Congratulations to the Recipients of the 2019 Awards of Excellence!
We were very proud to present the 20th edition of the Awards of Excellence on September 19. This wonderful peer recognition event allows us to highlight the work of the staff who help improve the lives of our young patients thanks to their team spirit, talent and commitment to the Children’s.
We’d like to thank our sponsors whose confidence in the Children’s allows us to remain on the cutting edge of pediatric care in Quebec, but especially to heal, love and bond with our young patients and their families.
- Alyssa Barbarush, Recipient of the Air Canada Foundation Nicolas W. Matossian Junior Community Award of Excellence
- Michèle Paquette, Recipient of the Bell Coup de coeur Award of Excellence – Mental Health
- Bruce Charron, Recipient of the Broccolini Community Leadership and Volunteer Award of Excellence
- Michele Zegray, Recipient of the Gustav Levinschi Foundation Nursing Award of Excellence
- Lisa Grilli, Recipient of the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation Professional Staff Award of Excellence
- Dr. David Mitchell, Recipient of the National Bank Medical Award of Excellence
- Dr. Daniel Dufort, Recipient of the Pfizer Research Award of Excellence
- Amanda Fitzgerald, Recipient of the TFI International Administrative and Clinical Support Staff Award of Excellence
- The Occupational Therapy Team, Recipient of the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation Teamwork Award of Excellence
Photos of the event
Recipient of the Air Canada Foundation Nicolas W. Matossian Junior Community Award of Excellence
“I like knowing that I’m helping someone instead of just sitting around knowing that I could be, but I’m not,” says 13-year-old Alyssa Barbarush, recipient of this year’s Air Canada Foundation Nicolas W. Matossian Junior Community Award of Excellence.
Alyssa is a big sister to Rachel, eight, who has what she describes as a “broken heart”. Her little sister’s broken heart is actually a congenital defect known as tricuspid atresia, which means only one of her two ventricles functions.
Rachel has undergone three open-heart surgeries, including her first at just 16 months old, as well as numerous heart procedures. She’s still in a fragile state and will need further medical attention. A heart-lung transplant remains an eventual possibility.
While Alyssa saw firsthand the state-of-the-art care Rachel was given during her hospitalizations, she also experienced how the Montreal Children’s Hospital helps kids be themselves. The Family Resource Centre’s educational and entertainment resources provided Rachel with much-needed distractions.
Her little sister is why Alyssa has raised more than $15,000 for the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation. “I want to help save Rachel’s life. Rachel’s my best friend and I love her so much!”
Alyssa is also motivated by other children and families just like hers. After discussing with her sister and her mother, Karolyn, about how to allocate the award money, Alyssa says, “It will help kids who are staying in the hospital.”
Recipient of the Bell Coup de coeur Award of Excellence – Mental Health
“When I was little, I contracted a severe infection. At the Children’s, my parents learned I came very close to death. They always told me the Children’s saved my life,” says Michèle Paquette, retired Nurse Manager of Pediatric Psychiatry, whose career at the Montreal Children’s Hospital spanned 27 years.
Michèle has always been interested in mental health. She worked for 10 years as a psychiatric nurse before accepting a job in pediatric psychiatry in the Children’s Emergency Department, which provided her an opportunity to work with kids. “I wanted to work in prevention, help parents understand, and maybe even make a difference for kids with psychological issues.”
The new role allowed Michèle to make her mark, working to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, managing family consultations, following up with community partners, reviewing treatment plans, ensuring the smooth running of her unit, and overseeing scenarios in the case of overcrowding. And she did it all while working in close collaboration with colleagues throughout the hospital. “The work environment at the Children’s is incredible!” Michèle says. “Everyone uses their expertise to find the best solution for the child and family.”
Recipient of the Broccolini Community Leadership and Volunteer Award of Excellence
Bruce Charron was a friend to all who knew him and he took pride in putting the “fun” into fundraising. He led the organizing committee of Andy Collins for Kids, raising over $4.5 million for a variety of programs at the Montreal Children’s Hospital over the past 22 years.
All of this was in honour of his friend Andy Collins, who died unexpectedly in 1996. Known for his love of children, Andy inspired the organization that Bruce, and several other friends, worked so hard to build. Always a great time for everyone coming together to contribute to the organization, families and friends gather in the hundreds every July for the annual golf tournament and cycling event.
When Bruce was selected as the recipient of the Broccolini Community Leadership and Volunteer Award of Excellence in recognition of his outstanding commitment, his friends and family organized a surprise for the announcement.
Unfortunately, Bruce would never learn about this honour. He died in a skiing accident at Jay Peak, Vermont, on February 10 – one day before the celebration.
Leslie Bronstetter, who has been involved with the Andy Collins for Kids fund from the beginning, stepped in to replace Bruce as chairperson following his unexpected death. “Bruce certainly left a legacy of giving back and mentoring,” she says. “He was wonderful with children and had a way of drawing people into the action, both during the events, and planning them. While it has been challenging for the group to continue without him, they will continue his legacy. And the fun will continue because, as Bruce would say, ‘By now, you know the drill.’”
Recipient of the Gustav Levinschi Foundation Nursing Award of Excellence
Michele Zegray’s office is filled with letters from grateful families, all of whom agree she is — as one parent writes — “one of a kind!”
A nurse clinician in the Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery departments, Michele accompanies families from the moment of diagnosis — whether it’s when a baby is just hours old to a child in elementary or high school — as they begin their journey toward a healthier future. Michele is a constant link throughout.
“It’s really difficult having a child born with a health problem. As a family, it’s probably one of the hardest things you can go through,” Michele says. “I help them on their journey to make it healthier and smoother.”
From assessing patients, taking vital signs and coordinating care with other specialists, Michele prepares families before and after surgery, and helps them on their return home following hospitalization.
Michele knows it’s the little things that are so appreciated like offering to take a photograph the first time a mom gets to hold her infant, or providing her pager number to parents so she can be their lifeline and connection to the hospital.
After receiving a science degree in Physiology at McGill University, Michele quickly fell for her current profession as soon as she started a Master’s program in Nursing. “We work with really amazing people,” Michele says. She gives credit to her colleagues from cardiology and cardiac surgery, everyone in the neonatal and pediatric intensive care units, and the surgical team, all of whom work as a close-knit unit.
“It’s a pleasure to work here even if seeing a family suffer is the hardest part,” she says. ”Our job is to accompany them in their journey, remembering to be respectful and to point out families’ strengths and their resilience.”
After 19 years, some of those babies and children have grown up and out of the department. A former patient, a 19-year old man who is at college in Toronto, called her recently just to chat.
“It’s nice to feel you’ve made a difference,” Michele says.
Recipient of the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation Professional Staff Award of Excellence
Lisa Grilli was in university when she learned about pediatric physiotherapy as a specialty, and on her first rotation, she knew she’d found her place. “I really wanted to work with kids and families,” she says.
In her role as Clinical Trauma Coordinator and head physiotherapist, Lisa has spent the past 10 years working in the Children’s Trauma Department, involved in the evolution of concussion management in the Concussion Clinic.
“We recognized kids were not necessarily experiencing concussions just through sports and it wasn’t just about the return to sports readiness, it was also about the impact on their schooling,” Lisa recalls. “Some children had a lot of post-concussive symptoms. They experienced headaches and there was an impact on both school and home functioning.”
“We used to think that rest was the cornerstone of concussion management; now we’re reducing that period of rest to slowly reintegrate activities within the child’s symptom tolerance,” she says.
Among her various research commitments, what has been most rewarding for Lisa in the past year is her participation in two supervisory committees, where she works with PhD students.
“The outcomes of the research that emerged from the clinic actually changed our practice here. It really had an impact on our standard of care.
Dr. David Mitchell
Recipient of the National Bank Medical Award of Excellence
Dr. Mitchell learned early in his career that kids were his calling. He is concerned with the need to better bridge the transition gap into adulthood. That is why he has chosen to put the award money towards long-term follow-up care.
Dr. Mitchell credits improved technology for providing better ways to diagnose patients and determine how they respond to treatment. Improved immune-based strategies are improving outcomes in cancers once thought untreatable.
Dr. Mitchell is concerned with his young patients’ future and the need to better bridge the transition gap into adulthood. Transition to adult care is important for children who have had cancer since they continue to require care and monitoring as adults because of existing and potential side effects from the treatment they received.
Dr. Mitchell says it takes a lot of time and effort to compile the patient’s file so that a physician on the adult side can make sense of it. “If you don’t do that well, patients will fall through the cracks after all the effort it took to get them to that point,” he says.
Dr. Daniel Dufort
Recipient of the Pfizer Research Award of Excellence
Dr. Daniel Dufort has a lot to celebrate these days. “I’m very flattered actually, I wasn’t expecting this,” he says of the Research Award of Excellence during an interview just one day after his first grandchild was born.
His daughter’s pregnancy had a significant impact on a man who has dedicated his career to researching preterm birth. “It was nerve-wracking actually,” he admits with relief, after watching his daughter go through her pregnancy while knowing that any number of things could occur.
Dr. Dufort and his team made headlines last fall with a breakthrough into a possible cause of preterm births. They studied a gene called Nodal which, through the regulation of the immune system and the inflammatory factors associated with it, appears to determine when contractions will start.
Based on several assumptions, their hypothesis was confirmed, but in their study of mice models, they also saw that in each case, the decrease in the Nodal gene led to a preterm birth.
“Research is ongoing and potential therapies are being developed.”
Perhaps by the time his granddaughter is considering motherhood, these therapies will be widely available.
Recipient of the TFI International Administrative and Clinical Support Staff Award of Excellence
“I told all my colleagues 2019 is my year. I’m feeling good, things are going my way and now it has started off very nicely,” Amanda Fitzgerald says after learning of her Administrative and Clinical Support Staff award. Yet many of her colleagues might suggest 2018 was her big year, actually.
Not only was she coordinator of the first Trauma Resuscitation in Kids (TRIK) course in Montreal and one of the editors-in-chief of the third edition of the Concussion KiT, Amanda was also project manager in the buildup to October’s Code Orange simulation. All of this came in addition to her usual responsibilities as an Administrative Procedures Specialist in the Trauma department.
The Code Orange event was possibly the biggest event at the Children’s since the move to the Glen site from its old home on Tupper Street. The simulation was widely hailed as a success with Amanda among those at the centre of it all.
Amanda, who has been working at the Children’s for 15 years, started as a part-time clerk on the medical wards while studying education. She initially thought of becoming a teacher until an internship as an elementary school teacher changed her thinking. Some of those pedagogical skills, however, are now being put to use creating resource material for patients and families.
In addition to her Code Orange role, Amanda also takes great pride in her work on the Concussion KiT. “It took many years and countless revisions to complete. We are very proud of it and it’s been well received. It’s widely sought after.”
The Occupational Therapy Team
Recipient of the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation Teamwork Award of Excellence
Front row (left to right): Mélanie Bazin, Sarah Milton, Nathalie Carr, Line Parent, Christine Tremblay, Marta Czyzykiewicz; Back row (left to right): Anne Lachance, Megan Smith-Morin, Rena Birnbaum, Sophie Laniel, Christine Labelle, Miranda Giambra, Emily Tran.
Being given the chance to improve someone’s life is a privilege. The Occupational Therapy team has that privilege. Their mission? To maximize children’s active engagement in their daily activities. In short, to do good every day.
What comprises a typical day for an occupational therapist? There is no such thing! Each day, the department’s team members assist patients who have developmental issues, have experienced a trauma, or suffer from a congenital disorder. Occupational therapists can be found throughout the hospital, from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to Psychiatry, Plastic Surgery, and Rheumatology.
On top of their commitment to child development, feeding and swallowing issues, and splinting and trauma care, several members of the department work in collaboration with multidisciplinary teams with the goal of ensuring better continuity of care for children and their families.
Sophie is proud that her team serves as a reference for all hospital sectors since they are always looking for solutions. “The team is extremely creative and can adapt to any situation,” says Dr. Élise Couture, pediatrician in the Neonatal Follow- Up Clinic. “They always find ingenious ways to solve problems when we’re at a loss.”
The highly-skilled occupational therapy team shares a common passion for their work, and their patients. “Our priority is to help them gain autonomy and get better,” adds Sophie. “I couldn’t ask for a better team to help our patients accomplish small miracles each day.”