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Exemplary SickKids staff, volunteers honoured with 2023 President’s Award!
13 minute read

Exemplary SickKids staff, volunteers honoured with 2023 President’s Award!


Celebrating individuals and teams for outstanding service to SickKids and the community.

The President’s Award was established to recognize the extraordinary individuals and teams who exemplify SickKids’ values and whose efforts positively impact our organization and community. 

Six of the categories are based on SickKids’ strategic directions, and the seventh is called “Commitment to compassion”. Presented annually, award recipients are nominated by peers, and nominations are chosen by a selection committee appointed by the president. 

Congratulations to the 2023 award recipients!

Caleb Tait seated and smiling at the camera.

Caleb Tait

Child Life Specialist, Perioperative Care Unit

Ensure quality and accountability in everything we do

Caleb comes to work in Child Life at SickKids with one fundamental principle guiding him: that every patient and family deserves a positive experience when coming for surgery, without judgment and with absolute equity. 

He helps patients, families and also staff understand that what they’re feeling is OK and creates a trusting bond that makes everyone feel safe. He focuses on the strengths of others, empowering them to overcome challenging situations. He is often seen accompanying an anxious patient into the Operating Room or to a procedure. He is the standard for excellence, empathy, grace and collegiality.

Jim Whitlock smiling and standing in a hallway in front of a wall with colourful butterfly paintings by children.

Dr. Jim Whitlock

Head of Haematology/Oncology

Individualize child and youth health care

Dr. Jim Whitlock’s contributions and accomplishments in his formal roles are tremendous but this award acknowledges his tireless efforts to ensure that every child with cancer in Canada can access life-saving innovative therapies and clinical trials – regardless of where they live, their family financial situation, and other socio-economic factors.  

Jim often spends hours with the care team, patient and family to ensure the best possible care is provided, motivating his team through his willingness to do whatever is required to deliver exceptional care, even if it isn’t part of his role. He inspires greatness in those around him to achieve one goal: healthier children. 

A group of 18 people smiling and posing together for a photo on the main floor of the Patient Support Centre.


Commitment to compassion

The impact of the ABILITY Program team has been nothing short of extraordinary. The program was launched at SickKids in 2020 to address urgent gaps in the care of children and youth with autism and/or developmental disabilities. 

As the prevalence of these conditions increased, and as community-based supports for these children and families eroded during the pandemic, more and more children were presenting in crisis to SickKids. 

This vital team provides consultative support and behavioural/developmental expertise to teams in our Emergency Department, Peri-operative Services, and inpatient and outpatient areas to help reduce the stressors patients and families may face in the hospital environment to enable safe, equitable and timely care.  

There is no level of distress that cannot be managed by this skillful, compassionate team. Their impact is nothing short of transformative.

ABILITY Program members

Jessica Esufali

Senior Clinical Manager, 7BCD Paediatric Medicine, Respiratory Medicine & Infectious Disease

Dr. Michelle Shouldice

Head General Paediatrics, Paediatric Medicine

Latiffe Adair

Program Coordinator, Paediatric Medicine - Consultation Clinic

Julie Gardner

Registered Nurse, Paediatric Medicine - Consultation Clinic

Dr. Nirit Bernhard

Staff Physician, Paediatric Medicine

Lisa La Rosa-Lledo

Patient Flow Coordinator, Paediatric Medicine - Consultation Clinic

Nicole Staples Dorey

Case Manager, ABILITY Program

Dr. Joelene Huber

Staff Physician, Paediatric Medicine

Chantal St Jules

Registered Nurse, ABILITY Program

Vanessa Visconti

Development Service Worker, ABILITY Program

Dr. Jacqueline Weiss

Staff Physician, Psychiatry

Nicole Crawford

Development Service Worker, ABILITY Program

Kelsey Ferguson

Board Certified Behavioural Analyst, ABILITY Program

Dr. Dana Frisch

Staff Physician, Paediatric Medicine

Dr. Rachel Markin

Staff Physician, Paediatric Medicine

Dr. Miriam Maarse

Staff Physician, Paediatric Medicine

Dr. Alvin Loh

Staff Physician, Paediatric Medicine

Claire ONeill

Development Service Worker, ABILITY Program

Arezu Alami

Behavioural Analyst, Paediatric Medicine - Consultation Clinic

Andrea Seater

Developmental Consultant, Paediatric Medicine - Consultation Clinic

A group of 14 individuals standing together for a photo. Some are standing the steps of a staircase.

Human Resources – Retro Pay

Unleash the talent of our people

In light of SickKids’ strong desire to competitively compensate its staff – coupled with the ending of the Bill 124 moderation period and the court ruling deeming Bill 124 unconstitutional – the decision was made to provide a retroactive lump sum payment to eligible current and former staff.  

Once commitments were made to staff, the Retro Pay Team, led by Human Resources and supported by members of our Finance, Information Services, and Communications & Public Affairs teams, was under enormous pressure to develop eligibility guidelines, carry out complex calculations, process payroll payments, communicate with clarity and transparency, and respond to questions from staff and former staff – often with great empathy and compassion.

Human Resources – Retro Pay members

Mimi Lacej

Senior Manager, Compensation - HR

Houry Topjian

Program Manager, Compensation - HR

Zuzanna Celkowska

Senior Compensation Specialist, Compensation - HR

Demetri Gianopoulos

Senior Compensation Specialist, Compensation - HR

Paula Ground

Manager, HR Support Services

Samantha Ferri

Human Resources Coordinator, HR Support Services

Michelle MacKenzie

Senior Manager, HRMS

Karen McGregor

Director, HR Systems & Transform, HR Admin & Management

Deby Kwan

Senior HRMS Specialist, HRMS

Linda Wan

Senior HRMS Specialist, HRMS

Marisa Leggieri

Senior Manager, Payroll & HR Admin, Human Resources Payroll

Amandeep Grewal

Payroll Specialist, Human Resources Payroll

Anna Wysocka

Payroll Systems Administrator, Human Resources Payroll

Sandra Paiva

Senior Manager, HR Ops & Labour Relations, Human Resources Operations

Sasha Similas

Program Manager, Organizational Development

Jane Jin

Senior Financial Analyst, Finance Planning & Analysis

John Pires

Manager, Communications, Communications & Public Affairs

Pallavi Narayan

Senior Technical Specialist, Information Services

Four people standing together for a photo. Two individuals are wearing blue SickKids t-shirts.

Volunteer Resources & Family Centre Team

Unleash the talent of our people 

Through their efforts, the Volunteer Resources and Family Centre Team is showing that SickKids is an environment where people of all abilities can excel and contribute in meaningful ways. The work the team is doing is a model for supporting growth in volunteer and employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They have created an environment that embraces the differences and uniqueness of individuals. 

Each week, Seth, a former SickKids patient, arrives smiling and ready to help and his love for libraries and books is unrivaled. Seth and fellow volunteer Aleena are responsible for restocking soap and supplies in the family laundry room, sharpening pencils and checking markers in the Family Centre, restocking welcome guides on inpatient units, and so much more. Aleena, with guidance from Dianna and Christina of the Family Centre, are truly unleashing the talent of our people and Seth truly demonstrates talent unleashed!

Volunteer Resources & Family Centre Team members

Dianna Sherlock

Family Centre Coordinator, Family Centre

Christina Enav

Children's Librarian, Family Centre

Seth Ioannou

Volunteer, Volunteer Resources

Aleena Khan

Volunteer, Volunteer Resources

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