Champions of all that sets St. Joseph’s apart

There were 14 nominees – the highest in recent years – and four recipients for the 2023 Sisters of St. Joseph Awards for Excellence.

They fill very different roles yet all stand out to their colleagues as inspirational, passionate, transformative, ingenious, empowering and a champion of all that sets St. Joseph’s apart.

These are just some of the descriptives of this year’s Sisters of St. Joseph Awards for Excellence recipients. They include: a pharmacist with sound advice and a special touch with patients and residents; a physician with great ingenuity who leads with her heart; a registered nurse who helps patients find purpose and meaning in their lives; and a communicator who inspires others with both her words and actions.

Meet the 2023 recipients of the Sisters of St. Joseph Awards:

  • Dr. Caitlin Cassidy, physiatrist, Transitional and Lifelong Care Program, Parkwood Institute Main Building
  • Rick VanHooren, pharmacist, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care
  • Kelly Hovorka, registered nurse, Geriatric Outreach Team, Geriatric Psychiatry Program, Parkwood Institute Mental Health Care Building
  • Dahlia Reich, communication consultant, Communication and Public Affairs

Established in 1990, the Sisters Awards honour staff, physicians and volunteers who share the remarkable attributes of the founding Sisters of St. Joseph - excellence, positive attitude, reliability, honesty, efficiency, creativity, respect, caring, compassion, empathy and appreciation for the work of others.

To date, there have been a total of 191 individual and team recipients – and hundreds of nominations. Individuals and teams are nominated by their colleagues, who have described each nominee’s acts of support, collaboration, caring and innovation. Without knowing anyone’s identity, an awards selection committee comprised of past recipients and representatives from across the organization selects the recipients. To be nominated and to be a recipient is a distinguished honour.

Dr. Caitlin Cassidy

Dr. Caitlin Cassidy
Dr. Caitlin Cassidy

When Dr. Caitlin Cassidy established the Transitional and Lifelong Care (TLC) Program at Parkwood Institute Main Building, she envisioned a transformative way of providing care for adults living with disabling conditions of childhood onset.

“Like the Sisters of St. Joseph, Dr. Cassidy had no space, no instruments and no staff to start the TLC Program,” say colleagues. “Like the Sisters, a group of selfless women who demonstrated great leadership and who led with their hearts to help the most vulnerable in their midst, Dr. Cassidy established comprehensive, patient and caregiver-centred care where none existed before.”

Creating a collaborative, multi-disciplinary team approach – with patients and caregivers at the centre of the team - Dr. Cassidy is well known for moving mountains for those in her care. When complicated time-sensitive treatment was needed for a patient with a severe movement disorder, Dr. Cassidy championed outpatient care coordination with the family, four physicians, three therapists and home care. When a young patient required urgent imaging, she worked with six physicians in three hospitals to advocate for testing despite the patient needing general anaesthesia. A speedy diagnosis was achieved, urgent surgery was performed and the patient has made a full recovery. 

Dr. Cassidy is equally passionate about building skills and empathy in care providers of tomorrow and facilitates experiential learning for countless learners in numerous disciplines. One valuable lesson is taking the time to listen to patients. When patients use a computer/keyboard to communicate, many care providers will direct questions to the family or hurry the patient along by guessing what he or she is typing. Even if the appointment takes significantly longer, Dr. Cassidy gives patients time to answer and share their opinions, instilling in the learners present the values of patient-centeredness, patience, and willingness to listen.

Always with an eye to the future, Dr. Cassidy works tirelessly to grow the program. Her dedication has substantially improved the health and wellbeing of more than 700 adults with complex needs in our community.

“Without her championing this cause,” say colleagues, “these patients would have little to no access to consistent, necessary specialist care.”

Rick VanHooren

Rick VanHooren

Known for his knowledge, kindness and patience, Rick goes above and beyond in his focus on patients, residents and seeking solutions to improve care. For this devoted pharmacist, collaboration means working hand-in-hand with colleagues as well as those receiving care. Always available to clinical teams, patients at St. Joseph’s Hospital and residents and families of Mount Hope, Rick takes the time to listen, problem solve and provide reassurance.

At Mount Hope, Rick worked tirelessly to get insulin pens implemented, recognizing the importance of this technology for patients and patient safety and the potential to simplify the administering of insulin. He advocated in favour of this shift and organized training for both the nursing and pharmacy teams, understanding it takes everyone to be successful.

When two nurse practitioners began at Mount Hope in a new role for the facility, Rick made a point of attending patient rounds with them and arranged for the pharmacists and nurse practitioners to review resident care together on a regular basis.

“Being a pharmacist isn’t just a job for Rick, it’s also a calling,” say colleagues. “Residents’ families often comment on how fortunate they are to have such an involved and caring pharmacist.”

In the Urology Centre, many patients of the erectile dysfunction clinic specifically seek out Rick, trusting him to be non-judgmental while answering their questions.

“Often the pharmacy will take a call from an erectile dysfunction clinic patient  indicating they want to talk to the older male pharmacist, and we all know they are asking for Rick.”

While clinical teams frequently reach out to Rick for his expertise, his love of learning and teaching inspires students and volunteers. One volunteer was so encouraged she is now in pharmacy school.

Colleagues say they feel fortunate to have Rick on their team, “cheering us on and encouraging us to do more.”

Kelly Hovorka
Kelly Hovorka

It takes a special touch to support the geriatric mental health care patients at Parkwood Institute. Kelly Hovorka has just that.

Facing challenges and struggles that often include profound loss and uncertainty, the Geriatric Psychiatry Program patients have severe and persistent mental illness and are elderly. In this transitional stage of life, their needs are great and complex.

“Kelly has an innate ability to help patients find purpose and rediscover meaning in their lives,” say colleagues. “Not every nurse is cut out for this work but Kelly has dedicated her entire 38+ year career to this population. Through empathy, active listening and establishing therapeutic alliances, she wholeheartedly practices patient-centred care.”

For Kelly, patient-centred care has no bounds. This past Christmas, it meant arranging for more than 30 donated gifts to be distributed by her team to outpatients in need. For many, it was their only gift. It also meant helping a patient adjust to a move into a retirement home. And it has meant drawing on her skills as a yoga instructor to calm and ground one patient with depression and suicidal ideation, helping this individual focus on strengths and goals. Going beyond simply promoting mindfulness, she practices it with the patient in the moment and has created a trusting therapeutic relationship as a result – a first for this individual.

Always available to her team – professionally and personally -  Kelly is known to routinely step in and step up to ensure patients and staff receive the support they need. She shares her vast knowledge and empowers her colleagues to approach each patient as a unique individual whose behaviours are often a result of an unmet need.

Kelly’s expansive skills, strong sense of teamwork, deep compassion and gentle approach to care nurtures a workplace culture of excellence for staff and patients alike.

Dahlia Reich
Dahlia Reich

Often referred to by her team as “the voice of St. Joseph’s”, no one can weave together words quite like Dahlia. The impact of her skills as a communicator is evident through her compelling storytelling and the communication support she provides daily to advance the mission and vision of the organization.

Dahlia’s brilliant way with words is matched by her deep compassion for others and a willingness to act in a time of need. When her leader and a beloved member of the St. Joseph’s family died suddenly, Dahlia awoke in the middle of the night with the sudden realization that someone needed to coordinate sharing this difficult news with the entire organization. Not only did she craft a beautiful and heartfelt in-memoriam - without being asked and on her own time in the wee hours of the morning - but she also opened up her home without hesitation so the team could be together to grieve.   

“In the midst of her own grief, Dahlia did what needed to be done and led our team through those very difficult days,” say her colleagues.

Dahlia cares for her teammates not just as colleagues but as human beings, going out of her way to show care in tangible and meaningful ways when it matters most. Whether that’s rushing to the cafeteria to purchase orange juice for a teammate going through a difficult pregnancy, coaching and mentoring colleagues during her personal time or dropping off a hot meal at the doorstep of a team member who is ill.

Dahlia puts that same extraordinary care and effort into her work. When the Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism came to Dahlia for help recruiting patients for a crucial type 2 diabetes trial, she made it her mission to help. Not only did she support the team’s efforts through storytelling, but she also took the initiative to set up interviews to provide patients with an opportunity to hear from the team about the value of their participation and the potential impact.

“When Dahlia is involved in a project she always brings her best, often seeking out opportunities to get involved beyond the scope of her role – especially if it means she is making a positive impact for patients.”

To be nominated is an honour

Those considered for the Sisters of St. Joseph Awards are nominated by their colleagues. In addition to the four recipients, this year’s nominees were:

  • Alison Lebold, occupational therapist, Concurrent Disorders Program, Parkwood Institute Mental Health Care Building
  • Bev van der Heide, Coordinator, Operational Stress Injury Clinic, Parkwood Institute Main Building
  • Jennifer Safadi, nurse practitioner, Operational Stress Injury Clinic, Parkwood Institute Main Building
  • Jessica Chadwick, registered nurse, Endoscopy Clinic, St. Joseph’s Hospital
  • Kelly Muhsin, registered nurse, Infectious Diseases Care Program, St. Joseph’s Hospital
  • Lisa MacGillivray, consultant, Professional Practice
  • Melody Homan, registered practical nurse, Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care
  • Palliative Care Unit Team, Complex Care Program, Parkwood Institute Main Building
  • Paula Rawlinson, care partner, Care Partnership Office and mental health patient and family advisory councils
  • Tylene Fisher, medical secretary, Primary Care Diabetes Support Program, St. Joseph’s Family Medical and Dental Centre
Back to all Stories