Our Team

Our Team

Our network is multidisciplinary with expertise in patient engagement, epidemiology, genetics, microbiology, immunology, neurobiology, health economics, and knowledge translation. The group also engages many disciplines including gastroenterology, psychiatry and psychology that encompasses both adult and pediatric disease with researchers that have international reputations in the study of IBD, IBS and psychiatric disorder.

Executive Leadership

Executive Director

Aida Fernandes is the current Executive Director of the IMAGINE Network – a patient-oriented research initiative in gastrointestinal diseases. Aida has over 15 years of experience in research administration and strategic partnerships in the health charitable sector. Aida was the Vice-President of Research & Patient Programs at Crohn’s and Colitis Canada (CCC) where she oversaw the organization’s research, patient education and advocacy programs for the Canadian IBD community. Prior to her time at CCC, Aida worked at Cystic Fibrosis Canada in several different capacities, including Manager, Chapter Relations; Director, Volunteer & Personnel Resources; and Director, Medical/Scientific and Community Programs.

Aida also has served on a number of governing bodies in the voluntary health sector including: Public Health Agency of Canada’s Respiratory Diseases Surveillance Advisory Committee, HealthPartners Board of Directors, Health Charities’ Coalition of Canada Research Committee, Canadian Genetics Coalition, CIHR’s Institute of Infection and Immunity Institute Advisory Board, and the Canadian Blood Services’ National Liaison Committee.

Aida holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology from the University of Toronto and a Master of Business Administration in Non-Profit Management & Leadership from York University’s Schulich School of Business.

Principal Investigator
Co-Principal Investigator

IBS
Research Lead
Research Lead
Patient Lead

Megan Marsiglio is a communications manager, lifestyle blogger and a digestive health advocate based in Toronto. In 2006 Megan began experiencing abnormal digestive issues, which lead to a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease and IBS in 2008 – her first year at university. While she was there she realized there wasn’t any support on campus for students dealing with digestive issues, so she started a support group and launched a blog – www.thegutgazette.com. Creating awareness and advocating for digestive disease understanding became one of Megan’s passions and has lead her to become a patient representative for the IBS studies for IMAGINE.

IBD
Psychiatry
Research Lead
Patient Lead

Kim has had Crohn’s Disease for 20 years, having been diagnosed as a pre-teen. She has firsthand experience with many of the complications and challenges patients with Crohn’s disease face. After several particularly troubling years, Kim underwent small bowel surgery. Now in remission, Kim is eager to return to work as a dispatcher at Winnipeg’s 911 emergency centre.

Kim previously volunteered on the Winnipeg Ostomy Association board as well as a few patient advisory boards within Winnipeg’s Health Science Centre. Kim continues to be an active advocate for patients with ostomies and for ostomy awareness, to help end the stigma associated with ostomies. Kim meets with ostomates to alleviate their fears and to educate that there is a life after surgery.

Kim is a dedicated volunteer within her community, as a leader for the local Girl Guides chapter and an executive member of two boards within the community school. Kim enjoys spending time with her husband and two children. She is keen and honoured to be a patient representative on the IMAGINE network.

Patient Representative

Gail is a member of the Patient and Public Advisory Group (P2AG) at Clinical Trials Ontario, the Lived Experience Reference Panel of the Mental Health and Addiction Leadership Advisory Council, and CAMH Constituency Council.  She promotes improved access to mental health services, treatments and research, having spoken at conferences for the Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario and Ontario Hospital Association, in addition to numerous television and print interviews.

Gail’s passion for helping others, and her goal of translating and disseminating her own knowledge and that of evidenced-based science, concerning the intersection of gut and brain health, was founded in her work in healthcare and research administrative support, as well as her own lived experience as a patient. Being a research participant in clinical trials improved the quality of Gail’s healthcare experience in both the realms of psychiatry and gastroenterology, increased her knowledge of her illnesses, and empowered her to become an active member in her care. Gail is excited to be a part of organizations aiming to transform healthcare and enrich research initiatives through the inclusion of patient engagement and patient partnership.

Pediatrics
Research Lead
Patient Representative
Microbiome & Metabolomics
Microbiome Research Lead
Metabolomics Research Lead
Diet & Environment
Patient Representative

Sara Blake is a General Counsel for the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General and is the author of a legal textbook, Administrative Law in Canada – the 6th edition to be published in 2017.

Sara has food intolerances and has lost the ability to digest 95% of the foods that others typically eat. The cause of her symptoms (primarily diarrhea) remains unknown but she’s made significant dietary changes and now, by living on a severely restricted diet with some herbal supplements, has stabilized her gastrointestinal health. She has written a book explaining everything she has figured out: www.foodintolerance.net. The purpose of writing the book was to help other sufferers figure out their own elimination diets and to encourage them share what they have figured out. Sara also hopes to encourage more scientific research into these problems. Except for this gastrointestinal problem, she is a fit and healthy 60 year old. Sarah will be joining the Diet & Environment Scientific Working Group as a patient representative.

Research Lead
Research Lead
Patient Representative

Shawn Reynolds is a Crohn’s disease patient living in Toronto. He’s married and has a two-year old son.  He has a degree in Human Kinetics and was an actor/producer for 10 years, working in TV/film and several theater productions and still dabbles in the industry periodically.

Most recently, Shawn has been spending my time as an entrepreneur.  He created kids’ sports camps which were recently acquired by Nike Sports Camps and is still involved as a leader. He is also the co-owner of family aluminum construction company.

Inflammation/Basic Science
Genetics
Research Lead

John D. Rioux is a Professor of Medicine at the Université de Montréal and is holder of the Canada Research Chair in Genetics and Genomic Medicine. He is also a senior researcher at the Montreal Heart Institute and Director of its Laboratory for Genetics and Genomic Medicine as well as its Integrative Biology Platform. He has been a leader in gene identification for chronic inflammatory diseases (including Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Lupus, and multiple sclerosis) using genome-wide association approaches.

John’s work is supported by the NIH (NIDDK), CIHR, CFI, Genome Canada, Génome Québec and Crohn’s Colitis Canada.

Knowledge Translation, Education & Policy
Knowledge Translation Research Lead
Admin Data Lead
Capacity Building
Patient Oriented Leads
Patient Oriented Leads
Patient Representative

Alysia is a public health professional with a Bachelor of Science and Masters of Public Health in Health Promotion. She has worked in schools, workplaces and communities building health and medical programs as well as creating healthy public policy. Alysia currently works as a consultant for a provincial health website (MyHealth.alberta.ca) designed to provide readers with health information they can trust. Alysia has struggled with digestive issues since she was in her teens and has been diagnosed with IBS. She has found that a diet low in FODMAPs (types of carbohydrates), has alleviated many of her symptoms. Wanting to help others find the same relief, she created a food blog called The Calming Kitchen: Whole Food Recipes for Digestive Health. Alysia will be joining IMAGINE’s Knowledge Translation, Education & Policy working group as a patient representative.

Patient Engagement
Patient Lead

Sandra Zelinsky, is a graduate of the Patient and Community Engagement Research program, University of Calgary and a trainer for the National Strategy for Patient Oriented Research (SPOR) Foundational Curriculum. She is a member of the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR), Strategy for Patient Oriented Research (SPOR) review committee where she uses her expertise in Patient Oriented Research to review SPOR research proposals for grant funding. She is using her research skills to advance Patient Oriented Research and was recognized by the Canadian Patient Safety Institute as a Patient Safety Champion for her work on a PaCER study done on behalf of Alberta Health Services. Her work in research has provided her the opportunity to present at several National and International conferences as well as to chair and/or co-chair at various conferences and meetings. She is currently a Patient Engagement Researcher on 3 studies including the IMAGINE study. It is her experience of living with Crohn’s disease for the past 24 years that inspires and motivates her to work in Patient Oriented Research with the goal of bringing the patient perspective, experience and voice to health research.

Sex & Gender
Patient Representative

Amy van Engelen is a Patient Advisor on the Digestive Health Strategic Care Network in Alberta and is also a PaCER graduate which is the Patient and Community Engagement Research Program through the University of Calgary.  Being able to use her experiences within the medical system as both a patient advocate and researcher have provided incredible insight into the value patients can truly provide. Amy lives in Calgary with her daughter who is attending the University of Calgary. She is a Celiac and Colitis patient.