the original staff of the hospital.

It’s been 30 years since MSH opened its doors, and Rona was here from the beginning. In fact, she joined the hospital two months before it opened in March 1990.

“I was part of an amazing team of 13 nurses, from nine different hospitals,” she says. “We came together along with five obstetricians, three anaesthetists, 12 family doctors and support staff to build a family birthing unit that provided exceptional care to our growing community.”

She has since welcomed countless babies into the world. “It’s a privilege to be a part of someone’s most precious moments,” she says. “I’ve been fortunate to see some of these babies graduate and return to MSH as nurses and physicians.”

Since those early days, Rona has diversified her career. Today she is an operating room nurse, extending her care and compassion to surgical patients. “I value my role in easing the stress and anxieties associated with the surgical experience.”

Rona’s dedication has shaped multiple projects and programs at MSH. For this, she has been honoured with a gift of thanks through an MSH Heroes donation. “Rona puts her whole heart into her work,” notes a former colleague. “She has a wealth of knowledge and is happy to share. My final year of work was a pleasure because I got to work most of my shifts with Rona.”

Rona’s contributions extend beyond the hospital. Since moving to Markham in 1988 she has received numerous commendations, including an award from the mayor for her volunteerism. However, to be recognized as an MSH Hero, she says, is something very special.

“To know this recognition comes from someone whom I admire and have aspired to emulate in my nursing practice exceeds even the heartfelt gratitude I’ve felt with each birth announcement I’ve been named in, each expression of thanks, or nomination received. I am genuinely honoured,” Rona says.

“I am thrilled to know my contributions have an impact. I will always stand for the golden rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Then, everyone is a hero.”

Dr. Paul Lokoff Chief of Anaesthesia

Fall 2020/Winter 2021 - Dr. Paul Lokoff’s ties to MSH run deep. Fresh from the University of Toronto, Dr. Lokoff was working in Southern California when he got the call to join MSH. Missing Canada, he left the sunny beaches for what was back then a tiny hospital in a cornfield and never looked back.

Starting out on day one in 1990, Dr. Lokoff was one of only three anaesthesiologists. Today, as the long-time Chief of Anaesthesia, he has been instrumental in growing a dedicated team of highly talented anaesthesiologists.

Dr. Lokoff has marked many personal and professional milestones over the last 30 years. With the help of fellow staff, he learned to ballroom dance in the hospital auditorium the week before his wedding which was attended by many of his colleagues. And his son was born at the hospital — and is now a resident in anaesthesia.

“MSH has been a huge part of my life,” he says. He considers himself extremely fortunate to be a founding member of such a uniquely supportive and patient-focused culture. And he’s developed many friendships that he deeply values. So much so that his generous colleagues and friends recently recognized him with an MSH Heroes donation through the MSH Foundation.

Dr. Lokoff is very proud of the leading role that anaesthesiologists have played in the evolution of care at MSH. One important initiative is the acute pain service developed 20 years ago, in response to the increasing complexity of post-operative pain. This leading-edge work also led to the development of an opioid reduction strategy at MSH. “With the devastating consequences of the opioid crisis, our team has made a multitude of changes to minimize or eliminate opioid use,” says Dr. Lokoff.

He continues to wear many hats, as a department chief, educator and clinician. And in each of these roles, what he shares with fellow MSH Heroes is an intense focus on the patient.

“I truly enjoy looking after a nervous child, a sick patient or a labouring patient in pain — and doing my best to make their experience the best it can be.”

Dr. Stephen McLaren Family physician

Winter 2020 - When asked about delivering the first baby born at MSH, Dr. Stephen McLaren lets out a satisfied sigh: “Ah, Jennifer Bell!”

Dr. McLaren appreciates the joys of life — and the joys of sharing it. He’s been sharing that enthusiasm for 30 years at MSH, and been a fixture in the community even longer than that. He set up his practice along with two other doctors in 1984.

“At that time, there were only six family doctors in Markham, and two of them were about to retire,” he remembers. MSH was still a few years away, and Dr. McLaren began to build his practice.

What keeps him attracted to MSH, to which he was aligned long before its opening in 1990, is the continued emphasis on patient care. “They brought in really good people from the start. And the administrative team jumped on the concept of customer service before anyone in health care used the words ‘customer’ and ‘service.’”

Dr. McLaren is a past chief of family medicine and is currently in practice with Markham Family Physicians aligned with the Markham Family Health Team. Being nominated as an MSH Hero resonates with him because of what this gesture says about the hospital’s role in the community.

“What really thrills me is that someone put together the pieces of the puzzle [and figured out] that their family doctor in this community is part of the bigger picture that is the Markham Stouffville Hospital and the Markham Family Health Team. I don’t think most people fully understand how important it is to have a really good relationship between the local hospital and primary care providers. I think that’s when the system sings well for everyone in Ontario.”

What Dr. McLaren finds most rewarding is being part of an effective team that provides seamless care. “We see a patient with an injured wrist and access an x-ray at MSH. It shows a broken wrist and the patient is directed from x-ray to the Emergency Department for a cast and then the Fracture Clinic for follow-up. Now there’s customer service! And MSH does this over and over again. You are navigated through to the next level of care with ease and efficiency.”

The bonds that form with patients are particularly important to Dr. McLaren. “It’s something you feel deeply with people, especially when you care for generations of families. Though it’s often tragic cases where this rises to the surface and is apparent to all, it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes it’s just where you share the joy of health.”

Rosemary Cameirao Paediatric nurse

Winter 2020 - Talk to Rosemary Cameirao for a couple of minutes and you’ll know soon enough how much she loves her job. In Rosemary’s case, working as a nurse in the Paediatric Ambulatory Clinic, it’s a combination of things: the continual learning, the human interaction, the mentoring and the genuine pride to be representing a revered centre of health care excellence.

In March, Rosemary celebrates 30 years at MSH. She’s one of the originals, and she sure is proud of it.

Rosemary was born and raised in Sudbury, one of seven children. She started nursing in 1976, working in the nursery at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. This is where she discovered her passion for caring for newborns and their families. She also discovered her passion for knowledge.

“I wanted to help people and I wanted to know more. It’s the science behind it all, and the ability to make a change,” she says. All of this came together when she joined MSH. The culture of learning and continual improvement is a vital component and one of the main reasons, she says, that so many of the staff stay with the hospital for so long.

“I think it’s a gift, the facilities and state-of-the-art diagnostic tools we have. And management here, all the way up to the President and CEO, is always looking to improve. We also have a very generous community that supports the purchase of equipment that enables MSH’s lifesaving care.”

Rosemary touches many lives, bestowing her knowledge and enthusiasm. She works with paediatricians, family doctors, nursing students, volunteers, and co-op students from local high schools. Students are often surprised by their first experiences at MSH. They tell her: “I’ve never worked in a place like this before, everyone is so warm and accommodating.” According to Rosemary, that’s been the culture since day one.

Rosemary also runs a tight ship. When she’s teaching, she looks to inspire those around her to expand their thinking, to develop new approaches that will result in best outcomes for families. One of her greatest joys is empowering families with knowledge.

Looking back on her career of learning, Rosemary notes that she has had many good mentors, and so she wants to pass that same experience along to everyone she interacts with.

“My goal is to make the patient’s experience comfortable, worthwhile and family-centred. Learning is exciting – seeing results is gratifying.” It’s a strategy that seems to be working — and makes Rosemary a true MSH Hero.

Avo Oudabachian Board Chair, MSH Foundation

Winter 2020 - For Avo Oudabachian, giving back to one’s community is no mere gesture, it’s a way of life.

Community building was instilled in him as a boy of seven when his family emigrated from Lebanon to Montreal. “My father was 42, and all he brought to Canada was the five of us and a backgammon board,” he says. The year was 1976, and his parents set about integrating into the city’s diverse culture. Avo, who spoke only Armenian and Arabic, set out to become a Canadian citizen.

“Both my parents have been recognized by the community for 45 years of benevolence,” he says with pride. Their passion has clearly made a mark on their son, as he continues the family tradition of volunteerism — as Chair of the Board of the MSH Foundation and a Director of the hospital Board.

Avo is the founder and managing partner with Ohan & Co., a boutique executive recruiting firm with offices in Markham, Toronto, New York, Princeton, Chicago and Paris. How can a guy this busy spend so much time as a volunteer on two MSH Boards? Talk to him for a few minutes and it becomes clear. “In life, I have to be learning, giving back or having fun.” For Avo, being part of MSH ticks all the boxes.

As Chair of the MSH Foundation — during the hospital’s 30th year — Avo intends to build on the proud heritage and tremendous growth of MSH’s first 30 years. In his professional role, Avo has consulted for many Fortune 500 companies and other hospitals. He knows what makes an effective administration — one that works at all times for the wellbeing of the patient.

Avo likes nothing more than to walk the hospital floors and visit with the staff to see what’s happening. Then, he says, when he meets a donor in the community, he can tell them exactly what equipment or staff or services their donation is enabling.

And he’s quick to recognize the people who make the real magic happen.

“The doctors, the nurses, the professional staff — they are the chosen ones. They have the capacity to heal. And they really care,” he says.

“I’m humbled to be a representative of MSH and be recognized as an MSH Hero. This hospital has one of the most truly collaborative cultures I have ever seen — and this collaboration and entrepreneurial spirit is all about helping the patient and our community.”

Anne-Marie Martin Procurement specialist

Winter 2020 - Anne-Marie Martin started at MSH before it even opened. The year was 1989 and she worked with about 40 staff in an office handling essential medical equipment purchases like x-ray machines.

“I did all the orders on a typewriter with six copies,” she says, with a laugh. Now, as she approaches 31 years here in March, the ordering process is a bit more automated and her role has morphed into something beyond purchasing equipment.

“My job is to make sure everyone has what they need to do their job,” she says. Whether that’s a fridge for the nurses in the operating room (OR) so they don’t have to leave the sterile area at lunch or tweaking the taxi service at the hospital, Anne-Marie makes sure everything is in place for MSH to be the best for the community it serves.

Anne-Marie is the “problem solver.” She knows everyone. She knows how everything works. She knows where everything is. And she’s resourceful. “At times, we’ve had to be creative, like when we repurposed a motor from a parking gate to make the legs of a bucking bronco for the MSH Santa Claus parade float — our facilities guys are very talented.”

On a typical day, Anne-Marie will answer 70 emails. But, she notes, there really aren’t any typical days. “My main job is buying equipment that is vital to patient care — the life-saving things — and preparing purchase orders for construction projects around the hospital. But because I’ve been here so long people come to me for help; if a patient needs something special, I’ll either order it or track it down.”

Born in Toronto, Anne-Marie now lives in Whitby, about a 30-minute drive from MSH. In her downtime, she enjoys walks with her 10-year-old “Morkie” — a cross between a Maltese and a Yorkie — and spending time with her 10-month old grandson.

The best part of her job, she says, is the feedback – knowing she is making a difference. “I like to help the staff in all they do, and it feels good when they send a message to say they got the item or ‘we were able to help the patient.’”

It means a lot to her that someone made a donation in her honour recognizing her as an MSH Hero. “My role is a background one, so it’s very gratifying to be nominated. I love the people and I love the work.”

When asked what motivates her at work, she instantly says: “The people. We work as a team. We are ‘honoured to care’ for our community every day.”

Carissa Surujpaul Emergency Department nurse

Spring/Summer 2019 - It’s a rare person who, when asked to name the best thing about their job, enthuses without a pause: “I’m going to say everything!”

Carissa Surujpaul, who works as a nurse in the Emergency Department (ED), is that rare person. She joined MSH in 2009, fresh from school.

“I think nursing is truly a passion,” she says. “There are good days and bad days, but just providing care and seeing smiles on people’s faces is very rewarding. In the ED, people come there because they aren’t feeling well or their loved ones aren’t feeling well. So the interaction and problem solving makes it a challenging environment. It’s kind of like a big puzzle.”

Carissa truly likes to figure things out. On her own initiative, she launched the Hospital Identification Project. “We work with so many people in the ED, and everyone’s IDs are not always displayed well… some of us wear scrubs, some wear T-shirts and scrub pants, or whatever. And I noted that patients would look at us and not be able to tell who we are or what our jobs are. So I wanted to create an easier identification system.”

Carissa did some research, and then mocked up ID badges that clearly and creatively denote a person’s name and position. She presented her designs and a report to senior management. They loved it, and she received a Quality in Action award for her contribution.

And the accolades Carissa has received for her work do not end there. She was recognized as an MSH Hero for going above and beyond to provide enhanced care to our patients. As well, she has been nominated twice for the Robert J. Gall Nursing Award of Excellence and once for the Toronto Star Nightingale Nursing Award.

“I think every day is a learning experience. I like to make things better. It’s part of our job. We’re always trying to improve upon things. Some things don’t need improvement, but if there’s a way to make it easier, why not?”

Len Pierce Crisis worker

Spring/Summer 2019 - It’s the voice that stands out first. Mellow, deep, soothing… like the confident and assuring tones of a late-night radio host. It’s a voice you’d imagine a man in Len Pierce’s position would possess. Len is a crisis worker in the Mental Health Department at MSH. One of his duties — among many — is to handle code white incidents which involve de-escalating situations where people are behaving in an aggressive or violent manner. And that’s when his voice comes in handy.

“People say, ‘Oh, you have a really nice soothing voice!’ And kids love me.” He has that East Coast lilt, a mellow cadence shared by many folks who hail from the East Coast.

Len has a master’s degree in social work, along with certificates in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and trauma therapy. He joined MSH part-time in 2004, moving to full-time in 2006. He was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, renowned for its hospitable charm. In fact, one of the things he loves about MSH is its neighbourhood community feeling.

“This is the closest I’ve found to the feeling of an East Coast hospital,” he says. Len has worked in inner-city hospitals, which he says are more of a revolving door by nature. “So it’s more rewarding to work in a hospital where you can see people get better.”

In addition to being recognized as an MSH Hero, Len is also the inaugural recipient of MSH’s Honoured to Care: Respect award for consistently demonstrating inclusiveness with everyone — patients and staff alike.

Len works in the crisis clinic where he applies such techniques as CBT, motivational interviewing, narrative therapy and trauma counselling, among others. In his role, he interacts with just about every area of MSH, conducting assessments and providing mental health support on all medical floors and clinics. He also counsels and supports hospital staff who have experienced trauma.

Sound demanding? It sure is. But Len says it’s a team effort. “We have a very supportive environment at MSH. Everyone has your back when you’re trying to help,” he says.

“It’s really quite a nice place to work. I’ve been doing this for 28 years, and still look forward to coming to work every day.”

Sonita Arcinas Volunteer, retired nurse

Spring/Summer 2019 - There’s something about the culture of MSH that attracts dedicated staff like Sonita Arcinas. The registered nurse, who retired last year after 29 years, returns every Wednesday to volunteer. She leads a weekly Dr. Bear tour for children to help familiarize them with their upcoming surgical procedure and teach them about what to expect while they are in the hospital.

“It reduces their anxiety,” says Sonita. “And they know what to expect. These children are very smart and they ask a lot of questions. I see the difference in the kids who have been on the tour with me, they smile and their families are more at ease. That’s what gives me satisfaction.”

Sonita tells patients to call her Sony. “When they can’t remember my name, I tell them it’s like the TV brand, and for the kids I say, ‘PlayStation.’” It’s that kind of good humour that makes her a lot of friends.

Sony knew she wanted to be a nurse from her elementary school days in the Philippines. She moved to Ontario in 1974 at age 18 and joined MSH when it opened in the spring of 1990.

Caregiving runs in Sony’s family. Her sister is a volunteer at MSH, and her son and daughter volunteered at MSH during their high school years, her aunt is a retired nurse and she has two cousins working as nurses.

Sony loves the vibe at MSH. “Everybody knows everybody, from the housekeeping to the kitchen staff, to the unit secretaries, the nurses and the doctors. The CEO and senior leadership are very visible. You see them walking around and they chat with you. This is very different from huge hospitals where you only know the people in your department.”

Sony exemplifies the ‘hero in all of us’ idea. Not only does she volunteer her time but she also gives generously to support the highest priority needs of the hospital.

Needless to say, Sony keeps active in retirement. She babysits her grandson and takes care of her 88-year-old mother. She and her husband, who retired from Bombardier last year, love to ballroom dance and go for walks, spending as much time as they can together. “We’re attached at the hip,” she says.

Dr. Mike Virro Obstetrician / gynaecologist and fertility specialist

Spring/Summer 2019 - At the Markham Fertility Centre at MSH, Dr. Mike Virro runs one of the fi ve largest fertility clinics in Canada. Helping patients get pregnant is his passion, even though he fell into it by happenstance.

Back in 1987, his medical school curriculum required students be paired with a practicing doctor for mentorship. “It could have been a general practitioner, or any number of specialists… and who did Mike Virro get? He got a fertility specialist.” He was intrigued, and he dove right in.

Dr. Virro has experienced exciting times in the field of fertility technology — over the past 25 years, success rates have grown from 10 to 15 per cent to about 65 per cent today. But Dr. Virro, ever focused on betterment says, “So we’ve got 35 per cent room for improvement, which is a lot.”

The Markham Fertility Centre works within a specialized niche for patients who have experienced multiple in vitro fertilization failures. “So we’re the last stop when people have not succeeded elsewhere.” With the latest science and technologies backing them up, Dr. Virro’s team of three doctors — with a new one joining this summer — works extremely hard to help would be parents attain their dreams.

Dr. Virro has helped many families and one of those families showed their gratitude by honouring him as an MSH Hero saying, “thank you for helping us build our family, and for the endless dedication and commitment to ensure we had siblings for our son. Without Dr. Virro, we wouldn’t have three beautiful kids.”

Looking back over his years at MSH, Dr. Virro estimates the centre has helped bring 11,000 babies into the world, however, he can’t help ponder the “what ifs.” He’s obviously thrilled about his successes, but states: “I would have loved to have helped the people who weren’t successful.”

When asked about his accomplishments, he is somewhat reticent. After some probing — he says: “What do I find rewarding? I can’t walk anywhere in the Greater Toronto Area without someone who has their kid (or kids) with them walking up to me and they say ‘thank you.’”

Hem Jha CT technologist

Fall/Winter 2018 - Hem Jha is a thinker. He explains his job as a CT technologist as threefold; helping doctors diagnose illnesses, symptoms or injuries. Hem will often chat with patients, prioritize needs and ultimately maximize efficiencies in a very hectic and busy environment.

Hem arrived in Canada from Nepal in 2010, and the transition was hardly smooth. He had worked as a CT technologist in Nepal for over seven years. After obtaining a licence to practise as a medical radiation technologist in Canada, he initially struggled to find work. “I didn’t even know how to start looking for a job here,” he says.

But he did secure employment. After a period of time working at a clinic, he made his way to MSH in 2013.

And he’s never looked back.

Hem characterizes the staff at MSH as “a great team, who are always very supportive of each other.”

He says he has always been “very conscious of patients and their needs,” and having experienced his own struggles has only deepened his empathetic stance. He is always looking for, “the patient who needs more care,” so that he can provide that extra little bit. He feels strongly about providing individualized care — no one is to feel rushed and all patients and families should have an exceptional experience.

That meticulous care certainly pays dividends. Hem recounts talking to one elderly patient, in particular, who was claustrophobic and about to receive a CT scan. “I was talking and distracting her so she had no fear.” When the scan was done the woman said, “I wish every healthcare provider was like you.” Hem says he hears that fairly often and it keeps him motivated to do even better.

“I am really proud of what I do,” he says. “And blessed to work at this hospital.”

Christine McGilvray Clinical leader

Fall/Winter 2018 - Christine McGilvray always knew she’d go into nursing. A self-described “people person,” Christine says she has a, “passion for caregiving,” and is often told she’s a nurturer.

Christine spent her early career at a hospital in Toronto, and was looking to move her job closer to home. While her mother- in-law was a palliative patient at MSH, Christine got chatting with a patient flow coordinator and was excited to learn that they had a job posting.

Now, after eight years at MSH as a patient flow coordinator, Christine is a full year into a new position as clinical leader at the Uxbridge site, a position she helped establish. She has hit the ground running in her new role, managing everything from day-today activities, the movement of patients between the Uxbridge and Markham sites, scheduling, facilitating family meetings, and working through changes in the way health services are delivered at the hospital through a new model of care.

Every day is a busy day and Christine loves it. She thrives on being involved in everything and strives to be, “visible on the floor, with her door always open.” Christine couldn’t be happier with her “work family,” saying the whole staff is very collaborative and kind, and the hospital is homey. She is thoroughly enjoying the move to Uxbridge, which is a smaller facility. “The community here is closely linked to the hospital,” she says.

Christine is sensitive to patients and families who are struggling, and is invariably “the first to go to them.” Families often tell her she is very sincere, welcoming and available— and that feedback is encouraging to her.

She adds that her personal experience with her own father’s illness and passing have helped her grow as a nurse, heightening her awareness of what patients and their families are going through, having been there herself.

Meeting each patient in their time of need and helping them through their circumstances is vital to her role. “Understanding is big,” says Christine. Fortunately, for MSH patients she seems to have an infinite supply.

Dr. Simon Yang General and oncologic surgeon

Fall/Winter 2018 - Dr. Simon Yang has no shortage of energy.

He thrives on being busy and as a surgeon, loves that he, “never has a typical day.” He chose general surgery because he relishes the variety, and feels that the opportunity to get to know patients is as unparalleled as it is rewarding.

In short, he’s busy and that makes him feel fortunate. Dr. Yang has been on staff at MSH for five years, after a temporary position and residency at the hospital. For him, MSH is a family affair — in more ways than one. His wife was already at the hospital, practising as a family doctor. And since Dr. Yang’s arrival two of his three children were born at MSH, which makes him feel even more a part of the community.

Dr. Yang deeply appreciates the diversity of the community — one that’s in constant flux. He sees a mix of older residents and newcomers to the area, noting that, “the patient demographic is shifting.”

As a first-generation Canadian, Dr. Yang can readily relate to recent immigrants because he has a firsthand understanding of what many of them might be experiencing. It’s all about building a new life. “Markham is a vibrant and young community,” he says, “with many young families looking to put down roots and establish themselves.”

He speaks passionately of past and current patients, and the lengths he and the team go to ensure they get the highest quality care. Dr. Yang initially came to MSH, he says, because of the staff and their culture here. His instincts have been proven right on a daily basis. It is an environment where team members truly embrace diversity, demonstrate compassion and mutually support one another and that is why he has happily stayed.

Shafic Kara Volunteer

Fall/Winter 2018 - “You can’t work here without a big smile.” That’s the advice veteran volunteer Shafic Kara first imparts to every new volunteer he trains.

Shafic speaks from experience. Since 2010 he has been working two six-hour volunteer shifts a week at MSH. He says one of his main jobs is to welcome patients. And that requires some serious focus. “You have to leave your personal life [at home].”

Shafic has done countless community volunteering since 1979, and is a long-time blood donor. Upon retiring in 2010 he suddenly found he had much more time to give. It was his daughter, an occupational therapist, who helped launch his MSH volunteer career: she signed him up to serve without telling him — and he just knew he couldn’t say ‘no.’

He certainly has no regrets about the surprise sign-up. “I’m still young and blessed to have my health,” says the 76-yearold, “so I will keep serving as long as my two feet move.”

He divides his time at the hospital between the outpatient clinics and Emergency Department. Shafic spends his days greeting patients and ensuring they are being taken care of. He approaches each patient with empathy, sensitivity and understanding. Shafic says a big part of his day is, “making sure everyone is OK, and keeping the atmosphere a bit lively.”

Shafic says the satisfaction he gets from volunteering at MSH is more than he ever experienced during his career because he loves serving the community. And serve he does. He says he walks more than three kilometres in an average shift — he’s clocked it. “It’s never the same day,” he says. “There is always something new.”

A resident of Markham since 1982, Shafic remembers the smaller hospital pre-expansion, and is, “an ardent supporter,” of the new one. “The whole hospital has a culture of welcoming patients,” he says. So he has made it his personal mission to make every patient comfortable.

Every step of the way

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 former 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 offers 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 former 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.”