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Going above and beyond: Laboratory Medicine Leadership Awards

August 26, 2016

leadership awards

Since 2008, the annual Laboratory Medicine Leadership Awards have awarded 20 staff members who are nominated by peers who want to recognize their value in the workplace.


Originally published internally on UHN’s Intranet newsroom.

Laboratory Medicine Program (LMP) staff enjoyed great food, music and company at its Staff Appreciation BBQ last week. And standing out from the typical barbecue fixings were the ninth annual Laboratory Medicine Leadership Awards, which were given to three deserving staff for their outstanding approach to patient care.

“Leadership can mean many different things in laboratory medicine,” explains Michele Henry, Senior Director, LMP.

“We have roles for ‘official’ leaders, but these awards recognize those who go above and beyond what is expected from them, and lead by example to bring out the best in others.”

Candidates are nominated by their colleagues and co-workers, and a committee must narrow the selection down to three staff members who display formidable qualities of leadership on a daily basis. There have been 20 winners of the annual awards since 2008. This year, the awards committee received over 25 nominations.


The winners of the ninth annual Laboratory Medicine Leadership Awards are:


Janice Hawes – Blood Transfusion Lab


Award winner Janice Hawes (L) was presented with her certificate by Michele Henry, Senior Director, LMP. (Photo: UHN)

Janice was nominated by six of her colleagues

“Anytime she sees that there are a number of her co-workers that have the same questions, she will start a little ‘talk’ to educate all of us… If I have a problem she is there welcoming me with a solution and then also teaches me how to solve it myself next time.” – Sally Poon

“She is a fantastic lab tech and employee. She is unique, outspoken and an extremely valuable asset to Transfusion Science and UHN.” – Megan MacQuarrie

“Janice approaches every problem and provides very practical solutions. Recently she has revised many SOP’s/ procedures in serology that will help improve the workflow of the lab. She is committed to excellence and seeks and enforces continuous improvement in each area of the lab.” – Neeru Sahni


Ivana Vidovic – Core Lab – Hematology


Ivana Vidovic (L) receiving her Laboratory Medicine Leadership Award at last week’s LMP staff barbecue. (Photo: UHN)

Ivana was nominated by Jaimelyn Rara and Maryam Ghorbanian, who both wrote the following nominations.

“Ever since I started at UHN as a student, Ivana had always stood out as someone who goes out of their way to help others. After working with her for four years, she has remained that dependable person you can always go to for help, guidance and support. She is easy to talk to, welcoming and very inclusive. She works so hard and pushes herself to the limit and beyond to get things done. She is one of the most selfless individuals I know and everything she does is ultimately driven by providing the highest quality of patient care. I aspire to be as great a technologist as her and can’t think of anyone else more deserving of this award. She’s a true leader in every sense of the word.” – Jaimelyn Rara

“One of the most important benches in hematology is the morphology bench. Ivana trained all new staff in morphology with patience and enthusiasm, and then suggested weekly Morphology Rounds with LMP hematopathologists so all staff could benefit from their knowledge and experience.” – Maryam Ghorbanian


Magda Waszul – Cytogenetics


Magda Waszul (L) was also nominated last year and received the Laboratory Medicine Leadership Award this year after being nominated a second time. (Photo: UHN)

Magda was nominated by Cherry Have, who described the leadership qualities that Magda brings to the cytogenetics lab.

“Magda actively participates in laboratory meetings and works together with the team to address initiatives to improve laboratory services. While working on her initiative to test less expensive consumables, she constructively designed a systematic study to solve and determine reasons for poor quality testing during winter months.”

“Magda continues to approach both her work and life with tremendous positive energy and passion – a trait admirable in leaders.” – Cherry Have


Congratulations to all other outstanding nominees: Sally Campos, Core Laboratory; Peter Faure, Pathology; Stephen Fitzgibbon, Transfusion Medicine; Vivienne Jones, Specimen Management; Paul Martens, Biochemistry; Jaimelyn Rara, Hematology; Jeanette Campbell, Specimen Management.



BUSY Lab: Knitting sweaters with Mary

August 26, 2016



This week the BUSY Lab connected with LMP quality and safety manager, Mary Fountas to learn a bit about what she does to take a break from the BUSY and shape her personal health and wellness. The theme: Knitting.

“It’s fun to make something yourself, and really doesn’t require a large investment,” says Mary.

But that being said, knitting didn’t become an enjoyed hobby for Mary right off the bat.She was first introduced to the activity by her mom at around 10 years old, and lacking the coordination and maybe a bit of patience it didn’t take. The second time was still as a kid and knitting was a component of a class at school, but again Mary wasn’t able to fully embrace it. Finally, years later and enrolled at the Michener Institute, Mary noticed one of her classmates knitting and after seeing the progress she would make throughout a class – it seemed time to give it another try.

“It looked doable – and I’ve always had the mindset ‘well if they can do it, I can too.’”

So the third time was the charm, and from there it didn’t take long before it became a fun, productive, and economical hobby. Mary points out too that as Canadians we have lots of opportunity to be wearing wool sweaters, and we also have a lot of opportunity to actually knit when we’re stuck inside during those winter months.

“You’re able to feel a little better about staying in and watching T.V.,” says Mary.

The benefits of knitting can really differ depending on the person. For some it may be to relax or to keep occupied, others might use it as a creative outlet and challenge themselves with different designs and patterns, and some might just want save money on a new sweater or toque. Whatever the benefit may be there are certainly lots of reasons to try and pick up the hobby.

Mary says knitting doesn’t even have to be a solo activity. When first starting out, she and a roommate spent the better part of a winter knitting together and watching football.

Mary would knit the lower half of sweaters, and her roommate, who was good at knitting tightly around collars, would do the upper half. Working together they were able to make nine sweaters that year for friends and family.

“It’s really neat to make your own clothes, but it’s just as great to see people wear the clothes you made for them,” says Mary.   *Though it was pointed out that she’s not ready to take on any requests!

For those that may be interested in trying knitting there are tons of great resources to get started. You can take lessons at knitting/wool shops (they also offer some at Toronto’s Public Libraries), there are lots of instructional YouTube videos and there are even online social groups with active communities that share tips, tricks, designs and patterns (Mary suggested

Mary’s current project is a sweater for her son Michael. And though she’s still in the early stages of it you can see what is going to be an awesome recreation of The Dude’s sweater from the movie the Big Lebowski!



…Though as a true quality manager, Mary pointed out that the weave could be a bit tighter if she were following the quality control procedures perfectly.


What do you do when you need to feel “BUSY”?

                                       What’s that thing you do that makes you happy (“Bliss”),

                                                                                         or helps you relax (“Unwind”),

  or makes you feel like you can take on anything that comes your way (“Strength”)?

                       Mary might put aside time to knit a sweater.  What would YOU do?

The BUSY Lab

Stay tuned for the next time we hear about another LMP staff member’s BUSY activity.  We hope these stories may remind you about your BUSY thing, or even inspire you to try something new!



Summarizing the experience: HMC Qatar visitors from July

August 19, 2016


This summer UHN’s Laboratory Medicine Program (LMP) welcomed nine members of the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) laboratory team for Personalized learning Programs (PLP). In addition to the learning programs offered to HMC doctors and technologists, the HMC leadership team also paid a visit to LMP to better understand our operational structure and workflow.

The collaborative efforts stem from a partnership between HMC and UHN/ Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and gives each organization the opportunity to share expertise and advance laboratory medicine globally.


Meet five HMC visitors from the month of July:


Dr. Madiha Soofi (July 18 – August 5)


(L-R) Dr. Runjan Chetty, LMP medical director; Rachel Whitty, LMP manager, International Partnerships; Dr. Emran Amir, HMC pathologist; Dr. Madiha Soofi, HMC head of Pathology; Michele Henry, LMP senior director; Dr. Adham Ammar, HMC pathologist; Brad Davis, LMP executive director. (Photo LMP)

Dr. Madiha Soofi spent her time in LMP working alongside subspecialty pathologists in gastrointestinal pathology and also focused on clinical leadership, including workflow processes and laboratory operations as she will be named the interim head of anatomic pathology upon her return to HMC.


  1. What surprised you most about your visit?

I was fascinated by the city of Toronto – it’s the most diverse city I’ve ever seen, and I’ve traveled and stayed in many places around the world. It reminds me of Doha in a way because there is every colour and race present, so as a visitor you don’t feel uncomfortable and really feel like part of the community.

At UHN specifically I was just so surprised by the hospitality shown by everyone. Staff were so welcoming and organized – it really made our stay comfortable.

  1. What will you take back with you to HMC?

As head of anatomic pathology at HMC, a major take away for me will be the level of organization I’ve seen here and the workflow in place that makes life easier for staff. I’ll also be going back with more experience in my GI subspecialty, and the intention of standardizing the work we do and how it’s reported.

  1. How would you summarize the experience?

For me, it’s been great learning operational strategies from a system that’s already faced challenges similar to those at HMC. It was a homey and comfortable environment to learn, and there was amazing support from everyone… It couldn’t have been better.


Dr. Emran Amir (July 18 – August 5)

Drs. Madiha and Emran

(L-R) Rachel Whitty, LMP manager, International Partnerships; Dr. Madiha Soofi, HMC head of Pathology; Dr. Emran Amir, HMC pathologist; Shannon Spencer, interim manager, UHN ICE; Michele Henry, LMP senior director. (Photo: LMP) 

Dr. Emran Amir spent his time in LMP working alongside subspecialty pathologists in solid organ hematopathology. He focused on molecular hematopathology, including test validation, and also reviewed various types of lymphoma cases. Once back at HMC Dr. Emran plans to introduce new World Health Organization classifications, expand and validate molecular testing, move to EBER in situ hybridizations for EBV instead of immunohistochemistry, and also start using digital microscopy.


  1. What surprised you most about your visit?

I was really taken back by the huge workload handled by the program – and how it’s managed in such an organized fashion. The size of the department, the number of staff, and how many patient cases come through was very surprising.

  1. What will you take back with you to HMC?

I’ll take back a lot of what I learned with Dr. Delabie (hematopathologist, and chief of hematology and transfusion medicine) including an extra focus on molecular exposure in my work.

  1. How would you summarize the experience?

Just wonderful! That alone sums it up.


Dr. Susanna Akiki, July 18 – 29

Dr.Susanna Akiki

(L-R) Madhura Thiagarajah, PM research technician; Dr. Zafar Nawaz, HMC clinical scientist; Dr. Suzanne Kamel-Reid, LMP chief of Laboratory Genetics; Dr. Susanna Akiki, HMC consultant scientist; Shannon Spencer, interim manager, UHN ICE; Rachel Whitty, LMP manager, International Partnerships. (Photo: LMP) 

Dr. Susanna Akiki, consultant clinical scientist spent her time in LMP working alongside genome diagnostic staff in a PLP focused on molecular oncology for laboratory directors. While here she worked specifically on gene sequencing as HMC plans to establish a 54 gene myeloid sequencing panel in Qatar. This was Dr. Akiki’s first time visiting Toronto and luckily she found time to not only embrace her role as a scientist while here, but also her role as a tourist while sightseeing with her four children.


  1. What surprised you most about your visit?

The food is fantastic here. With Doha relying largely on imported food, it’s been great getting to enjoy fresh organic produce for the last two weeks. The ‘farm to table’ restaurants are incredible as well – my family runs an organic farm back in England called Elm Farm, and we found a great restaurant close to the hospital called Elm Tree – so that was a nice added bonus.

  1. What will you take back with you to HMC?

The science and translational research seen in the lab and across UHN. It’s also the confidence of having trained at a centre with the kind of weight UHN has.

  1. How would you summarize the experience?

It was great! A really positive experience all round. As a Canadian I would say, ‘awesome’ and as an English woman I’d say, ‘very nice’.


Muna Al Zeyara (July 25 – August 5)


(L-R) Rachel Whitty, LMP manager, International Partnerships; Dr. Adham Ammar, HMC pathologist; Muna Al-Zeyara, HMC technologist; Shannon Spencer, coordinator, UHN ICE; Dr. Adam Smith, LMP cytogeneticist; Dr. Wafa Abualainin, HMC clinical scientist . (Photo LMP)

This was Muna Al-Zeyara’s second time in a Personalized Learning Program with LMP. She was first here last fall for cancer cytogenetics, focusing specifically on HER2, MYC, IGH/BCL2 and BCL 6. This time her two week program focused specifically on ALK, as well as continuing with other lymphoma testing. The HMC cytogenetics lab has since received the ALK probe, and once they receive test cases for ALK they will begin validation.


Dr. Ahmad Al-Sabbagh (July 11 – 22)

Dr. Ahmad Al-Sabbagh, head of hematology, HMC spent two screen 1weeks working alongside LMP staff in a PLP focusing on flow cytometry. He worked closely with Dr. Anne Tierens and Amr Rajab on 10-colour flow cytometry analysis and familiarizing himself with different flow panels and software. Additionally, Dr. Ahmad spent time in the hematology lab, which included touring the bone marrow bench, overview of hematology instruments and tests, review of Cellavision validation for morphology, and attending leukemia/lymphoma rounds.



That’s a wrap up on five of the nine PLPs LMP has hosted this summer, and we will follow up with summaries on our remaining observers once our last PLP closes in September. As always, it’s been a great experience welcoming HMC staff into our labs and sharing laboratory expertise with one another. We look forward to the future of the partnership and the advances we’ll be able to make for cancer care in Qatar.



The LMP BBQ: Good food, great company

August 19, 2016

bbq and awards
This week Laboratory Medicine Program staff got together for the annual LMP Staff Appreciation BBQ, where staff were able to enjoy delightful weather, delicious food, and dance-worthy music (though it unfortunately wasn’t dance-worthy enough to spark a repeat of last year’s ‘twist,’). All in all, it provided everyone a nice mid-week break and a chance for staff from around the program to come together and enjoy a complimentary summer barbecue.

LMP managers, supervisors, and volunteers served up burgers, sausages and barbecued chicken to close to 350 laboratory staff – and as a group we all made a pretty big dent on the sides and desserts. It was another successful barbecue for LMP, and to take staff appreciation a step further the winners of this year’s Laboratory Medicine Leadership Awards were announced.


This year’s winners are:

Janice Hawes – Blood Transfusion Lab

Ivana Vidovic – Core Lab – Hematology

Magda Waszul – Cytogenetics


A big congratulations to all our other exceptional nominees: Sally Campos, Core Laboratory; Peter Faure, Pathology; Stephen Fitzgibbon, Transfusion Medicine; Vivienne Jones, Specimen Management; Paul Martens, Biochemistry; Jaimelyn Rara, Hematology; Jeanette Campbell, Specimen Management.

Stay tuned for a post next week on UHN News to hear what nominators had to say about this year’s winners!


ALSO – see below for photos from the BBQ!


^ Congratulations to award winner Janice Hawes (L), with her certificate being presented by Senior Director, LMP, Michele Henry. 


Read more…

Looking back: Berit Cameron’s 50 year service milestone with UHN

August 18, 2016



For this year’s UHN Spring Long Service Recognition ceremonies the Laboratory Medicine Program (LMP) had 28 staff members recognized for more than 500 years of accumulative service, but standing out from the pack was Berit Cameron’s 50 year service milestone. And what’s more – it represents 50 years working in laboratory medicine exclusively.

Since many weren’t able to experience what the labs were like 50 years ago, we asked Berit to take us back and share some insights from her years of service at UHN.


Joining the laboratory team

Berit was first offered a position at Princess Margaret Hospital (then located at 500 Sherbourne Street) in 1965. She had the choice of either the Health Records or Pathology department and despite knowing very little about pathology, it stood out to Berit as an interesting field – and like that the decision was made.

“I had no idea what I was getting into. It was all new to me,” says Berit.

But it wasn’t long after joining that she DSC03450found
herself in the surgical pathology lab and pathologists’ offices taking dictations, or in the autopsy suite jotting down notes. She says it could get pretty hectic then with as many as four autopsies happening at a time. But nevertheless, through regular transcribing and taking notes Berit started building an understanding around the terminology and different diseases seen in patients.


Occupational Health and Safety?

“It was amazing some of the things you used to see,” Berit says referring to the more lenient regulations that used to exist in the hospital.

She mentions cigarette machines being in the hallways and staff smoking in the labs while handling specimens. Arguably most shocking however, was the location of the autopsy suite – in the basement directly across from the cafeteria kitchen.

“I really enjoyed the level of involvement though,” Berit says reassuringly. “At the beginning there were some times where you experience a bit of shock, but after a while you start looking at things differently. Eventually an autopsy or a specimen grossing is just a normal part of your day.”


The big differencesDSC03328

When Berit started at Princess Margaret the Bloor – Danforth subway was just being built, patient reports were hand delivered, and desks had typewriters on them instead of computers.

With those details in mind we asked Berit what the three most significant changes are from when she first started with Princess Margaret to where UHN is now.


  1. Institution size

When Berit started, the laboratory program offered services to just Princess Margaret and Wellesley Hospital, and now LMP serves all of UHN’s main sites as well as various partner hospitals in Ontario. Berit says the lab program had just 6 pathologists when she started and now there are well over 30 – all with specific subspecialties.

  1. Technology

“Looking back, it’s hard to imagine how we did it,” says Berit of how far technology has come since she first started in the lab. Messages used to be sent by departmental mail, sometimes taking a day to be delivered. Patient records would need to be ordered and all the patient information was laid out on lengthy charts. It really makes you appreciate the Electronic Patient Record, or the hands free dictation systems used in grossing rooms now – not to mention just the use of a computer for typing and email.

  1. Diversity

The diversity of the program might not be top of mind for everyone, but Berit points out how far the program has come since she started. “I love the global atmosphere the program has taken on,” says Berit. “Staff come from all around the world now. It makes the environment more whole and gives you the opportunity to learn about different cultures at work.”DSC03114

  1. A small bonus detail

Berit added that the Toronto Maple Leafs were having success when she joined UHN, with their most recent Stanley Cup victory happening in her third year with the labs… A reminder many Leaf fans could probably do without.



Featuring Berit Cameron and Marie Wilson, late 1960’s/ early 1970’s

Berit has been able to see a lot of change over her years at UHN; from watching Princess Margaret become an internationally renowned cancer center, to welcoming former UHN CEO Bob Bell to the laboratory as a young resident. She continues to be a vibrant part of UHN as the administrative assistant to LMP’s GI and liver pathologists, and the program as whole wishes her sincere congratulations on 50 years of incredible service.



BUSY Lab: Riding motorcycles with Kenny

July 15, 2016

BUSY Lab- Kenny

This week the BUSY Lab connected with LMP Financial Analyst, Kenny Chieu to learn a bit about what he does to take a break from the BUSY and shape his personal health and wellness. The theme: Riding motorcycles.

Kenny says it all started when he rented a scooter while vacationing in Taiwan. He was 21 at the time, cruising up and down the coast, taking in beautiful scenery and a rich ocean breeze. The picturesque experience naturally left a void when Kenny arrived back in Canada – so it wasn’t long before he started looking into riding a motorcycle.

“Most Saturday or Sunday mornings I’ll wake up and just go out for a morning ride,” says Kenny. “That’s the relaxation/wellness piece – it’s just me and the road.”

Before being able to get on a bike and start riding, Kenny had to get his motorcycle license and learn the basic skills of operating a motorcycle. He did a bit of research and enrolled in a course that pairs in-class theory and on-bike riding.

Kenny says the course was straightforward and covered pretty much everything you need to know to be able to ride. From learning how to turn a motorcycle on, to actually maneuvering it, Kenny was able to get some valuable experience on a bike and ended up passing his final test to get his license.

Now riding a motorcycle is a lot of things for Kenny. It’s a mode of transportation, it’s a way to explore, and it’s just fun to do.

“It’s caused me to become much more patient on the road,” he says. “I used to always get frustrated with traffic, but now I’m just relaxed – even when I’m in a car.”

Kenny rides into work for the better part of the year too, so it’s not really a hobby that’s difficult to make time for. On the other hand, it seems to be a hobby that makes time for other things, like enjoying nature. Kenny will sometimes make small day trips to go hiking, or he’ll even just keep riding until he finds a scenic road or gets lost.

I’m sure there are probably a few LMP staff who have thought about riding a motorcycle, so if you’re one of them or have been on the fence for a while, hopefully this is the motivation you need. Kenny suggests investing in doing a course first to make sure it’s something you enjoy, or, if riding a full motorcycle seems daunting at first, maybe try a scooter or moped rental to see if you’re comfortable with that.

Kenny says, “Sure, it’s dangerous – but if you’re smart, not reckless, and in control, you shouldn’t have any problems!”

If you’re interested in learning more about riding a motorcycle, see what the Ontario requirements are HERE, or click HERE to check out possible courses at the Rider Training Institute.


What do you do when you need to feel “BUSY”?

                                       What’s that thing you do that makes you happy (“Bliss”),

                                                                                         or helps you relax (“Unwind”),

  or makes you feel like you can take on anything that comes your way (“Strength”)?

              Kenny might go for a long ride on his motorcycle.  What would YOU do?

The BUSY Lab

Check in next week as we hear from another LMP staff member about their BUSY activity.  We hope these stories may remind you about your BUSY thing, or even inspire you to try something new!


BUSY Lab: Gaelic Football with Martin

July 8, 2016


This week the BUSY Lab connected with LMP Pathologists’  Assistant, Martin Grealish to learn a bit about what he does to meet new people, let off some steam, and shape his personal health and wellness. The theme: Gaelic football.

“We obviously play with an agenda to win, but it’s about more than that,” says Martin. “The team really supports each other and the family atmosphere is carried off the field into everyday life.”

Martin’s family has always been passionate about Gaelic football. They had Martin playing at just five years old, and at eight, Martin moved with his family from Canada to Ireland, getting the opportunity to take up the sport where it was founded.

As most LMP staff probably aren’t familiar with Gaelic football it’s a sport that dates back to 1885 and combines the skills of soccer and rugby to create a high scoring, fast paced game. Click HERE to watch a brief video outlining the rules.

Martin describes the perks of playing Gaelic football like those of many team sports: You get to know your local community, develop close bonds and friendships, participate in regular physical activity, and learn valuable leadership skills useful on and off the field.

By joining Gaelic football clubs, Martin has been able to reap all the benefits team sports have to offer, and when he moved back to Canada at 19 he continued to embrace the game and joined Toronto’s St. Vincent’s Football Club.

“I recently retired from playing, but I’m still active with the club,” says Martin. “I’m now more on the management side, helping with the team selection and fundraising. It’s definitely a sport for younger men and women, but it’s great being able to stay involved supporting the club and the community.”

Martin shared a story about the family aspect of the club, and talked about a kid in his twenties joining St. Vincent’s while visiting from Ireland.

The team would regularly help newcomers find steady work, and in this case a teammate’s father offered a job doing renovation and construction. Things were going fine for a while, but eventually their new teammate stopped showing up for work.

Martin and some others went to his house to make sure everything was alright and when they got there they found him just lying around as though he took the day off. Surprised, they questioned him on where he’s been and what he’s been doing, but all they got in response was that sometimes it’s just hard to get out of bed.

As Martin and the senior teammates were about to give some tough love explaining responsibilities and the significance of working for a teammate’s father, the young Irish kid clarified a bit saying that some days it was actually just a real struggle to move himself and get out of bed because he has multiple sclerosis.

The focus of the conversation immediately changed to how the team could help.

Martin and other teammates made arrangements so the kid could keep his job and come into work when he was feeling able to. They also checked on him regularly, making sure things were going okay and offering him any help he needed.

It wasn’t long until their new teammate had to go back to Ireland to be with his family, but while he was in Canada St. Vincent’s football club took on that role – even if only for a short while.

“When you play on a team like this you end up meeting all different kinds of people,” says Martin. “And because you all support each other on the field, you’re naturally there for each other off of it.”

Gaelic football may not be for everyone, but if you’re interested in learning more – check out Toronto’s Gaelic Athletic Association HERE.


What do you do when you need to feel “BUSY”?

                                       What’s that thing you do that makes you happy (“Bliss”),

                                                                                            or helps you relax (“Unwind”),

or makes you feel like you can take on anything that comes your way (“Strength”)?

               Martin might help out St. Vincent’s Football Club.  What would YOU do?

The BUSY Lab

Check in next week as we hear from another LMP staff member about their BUSY activity.  We hope these stories may remind you about your BUSY thing, or even inspire you to try something new!