'An incredible place'

Watch the Sisters of St. Joseph Award Ceremony held on March 19, 2015

View the above Sisters of St. Joseph's Award Service on YouTube

View the above photo gallery on Flickr

Three residents are among this year’s recipients of the Sisters of St.  Joseph Awards for excellence and say they will bring St. Joseph’s special brand of care with them where ever they go next.

Team of Dr. Siobhan

Team of Dr. Siobhan Telfer, Dr. Marie Dion and Dr. Golnaz Naderkhami

As relative newcomers to St. Joseph’s Drs. Golnaz Naderkhami, Siobhan Telfer and Marie Dion didn’t fully grasp the significance of being named a 2015 recipient of the Sisters of St. Joseph Awards. But as the awards ceremony began, the three urology residents quickly discovered just what an honour it is. 

Presented with the award as a team, the talented young women said they have known since they began their residency that St. Joseph’s is special, and they promised to carry with them its unique brand of care wherever their careers bring them. 

“It is evident to all of us, and the patients especially, what an incredible place St. Joseph’s is. We are surrounded by incredibly kind, compassionate, skilled individuals we truly love to work with...There is a history and standard this hospital has maintained that is unlike most other places, and that we are lucky to step into and experience briefly and to learn from…It is our hope that where ever we end up we bring this passion with us and share it with those we work with and our future patients.”

The physicians are the first residents to win a Sisters of St. Joseph Award and one of five 2015 recipients. Established in 1990, the awards honour staff, physicians and volunteers who share the remarkable attributes of the Sisters of St. Joseph - excellence, positive attitude, reliability, honesty, efficiency, creativity, respect, caring, compassion, empathy and appreciation for the work of others. Individuals and teams are nominated by co-workers. It’s such an honour to receive the award that some recipients have referred to the awards as the Oscars of St. Joseph’s.

For Cindy Pandke, eLearning instructional designer with Organizational Development and Learning Services at St. Joseph’s, the award confirmed she had chosen the right life path. As a young child, Cindy set some very adult principles to live by every day focused on using one’s life to touch someone else’s. 

“Receiving this award is confirmation that I believed in the right purpose for me.”

Cindy also knows she’s in the right place. “From the first day I started at St. Joseph’s I knew that, here, you become family. Here you inspire others. Here you help everyone go in the direction they want to go. Here is so much more than a job.”

Tichelle Schram had a cheering section at the awards ceremony. But the Parkwood Institute therapeutic recreation specialist is used to cheering sections. She works “on a hidden gem of a unit” designed to meet the needs of veterans with a cognitive impairment.

“It’s so great to walk onto the unit and be greeted with ‘there she is’, or with a look of relief when they see someone familiar. I often hear ‘what are going to do now?’ as they know we will be doing something fun, giving them a sense of purpose.”

To some the veterans, says Tichelle. “I may be the captain of their ship, a neighbour or relative. They rarely know my name but always that I’m their advocate, always their friend.”

When Carol Schnarr learned she was a recipient she felt “overwhelming disbelief, happiness and gratitude.” A registered nurse and unit lead at the Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care, Carol says she feels “blessed to have a wonderful family both at home in the workplace.”

Therapeutic recreation specialist April Zehr felt the same, dedicating her award to her colleagues in the Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Rehabilitation Program at Parkwood Institute and describing them as “excellent friends, teacher, mentors and a great inspiration.” 

“You have inspired me to pursue my goals with hard work and dedication because that is what you bring to your work as well … I truly appreciate and value everything I have learned from you. It will forever remain a major contributor behind my love and passion for my work.”

To date, there have been a total of 160 individual and team recipients – and hundreds of nominations for the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Awards.  A special guest every year at the ceremony is a representative of the Sisters. 

“It has been a very enriching experience for me to meet the recipients of the Sisters of St. Joseph Awards for Excellence through the eyes of co-workers as written in their nomination submissions,” said Sister Valerie Van Cauwenberghe. “It is movingly clear why Golnaz, Siobhan, Marie, Cindy, Carol, Tichelle and April are the recipients of this award. They exhibit open minds, open hearts and open wills. … I thank you for your courage insight, teamwork, innovation and, perhaps most important, your love of the people in you care and those with whom you minister.”

Learn more about the recipients: 

Cindy Pandke


Colleagues consider Cindy an “ambassador” of the St. Joseph’s values. Generous of heart and spirit, she contributes her energy and experience to make a difference for others. After Cindy lost her mom, she attended a grieving support group offered by Spiritual Care. She then volunteered many hours of her time to co-facilitate and prepare materials/activities for future attendees to both ‘pay it forward’ and add value to the program. 

An eLearning instructional designer with Organizational Development and Learning Services, Cindy is committed to improving the health care system for patients and families. She jumps “head first” to lead major projects, such as the LearningEdge implementation. “It was huge and daunting, and she enthusiastically brought forward her ideas and experience, always with a 'can do' attitude, never getting discouraged if we hit snags,” say colleagues. “She earned our ‘complete confidence’ right off.”

Highly skilled and dedicated to customer service, Cindy figures out how to do the 'not possible' in creative ways and helps others stretch their thinking to do the same. 

Tichelle Schram


A therapeutic recreation specialist in the Veterans Care Program, Tichelle values the contributions and sacrifices the veterans have made to Canada.  She is proud to be able to honour them and does so often. Recently, when the family of a veteran decided to take him home to die, Tichelle arranged a fitting tribute. The veteran, a long-time resident, was known for saluting each passerby and educating them how we salute in Canada. As he left the unit Tichelle had residents and staff line hallway. As he passed by, each person saluted as he had taught them, and he saluted in return.

As someone who values family, Tichelle feels the veterans are an extension of her own family and has initiated special events to create a family atmosphere, for both veterans and staff. Equally important for Tichelle is client-focused care and she makes powerful connections with those in her care, like helping one former hockey player fulfill his dream of getting back on the ice one more time. 

Striving to provide the veterans with purposeful activity for all abilities, Tichelle introduced coin rolling for the residents on 2 Perth and an idea was born. Buckets of pennies began rolling in from all over the community and “Parkwood’s Penny Project” was born with the veterans donating the money to charity. Since then $7,000 in rolled pennies has been donated to various organizations.

Carol Schnarr


Known for her calm, honest and caring style, Carol honours the people she serves, treating each patient as a unique individual, say colleagues. “The stigma of forensic mental health remains an issue with many of our patients, their families and the community, however Carol will treat each patient as a person first with dignity and respect.  She emphasizes their positive qualities …and understands their needs and hopes.”

A registered nurse and unit lead in the Forensic Psychiatry Program, Carol puts the needs of everyone else above her own and never asks her team to do anything she would not do herself. In the often hectic work environment with many pressing issues and expectations, “Carol is often in the middle acting as a buffer, mediator, mentor, colleague, accountable professional,” calmly maintaining collegiality while balancing needs and expectations in a complex organization and ward with impeccable judgment.

At the same time, she is a “spirit builder” for her team and a welcoming and giving teacher for student nurses. 

April Zehr


Described as a bright light for patients, families as well as her team, April continually goes above and beyond for patients, “thinking outside the box, not because she has to, but because she wants to - it is her passion and personal mission,” say colleagues. 

A therapeutic recreation specialist with the Acquired Brain Rehabilitation Program, April has initiated many unique and meaningful activities and new traditions for patients on the inpatient unit. She customizes her programs and activities, both in house and community based, specifically for patients on the unit at any given time. For example, during a period when there were older gentlemen from rural areas, she organized a trip to the London Farm Show which was running at the time. 

Recognizing the value of family she will regularly assist patients from out of town to communicate by email, telephone or Skype with their families. The benefit a patient receives from being able to reach out to their family members is invaluable.

Team of Dr. Siobhan Telfer, Dr. Marie Dion and Dr. Golnaz Naderkhami

Urology residents Drs. Naderkhami, Telfer and Dion have made an impression at St. Joseph’s by going out of their way to connect with patients on a personal level, truly considering the journey and challenges they face. With great empathy, they listen to patients, share stories, laugh with them and take the time to be present with them. They notice small things like beautiful flowers or drawings in a room. When they realized it was a patient’s birthday one day, they signed a card and delivered it with a donut. With tearful eyes, the patient remarked, “I will never forget this act of kindness.”

When a young patient with testicular cancer expressed frustration at the long haul he faced ahead, Dr. Dion sat and spoke with him. She also took the time to carefully describe the issues he was struggling with to the nursing team to ensure the patient received the extra support he needed.

The residents, known for outstanding efficiency and eagerly embracing challenges, are also “amazing team players” who make an extra effort to include the nursing team as an important part of the circle of care, say colleagues. At the same time, they support one another, encouraging each other to achieve their very best.

To be nominated is an honour

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

  • Vicky D'Oria, allocations assistant, St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation
  • Jackie McAdams, occupational therapist and unit lead, Steele Street Treatment and Rehabilitation Residence
  • Colleen Eckert-Denver, social worker, Breast Care Program and Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, St. Joseph’s Hospital.
  • Florence Cummings, primary care partner, St. Mary’s 5, Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care
  • Donna Thompson, primary care partner, St. Mary’s 5, Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care
  • Jeff Looy, registered nurse, Forensic Psychiatry Program, Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care
  • Gerry Johnston, registered nurse and  unit lead, Treatment and Rehabilitation Program, Parkwood Institute’s Mental Health Building
  • 3AE Complex Continuing Care Team, Parkwood Institute’s Main Building

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