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Diabetes Canada spokespeople are experts from across Canada who can talk about issues related to diabetes in the media or at events.

Laura Syron

President and CEO

Laura Syron is the President and CEO of Diabetes Canada. She is a transformational not-for-profit executive who brings broad and deep experience in all aspects of not-for-profit leadership. She served as Vice President, Research, Advocacy and Health Promotion at the Heart & Stroke Foundation, where she helped establish Canada’s first Research Centre for Stroke Recovery and led the program that placed the first wave of AEDs across Ontario. Laura then moved to the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation as its Vice President of Community Programs where she led a diverse portfolio of fundraising programs. Most recently, Laura was Chief Development Officer at the Arthritis Society, the largest charitable funder of cutting-edge arthritis research in Canada and a leader in proactive advocacy, innovative information and support that delivers better health outcomes for people living with arthritis.

Laura has received numerous awards including 2015 Marketer of the Year - Not for Profit, the Rick Gallop Award for Pioneering Leadership and the Project Pegasus Award for Strategic Leadership.

Expertise: Health charity leadership, health and diabetes policy and advocacy

Dr. Harpreet Bajaj

Dr. Harpreet Singh Bajaj

Co-Chair, Marketing and Communication, Professional Section National Executive
Community Endocrinologist 

Dr. Harpreet Singh Bajaj is a community endocrinologist in Brampton and a research associate at Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. 

Dr. Bajaj is an adjunct lecturer at McMaster University and University of Western Ontario. He is the founding chairman of STOP Diabetes Foundation, a registered charitable foundation, working to reduce the burden of diabetes in Peel region of Ontario. He serves as the co-chair of the Communications and Marketing portfolio within Diabetes Canada’s professional section national executive as well as a national consultant editor for the Canadian Journal for Diabetes. 

Expertise: Type 2 diabetes, diabetes and ethnicity, prevention of diabetes and complications

Dr. Alice Cheng

Co-Chair, Professional Conference
Trillium Health Partners

Dr. Alice Cheng is an endocrinologist at Trillium Health Partners (Credit Valley) in Mississauga and St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. She is an associate professor at the University of Toronto and was chair of the 2013 Diabetes Canada Clinical Practice Guidelines. She is the co-chair of the 2018 Diabetes Canada/CSEM Professional Conference.

Expertise: Diabetes, endocrinology, diabetes research

Dr. Ronald Goldenberg

Consultant Endocrinologist
North York General Hospital

Dr. Ronald Goldenberg is a consultant endocrinologist affiliated with North York General Hospital in Toronto, Ontario and LMC Diabetes & Endocrinology in Thornhill. His major areas of interest include clinical care of diabetes, obesity, dyslipidemia and thyroid disorders. 

Dr. Goldenberg has been an investigator in a wide array of clinical trials in the areas of diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and dyslipidemia. He has been actively involved in continuing medical education for the last two decades and is a key opinion leader amongst community-based endocrinologists in the Toronto area. He has been awarded an Honorable Citation by the Medical Staff Association of North York General Hospital for excellence in the practice of endocrinology and dedication to patient care in the community. Dr. Goldenberg was a member of the steering committee for the 2013 Diabetes Canada Clinical Practice Guidelines.

Expertise: Diabetes, endocrinology, obesity

Brie Hnetka

Regional Director, Saskatchewan
Diabetes Canada

Brie Hnetka is the Regional Director for the Diabetes Canada in Saskatchewan. She is passionate about making a difference for people living with diabetes in the province. With a background in teaching and 16 years of experience in program development for non-profits, she is accomplished at explaining complex subjects in a way that makes them engaging and understandable to any audience. She joined Diabetes Canada in 2011 with a focus on developing diabetes outreach services throughout Saskatchewan and expanding the reach of community programs and events. She works to develop partnerships with likeminded organizations to create strong supports for people living with or at risk of diabetes in the province.

Expertise: Diabetes, diabetes in Indigenous communities, diabetes in Saskatchewan

Andrea Kwasnicki

Andrea Kwasnicki

Regional Director, Manitoba and Nunavut
Diabetes Canada

Andrea is the regional director for Manitoba and Nunavut, a position she has held since 2010 within the Community Engagement Team at Diabetes Canada. Andrea has held several progressive roles within the organization since 1996. Prior to joining Diabetes Canada, she worked for Services to Seniors and was responsible for creating one of the first adult day programs for seniors in the province of Manitoba.  Andrea has travelled Manitoba extensively over the past 10 years creating a presence in every major centre in the province and expanding Diabetes Canada's reach to more than 20 different First Nation communities.

Expertise: Diabetes, diabetes in Indigenous communities, diabetes in Manitoba

Dr. David C.W. Lau

Dr. David C.W. Lau

Endocrinologist, Professor
University of Calgary

Dr. David Lau is professor of medicine, biochemistry and molecular Biology at the University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine. He was until recently the editor-in-chief of the Canadian Journal of Diabetes, and past-president, Canadian Association of Bariatric Physicians and Surgeons, and president of Obesity Canada.  Dr. Lau is a practising endocrinologist who specializes in obesity diabetes, and lipid disorders. His research interests include fat cell biology in health and obesity, development of insulin resistance in obesity and diabetes, and cellular mechanisms of diabetic vascular complications. He is also involved in population health and clinical research programmes in diabetes, obesity and lipid disorders. Dr. Lau was honored as the top 20 notable Calgarians, and top 50 Albertans in 2004 for his exemplary contributions to improve the health of Albertans.

Expertise: Type 2 diabetes, obesity, insulin resistance

Grant Maltman

Grant Maltman

Curator, Banting House National Historic Site of Canada
Diabetes Canada

Grant Maltman is a graduate from The University of Western Ontario and has nearly 25 years experience in the cultural resource management and heritage presentation field. His journey started at Sir Frederick G. Banting Secondary School when, as a student, he presented Diabetes Canada with a cheque from the student body for the development of Banting House museum. Drawn to the diverse collection Banting House held, the history and the impact of the discovery of insulin on the world, it seemed a worthy project for the student body to support. 

He has proudly served as the curator of Banting House National Historic Site of Canada for the last 23 years. In addition to securing the designation of Banting House as a national historic site, he served as a historical consultant for the Royal Canadian Mint’s coin commemorating Banting as Canada’s first Nobel Prize recipient and the CBC production, The Greatest Canadian Contest. 

Expertise: Sir Frederick Banting, the history of insulin

Lisa Matte

Lisa Matte

Regional Director, Atlantic Canada
Diabetes Canada

Lisa Matte is the regional director for Atlantic Canada at Diabetes Canada. She started with Diabetes Canada in 2004 and is a passionate advocate for the importance of equitable health care for people affected by diabetes. Lisa has held several roles within the organization, including those related to community outreach, fundraising, government relations and volunteer development. She has worked closely on the creation of corporate and government partnerships to benefit people affected by diabetes, and she is a frequent spokesperson for Diabetes Canada at conferences and in the media.

Expertise: Diabetes, diabetes in Atlantic Canada

Dr. Jon McGavock

Dr. Jonathan McGavock

CIHR Applied Health Chair in Resilience and Obesity in Children
Children's Hospital Institute of Manitoba

Jonathan McGavock is a CIHR Applied Health Chair in Resilience and Obesity in Children. He is also an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba.  He established the Centre for Physical Activity and Cardiometabolic Health at the Children’s Hospital Institute of Manitoba in 2006 to study the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes in youth. He is currently the lead for the DREAM and DEVOTION research teams within the institute, which are both focused on reducing the burden of type 2 diabetes in youth in Manitoba. Jonathan has partnered with several Indigenous communities in Manitoba over the last 7 years to help establish novel strengths-based programs to prevent and manage type 2 diabetes in youth. 

Expertise: Diabetes in Indigenous populations, type 2 diabetes in youth, physical fitness, stigma

Scott McRae

Scott McRae

Regional Director, Alberta and the Northwest Territories
Diabetes Canada

Scott McRae is the regional director for Alberta and the Northwest Territories. He has been involved with the charitable health sector for almost a decade and is passionate about improving the health outcomes of Canadians through research, service delivery and advocacy.  Scott has an extensive public speaking background, and enjoys sharing the challenges and successes of people affected by diabetes in Alberta and NWT, as well as Diabetes Canada’s positions, impact and goals within that province and territory.

Expertise: Diabetes. diabetes in Alberta

Seema Nagpal

Dr. Seema Nagpal

Epidemiologist and Senior Leader, Public Policy
Diabetes Canada

Seema Nagpal is an epidemiologist with broad experience in research and policy. She has expertise in population health, epidemiology, and pharmaceutical sciences with an emphasis on interpretation of science into policy and practice. As the Epidemiologist and Senior Leader, Public Policy at Diabetes Canada, she is responsible for directing public policy interests and activities at both the federal and provincial levels, as well as providing public health and epidemiological input to program and policy development for Diabetes Canada. She is also responsible for analyzing the impact of public policy and regulations flowing from government, health stakeholders, academia and overseeing the developing policy options and positions to influence health and diabetes-related public policy.

Expertise: Public policy, government relations, public health

Dr. Bruce Perkins

Dr. Bruce A. Perkins

Clinician-Researcher, Professor
Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes at Mount Sinai Hospital

Dr. Bruce A. Perkins is an endocrinologist and diabetes researcher at the Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes at Mount Sinai Hospital and a professor of medicine and the Sam and Judy Pencer Family Chair in Diabetes Clinical Research at the University of Toronto.

With a focus on type 1 diabetes, Dr. Perkins’ research looks at early detection of complications and measurable indicators of advanced disease, as well as interventions for the prevention of complications. This includes his work to make the artificial pancreas more effective and to develop ways to use diabetes medications alongside insulin to help better manage blood sugars.

His principal findings include early progressive renal decline, which is now being studied further as part of a large-scale clinical trial on diabetic kidney disease, and the development of In-vivo Corneal Microscopy for early detection of diabetic nerve damage. He is leading a National Institute Health-funded international consortium on this project.

Expertise: Type 1 diabetes, diabetic kidney disease, insulin pumps, diabetic neuropathy

Jake Reid

Jake Reid

Senior Leader, Government Relations and Advocacy, Atlantic Canada
Diabetes Canada

Jake Reid is senior non-profit leader with over 20 years of experience in the charitable health sector. As the current director of government relations and advocacy for Diabetes Canada, Jake leads strategic government relations and advocacy initiatives in Atlantic Canada to help proactively influence diabetes and health care related policies, legislation, regulations and strategies. 

Expertise: Public policy, government relations, diabetes in Atlantic Canada

Dr. Ravi Retnakaran

Dr. Ravi Retnakaran

Endocrinologist and clinician-scientist
Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes at Mount Sinai Hospital

An endocrinologist and clinician-scientist based at the Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Dr. Ravi Retnakaran leads a clinical research program that focuses on the pathophysiology and treatment of type 2 diabetes. He is leading of series of innovative clinical trials (LIBRA, RESET IT, PREVAIL) that aim to preserve pancreatic beta-cell function early in the course of type 2 diabetes and thereby halt the progressive nature of diabetes in patients. He is also a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.

Expertise: Gestational diabetes, type 2 diabetes

Janelle Robertson

Janelle Robertson

Vice-President and General Manager
National Diabetes Trust

Janelle Robertson is vice president and general manager, National Diabetes Trust at Diabetes Canada. Janelle is an innovative senior executive with nearly two decades of experience leading teams and navigating process efficiency strategies in complex environments. She is adept in strategic management, analytical problem solving and fostering key partnerships and stakeholder relationships. Janelle has consistently demonstrated exceptional competencies in identifying and pursuing new strategic initiatives and partnership opportunities. Janelle’s 18 year tenure with Diabetes Canada’s textile recycling program has included progressive positions at the local, regional and national levels. 

Expertise: Textile recycling programs, social enterprise

Dr. Michael Vallis

Dr. Michael Vallis

Registered Health Psychologist and Associate Professor
Capital Health/Dalhousie University

Dr. Vallis is a registered health psychologist practicing in Halifax. He is a Heath Behaviour Change Consultant and Associate Professor in Family Medicine at Dalhousie University. He obtained his Ph.D. and M.A from the University of Western Ontario, London, and his B. Sc. from Dalhousie University. His main area of expertise is adult health psychology, with an emphasis on diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular risk and gastroenterology. He has worked in the public health system for 35 years and is now working as a consultant and doing private practice. He regularly supervises clinical and academic students at Dalhousie and is active in research on motivation, behavioural change and adaptation to chronic disease. He consults nationally as well as internationally and is heavily involved in journal editing, clinical practice guidelines and academic publications. He was recently awarded a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal by the Government of Canada on the recommendation of the Canadian Diabetes Association.

Expertise: Diabetes distress, diabetes stigma, obesity

Dr. Bruce Verchere

Dr. Bruce Verchere

Professor in the Departments of Surgery and Pathology & Laboratory Medicine
University of British Columbia

Bruce Verchere is a professor in the Departments of Surgery and Pathology & Laboratory Medicine at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He is head of the Canucks for Kids Fund Childhood Diabetes Laboratories at BC Children’s Hospital and holds the Irving K Barber Chair in Diabetes Research.  His research focuses on the pancreatic islet and aims to understand how beta cell death and dysfunction arises in diabetes and following transplantation, with particular focus on islet amyloid and inflammation, and with the goal of developing therapeutic approaches for enhancing beta cell survival and function in diabetes. He was awarded the Diabetes Canada Young Scientist Award in 2006 and a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal for diabetes research and service in 2012. 

Expertise: Type 1 diabetes, transplantation in diabetes, pediatric diabetes

Dr. Sean Wharton

Dr. Sean Wharton

Medical Director
Wharton Medical Clinic

Dr. Sean Wharton is the medical director of the Wharton Medical Clinic, a community based internal weight management center and also works as an internal medicine specialist at Toronto East General Hospital and Hamilton Health Sciences.  Early in his career, his interest in ethnicity and medicine led him to the study of hypertension and then to obesity under the guidance of Dr. Arya Sharma, a bariatric physician and internationally recognized leader in obesity research. To date, Dr. Wharton has treated thousands of obese patients, has published a number of peer reviewed articles, and was the lead author for the Weight Management section of the Diabetes Canada Clinical Practice Guidelines for 2013. He is also a fierce advocate for government funded medical care for patients with increased weight. All care at his weight management clinic is OHIP funded and there are no charges to patients.

Expertise: Weight management, type 2 diabetes, bariatric surgery, obesity

Russell Williams

Russell Williams

Senior Vice President, Mission
Diabetes Canada

Russell is the senior vice-president, mission at Diabetes Canada. He leads his team and dedicated volunteers in the organization’s advocacy efforts at all levels of government for public policy change that will better support people with diabetes and their families, from improved access to medications and devices to strategies to improve the health of all Canadians and support type 2 diabetes prevention.

He is the former president of Innovative Medicines Canada (formerly Rx&D), an influential association of over 50 pharmaceutical companies, a leading voice of the innovative life science sector in Canada. His leadership included working with all governments at the Federal and Provincial levels, both at political and administrative levels, and he was involved in numerous task forces on pharmaceutical policy, and also participated in a number of key international coalitions focused on improving research, health care and ethics networks. Russell chaired the Code Compliance Network for the IFPMA, and since 2011, served as the primary private sector lead for the APEC biopharmaceutical ethics initiative, a group of 21 countries that developed international principles for business ethics. In 2015, he was named Industry Co-Chair of the APEC Biopharmaceutical Working Group on Ethics set up by the U.S. Department of Commerce to support the initiative. Prior to his appointment as President of Innovative Medicines Canada, Russell served as the Member of the Quebec National Assembly for the riding of Nelligan. Ethics and integrity in the pharmaceutical and medical fields have always been a passion of Russell's, and in November of 2016, Innovative Medicines Canada and Queen’s University announced the creation of the Russell Williams Studentship in Medical Ethics in his honour.

Expertise: Diabetes advocacy, government relations, public policy, medical ethics

Kimberley Hanson

Kimberley Hanson

Executive Director, Federal Affairs
Diabetes Canada

Kimberley Hanson is Executive Director of Federal Affairs at Diabetes Canada, responsible for advocacy with the federal government and on national issues. Having lived with diabetes for more than 20 years, Kim is passionate about helping others live well with the disease while also working towards a cure. Over the past 15 years, Kim and her family have raised more than $1 million for research into a cure for diabetes and for supports for adults living with type 1 diabetes. Prior to joining Diabetes Canada, Kim held various senior management positions in Communications, Business Development and Human Resources at Payments Canada and Export Development Canada.

Expertise: Diabetes advocacy, type 1 diabetes patient experience, public policy, national government relations 

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