Roving Reporter Profiles

Click or scroll down to read the following profiles by Wendy Campbell, our Roving Rehab Reporter

Sharon Switzer-Mcintyre Susan Hannah Barbara Hopewell
Charlotte Anderson Laura Passalent Kate Henderson
Luis Iglesia OT Grads of 2019 Anne Johnston
Mary Sauriol Kevin Reel Jane Koh
Marg Shaw Danny Slack Phyllis Carlton
Graduating Class of 1958 Leighton McDonald


Alumni Profile: Sharon Switzer-Mcintyre

 By Wendy Campbell:

Sharon Switzer-Mcintyre

Welcoming immigrants has long been an important part of the Canadian landscape – their contributions to our culture and our lives help make our country the rich and varied place we love. Helping foreign trained professionals adjust to life and work here is an ongoing and important part of the process. With the Ontario Internationally Educated Physical Therapy Bridging Program, physiotherapy plays its part, offering educational and practical opportunities for internationally trained PT’s to integrate their skills, knowledge and experience into the Canadian health care context.

The programs exist in several provinces. The Ontario version began in 2011 and was the brainchild of Sharon Switzer-McIntyre, who continues to be its Director and driving force, in addition to her many other responsibilities.

I’m always fascinated by the trajectory taken by lives and careers. Both PT’s and OT’s offer rich material in this realm and Sharon is a no exception. Her professional life began with a BPE at McMaster in 1982, followed by BScPT in 1985 at UofT, an MEd in Organizational Development and Adult Education at OISE in 1995 and, in 2004, a PhD in Occupational Health at the Institute of Medical Science at UofT.

Her involvements during her career have been as varied and intersected as her areas of study. Her first position, in the early 80’s, was with the Sports Injury Clinic in the Department of Athletics at UofT. Over the years Sharon has played a valuable role as a volunteer at the Pan Am Games, the Special Olympics and in the Invictus games that we all followed avidly in Toronto in 2017. Her skills and experience in physical therapy and her commitment to physical fitness and adult education make her an ideal resource to plan and manage venues and provide support to athletes.

As a clinician, Sharon entered industry in the early 90’s and was involved in workplace issues at Northern Telecom, Ontario Hydro and FIT For Work Centres. From 1993 to 2015 she was President of Health Transforms, where, as sole proprietor/consultant, she provided assistance to workplaces with issues related to occupational health and return to work strategies. She is an active member of the Orthopaedic Division of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.

 As well as leading to the Bridging Program, her interest in education brought her to the Department of Physical Therapy at UofT where she has taught in the musculoskeletal area for the past quarter century and is currently Vice Chair of Education. In 2018 she became an Associate Professor and in 2019 was appointed Program Director of the MScPT program.                                                                                                                                                     

 She was recognized and honoured by students in the Program when they named her a Rising Star in the profession for 10 consecutive years from 2007 – 2017. So, in fields of education, clinical practice and sport, Sharon has owned the podium in physiotherapy.  Her zest for our profession and for life continues to inspire all of us.

Alumni Profile: Susan Hannah

By Wendy Campbell:

Susan Hannah

I’m so pleased to be in a position to tell stories about therapists – both physical and occupational – all of whom have played a part in changing the world in ways that may be small but are important to all of us. These thoughts are swirling as I’m beginning to write about Susan Hannah.

Rebecca Solnit (she gave us the term mansplaining) has a useful way of packaging social and cultural forms and shares with Margaret Mead the notion that individuals can change the world – think of Greta Thunberg. In her latest book Whose Story is This? she appraises who gets to shape the narrative of our times and how emerging voices are beginning to change that narrative… now back to Susan.

Graduating from University of Toronto with a BScOT in 1988 and an MEd from OISE in 2008, Sue’s career has been marked by sharing her work with colleagues through conferences, publications and teaching students. She served as Student Placement Lead for OT and PT students across 12 sites of Altum Health and has received a number of awards for her outstanding contribution to Occupational Therapy education at the University Health Network and the University of Toronto. She was appointed to the faculty of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy in 2019.

We met in the early nineties when she joined the Hand Program at the Toronto Western Hospital, a source of fascination for me. I was impressed by the easy collaboration of OT’s and PT’s in the specialized treatment of patients following devastating upper limb injuries. Working in psychiatry at the time, I was also struck by the awareness and attention paid to the psychosocial aspects presented by each individual following complex reconstructive surgeries. Sue developed her clinical expertise with hands – assessing, case managing and teaching – at the Toronto Western from 1992 to 2011, qualified as a Certified Hand Therapist and currently serves as vice president of the Canadian Society of Hand Therapists.

In 1994 Sue’s relation to the wider world began when she left work in Canada to travel extensively through Southeast Asia, India, Nepal, China and New Zealand.  As her children grew older, she began to renew this interest, volunteering at a community based program in Haiti teaching rehabilitation therapists. She joined a group of therapists in 2018 with a WFOT program at Ukrainian Catholic University; training the first OT’s in Ukraine.

I can’t resist including this piece of Rodin’s which reflects in an art form the contribution occupational therapists and Sue Hannah in particular make to the world of rehabilitation.



Multidisciplinary Career Profile: Barbara Hopewell

By Wendy Campbell:

Barbara Hopewell

I first knew Barbara Hopewell as an architect – we met at the pool where she dives and I swim. Later, as we chatted about keeping fit, we discovered that we were both physios and neither of us have ever left behind the concepts of posture, flexibility and strength we’d learned many years ago. So, it isn’t only OT’s who take the skills from their basic training into other fields.

When she was a teenager considering a career, Barbara’s father encouraged her to enter physiotherapy – he’d been injured in France during the Second World War and credited his recovery to an English physio.  So, not surprisingly, working with veterans of both World Wars at the Colonel Belcher Hospital in Calgary was Barbara’s first job after graduating with a diploma in physio from McGill in 1964.

Next came Norway for a year at the Bergen Trygdeklassen, then back to Montreal for a couple of years, working with children at l’hopital Ste Justine during the excitement of 1967. Although Barbara loved physio, she wanted to explore options for the future and enrolled in a program at McGill that led to a Degree in Architecture. She worked in the field until her children arrived, and after taking a break, she was able to work part time, sometimes in physio, sometimes in architecture.

In 1985, she returned to full time work and spent the next 25 years at Zeidler Partnership Architects, working on a variety of projects: hotels, sports stadiums, research laboratories, universities and mixed use projects.

When she retired in 2010 at 66, Barbara was living in Toronto and had a strong desire to use her skills in physiotherapy in some way. She has become very involved in adaptive sports –  currently teaching skiing through Track 3, Ontario Association for Kids with Disabilities, and managing their ski program for kids with autism. In the summer, she runs an adaptive sailing program for teens at Burlington Able Sail.

We often compare notes on fitness, among other things, when our paths cross in the dressing room. The theme is often how our beginnings as physios continue to inform our physicality and  the way we move through our lives.


Alumni Profile: Charlotte Anderson

By Wendy Campbell:

Charlotte Anderson

Concussions are much in the news lately. They’re being recognized now as a major issue in sports, vehicle accidents and falls – often going undiagnosed in the face of other traumas. The immediate effects, depending on severity, can impede function for weeks or months, and in the long term may include dementia. Changes in approach to the treatment of concussions are evolving as a result of its prevalence and recognition, and in the forefront of innovation is Toronto physiotherapist Charlotte Anderson.

Charlotte has established a significant professional presence since graduating from the University of Toronto with an MSc in Physical Therapy in 2012. Her experience working with young people both before and after graduation fostered an interest in head injury related conditions in that age group and she started and continues to supervise a student led concussion clinic at Bloorview Children’s Hospital. Her thesis topic for her recently completed PhD was: Cervical Spine Dysfunction and Concussion. More about that later, but first, let’s explore her other involvements in providing physiotherapy to a larger population.

With a keen eye for business, Charlotte is the founder of Alpha Health Services, a private rehabilitation facility with three locations in Toronto and Muskoka employing a range of health care professionals. She also founded PhysioLogic PLUS, a private rehabilitation service located within Bridgepoint Active Healthcare. As well, she provides physiotherapy locum services throughout the year in Whitehorse, Yukon. She sits as the education lead on the private practice division of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association and teaches physiotherapy students at UofT and McMaster.

In January 2020, she will begin post doctoral studies in an interdisciplinary setting at McMaster University to search for improved ways to treat young people with concussions and prevent the loss of valuable time in their development. She will also advocate for including concussion management in physiotherapy curriculums.

Charlotte opened her first clinic a year after graduating and has continued to expand both clinically and academically in the seven years since. In 2018 she was awarded the Physical Therapy Practioner Exceptional Achievement Award.  A curious mind and a love for innovation have marked her career so far and she’s just begun!

Alumni Profile: Laura Passalent

 By Wendy Campbell:  

Laura Passalent
Krembil Research Institute

Laura Cook wanted to see the world and shortly after graduating with a BScPT in 1995, she travelled as a volunteer to Kiribati, a small island republic of 100,000 inhabitants in the Central Pacific. There were no physiotherapists and resources were limited, so she and Marie Jose Bergs, a Dutch physio, had an open field and many challenges. Working at a grass roots level, they explored and documented the need for and potential role of physiotherapy.  It was an exciting time that was a turning point in defining Laura’s future career.

In the early 2000’s, after returning to Canada, Laura enrolled in a two year course at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and qualified as an Advanced Clinician/ Practitioner in Arthritis Care. (ACPAC). (I discovered Laura and the concept of an advanced level of training available to PT’s and OT’s through her mother, one of my classmates.)  

Working once again at a grass roots level, she developed a strong sense of the importance of researching and documenting specific needs of general populations as well as individual patients. Being both a researcher and clinician,  she became committed to the importance of closely linking the two, with results of studies being transmitted to people who could implement them…sounds simple and obvious, but sometimes doesn’t happen.

Armed with her ACPAC qualification, Laura embarked on a journey that has been both satisfying and productive, leading her to her present position as Advanced Practice Physiotherapist with the Arthritis Program at the Toronto Western Hospital. Along the way, she completed a Master’s degree in Epidemiology and Community Health, acquiring tools to more effectively conduct research and relate results. She is now a Clinical Investigator with the Krembil Research Institute at the Toronto Western hospital. 

As a clinician at TWH, she works mainly with patients with Ankylosing Spondylitis, an inflammatory arthritis that predominately affects the spine but can also affect peripheral joints, bowels, skin and eyes.  She finds working on a team particularly satisfying, as well as sharing her approach and findings with others in the field.  She has presented at many conferences, published widely and is a lecturer in the Department of Physical Therapy at UofT. 

Laura Passalent – yes, she’s married with three small children – is a trailblazer in the field of Advanced Clinical Practice. With physiotherapy training being offered at a Master’s level since the year 2000, the profession has taken its place along with other medical specialties, moving into areas of research and specialization. Fascinating times for the profession    from the standpoint of practitioners and those of us observing from the sidelines.


Political Profile: Anne Johnston

By Wendy Campbell: 

Anne Johnston

It’s been interesting to see where occupational therapists appear –  applying the principles learned in their training and practice in a range of settings: Kate Henderson in health economics, Kevin Reel in medical ethics, Jane Koh in health promotion and Heather Macpherson as President and CEO of Women’s College Hospital.

And now, Anne Johnston, who died recently, and who will be remembered as a prominent figure at Toronto’s City Hall at an important time in our history. 

Anne was born and grew up in Wales and in the mid fifties came to Canada as a newly minted OT, interested in mental health and communities. Working on Queen Street West at what was then called The Toronto Asylum (that’s bad enough, but it opened in 1850 as the Provincial Lunatic Asylum!) Anne developed a taste for the activism that would mark her career as a politician.

Elected from a mid- town Toronto ward in 1972, Anne was part of a collection of left- leaning citizens running for office across the City who were committed to a sensitive and sensible approach to the City’s growth. Led by David Crombie, who became mayor, Anne joined John Sewell and a group of elected representatives who formed a reform caucus at City Hall, determined to hold development to a manageable level as Toronto was turning into a major city.  

Anne represented her Ward on Toronto City Council until 1995 (running unsuccessfully for mayor twice) when she took a three year hiatus to devote herself to her five children. During her tenure, she served on a number of committees, and, most notably chaired the Board of Health, where she advocated for accessibility of public spaces. She spent a week in a wheelchair to demonstrate how difficult it was to navigate City Hall and its surroundings and services. Although there’s a long way to go still, we have Anne to thank for many of the changes that make the city easier to get around for all of us. 

Returning to politics in 1998 at the time of amalgamation, Anne served her constituents until she was defeated in 2003. She moved on to serve as Chair of the Toronto Seniors Assembly from its inception, never losing sight of her background in occupational therapy, helping people recognize and reach their potential.

The Anne Johnston Health Centre near Yonge and Eglinton was named in her honour and now in her memory, carrying on her commitment to promoting health and independence in citizens of Toronto.

Alumni Profile: Kate Henderson

By Wendy Campbell: 

Kate Henderson

Kate Henderson is a good example of how studying the principles of occupational therapy provides the groundwork for working in a variety of fields. She left academics and Canada in 1986, having studied international relations, economics, English and French.  Landing in England, she worked in a travel agency and as a cleaning lady until she met Mick, an OT working in mental health in Sheffield and life changed both personally and professionally.

“It’s interesting and always easy to get work”, Mick said, and the two of them returned to Canada and Kate began her studies at University of Toronto, graduating in 1991 with a BSc in OT.  Her first job was at Queen St Mental Health Centre, where she developed a taste for recognizing problems, researching the causes and trying to come up with solutions. She got some on-the-ground experience at Community Occupational Therapy Associates (COTA) and more specific clinical skills in the stroke unit at West Park Healthcare Centre. In 1994, England beckoned Kate and Mick, now a married couple, and they settled in Bristol where Kate worked as an OT in community services.  They moved to London in 1996 where Kate took locums in community and social service agencies, becoming increasingly interested in the foundation of health care systems.

In 2002 she was accepted into the Masters programme in Health Planning and Financing at the London School of Economics.  Since graduating, she’s continued working at LSE in the Personal Social Services Research Unit, initially interviewing relatives of residents of care homes about the effects of having to move from one home to another. Since then, she’s been involved in evaluating the cost effectiveness of a range of health care interventions.

In 2009, Kate began working on a PhD, studying the economics of telecare and telehealth in England.  As well as working full time and her academic program, she made frequent trips back to Canada to manage care for her mother whose health was declining.  In spite of this demanding schedule, Kate successfully defended her thesis last year, was granted her doctorate and continues her work at LSE. As Dr Catherine Henderson, her particular work now focuses on the cost effectiveness of dementia intervention, an area that touches us all in some way, personally, professionally, sometimes both.

OT Graduating Class of 2019

By Wendy Campbell:

It’s May and graduation is in the air on the UofT campus – proud parents gathering round to aim their phones at newly minted engineers and nurses.  The 2019 class in Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy needs to wait until November though to complete the 24 continuous months of classes and internships required to begin their careers.

The profile of my own class that I did recently was written about an era familiar to me, with a birds-eye view and a pocket full of memories.  We’re all defined by our surroundings and I can’t help wondering how these young people will look back in sixty years…will they find a description of them and their time as quaint as we did?

As I begin to write about the current students, the program’s name change is the first thing that strikes me. Adding Occupational Science following the advance to a Masters degree in 2000 reflects a broadened curriculum with an increased emphasis on research. This will clear it up for the more distant alumni who have been asking, confusing it with OSOT, the provincial professional association in Ontario

Although many things about the world of rehabilitation have changed, when I asked members of the current class about what had drawn them to study occupational therapy, their answers were strikingly similar to the thoughts of my generation. They were attracted to the practical approaches used to help people acquire skills to live fulfilling and successful lives, regaining or maintaining function. They wanted to use a holistic approach with opportunities for one-on-one contact with patients and they were looking for opportunities to be creative and work in diversified settings with different ages and conditions.

This group is older than my cohort, having obtained an undergraduate degree before entering the program. It includes males as well as females and reflects Canada’s ethnic diversity.  And, of course, they grew up in a digital age, using the internet for research… and other more recreational things. Assignments are submitted typed and printed, or online – their professors must be glad not to have to decipher eighty sets of handwriting.

OT offers excellent opportunities to work in a wide range of fields in different parts of the world.  Many members of this year’s class had a chance to taste some of these possibilities during their internships, traveling the globe for their clinical experience:  8 of them went to Trinidad, 5 to the Philippines, 4 to Tanzania, 2 to Kenya and one each to Holland and Australia. Imagine the adventures they had, and the rich experiences to take to their future professional and personal lives!

While many of my classmates married and only began to practice years later when children were at school, members of this class have definite plans for after graduation and completing the registration exam.  Competition for places in the program is intense and the time, energy and financial investment in achieving the Masters degree in OT are much more formidable now.  Current graduates are intent on beginning careers and feel an open optimism about possibilities for the future.  Their interests for future practice span both physical and mental health and all disabilities and ages. Among their specific interests are spinal cord rehab, early intervention with psychosis, accessibility, chronic pain and sport.

An aging population, the changing nature of work and an increasing awareness and attention to mental health all present challenges to occupational therapy. Worldwide “isms” have affected how occupation is defined; feminism, globalism and terrorism all change the way we live and work.  Members of this class of future occupational therapists are well placed to enter that world and make a difference.         

Those of us who’ve gone ahead are proud to have them stand on our shoulders; they’re in the home stretch now and we wish them luck and look forward to welcoming them to our ranks.

Alumni Profile: Luis Iglesia

By Wendy Campbell:

Luis Iglesia, PT

Private physiotherapy clinics are now a well established phenomenon – with many different types, some specializing, others providing a range of services in a community.  Recently when I needed treatment for a painful shoulder I was lucky to find help right around the corner from my house.

Luis Iglesia is the owner and operator of the Bloor Bathurst Physiotherapy and Sports Medicine Centre, a small well organized store front on a busy street in downtown Toronto. As well as delivering excellent care, the Centre serves as an informal meeting place where I often bonded with neighbours over our injuries and progress while we waited our turn.

Luis first earned an MSc with a double major in Human Biology and Spanish (winning an award from the Spanish Ambassador for excellence in the language). He completed a BSc PT at UofT with honours in 1998, winning the Alumni Association award for academics and extracurricular activity and captaining the intramural basketball team in his spare time. Since graduating, he has achieved a Doctorate of Physiotherapy from the Evidence in Motion Institute.

As well as running a busy practice, Luis has published widely in neuroscience societies in the US and Israel, taken advanced courses in Spinal Mechanical Therapy and received certification in Anatomical Acupuncture

A skilled hands-on professional, Luis provides a positive environment where patients feel safe and respected, both crucial elements in recovery.  He takes time to explore patients’ situations and listens to what they have to say in order to recommend treatments that will work for them.  In a world that’s becoming more automated and less personal, these qualities are more rare and to be cherished.

And, Luis doesn’t limit his attention to his patients. As an attentive father, chauffeur and coach, he is passing on his love of sport, language and enjoyment of an active life to his two young children.

I’ve read about how our neurobiology gradually alters in response to our environment…probably already happening as we’ve adjusted to many automated functions that take the place of our interactions with people.  As we use the bank machine, pay at the parking lot and order stuff online, loneliness seems on the rise.  So, we should appreciate Luis and others who provide us with that very important human connection that’s essential in preserving our mental health and sense of our place in the world.

Alumni Profile: Private practice pioneer Mary Sauriol

By Wendy Campbell:

Mary Sauriol

Physiotherapists in private practice are not unusual now, but when Mary Sauriol entered the field in the early 60’s it was uncharted territory.  I was intrigued when I first heard about Mary from my classmate Jane Atkey, who was working in her Don Mills clinic.  As fairly new graduates from the PT/OT program (1958 was our year) the notion of someone practising in their own business was new and fascinating to us.

Mary grew up in Toronto, graduating from the physiotherapy program at U of T in 1950. Her first position was at St Michael’s Hospital, working with Lois Healey, another PT who went on to be a pioneer in private practice. Obliged to leave St Mike’s when her first child was born (the rule in those days) she was recruited by Dr Paul McGoey to set up practice in a converted garage on Chestnut Park Road.   In 1963, the long waiting lists for physiotherapy in hospitals had prompted the Ontario Hospital Services Commission to initiate the Private Physiotherapy Plan to widen the scope of where physios could practise and to make the service more accessible.  Pat McKinnon and Mary started a physiotherapy clinic with Paul McGoey and two other doctors practising in the main house. The organization soon outgrew that space and moved to One Medical Place on Wynford Drive, where Mary ran her clinic until a short time ago.

As the number of physiotherapists working outside institutions grew, the conventional medical model began to change.  The right to treat without a doctor’s referral was a landmark advancement for the profession in gaining autonomy  –  and the ranks of PT’s in private practice continued to grow. There are currently 975 members of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association who belong to its Private Practice Division.

Mary’s many colleagues over the years recognized her support, influence and professional leadership with the Mary N Sauriol Business Practice Prize which is awarded each year to a member of the graduating class who has “developed a thorough understanding of business practices as they relate to the private sector”.  Recognizing the need to equip students for the changing and expanding realms of practice, Business Management was one of the three core elements in the development of the current Masters’ entry level program.

As the 90th anniversary of physiotherapy at the University of Toronto approached, the notion emerged of documenting the history in a book. Mary was recruited to lead the project with the collaboration of the History Project Committee, composed of Nancy Christie, Adele Colthurst, Diane Gasner, Marion Leslie-Bethune and Joan Pape. Moving Together: Physical Therapy and the University of Toronto 1917-2007 serves as both a record of the development of our profession and a tribute to the people who brought it to life.

As well as excelling as a clinician and teacher, Mary has been active in alumni activities, receiving the Alumni Achievement Award for Physiotherapy in 1996 and an Arbor Award in 2009 for her contributions to the University.  Her many professional and academic accomplishments (a BA, MA and BScPT) have been achieved while raising five daughters, and in times where supports for working mothers were much less available.  Makes me think of the quip about Ginger Rogers…”and she did it all backwards and in high heels”.

Brava Mary!

Alumni profile: Kevin Reel

By Wendy Campbell:

Kevin Reel

When you think about it, Kevin Reel’s trajectory from occupational therapist to ethicist is perfectly logical – here’s a look at the path he took. Some early work in the field of developmental disabilities and acquired brain injuries introduced him to occupational therapy and encouraged him to enter the program at the University of Toronto. Graduating with a BsC in OT in 1991, he left for the UK where he worked as a clinician in London, primarily in community care, moving into roles as manager and university lecturer. During this time he developed an interest in ethics and earned a MSc. in Bioethics (with distinction) at Imperial College in 2002. His knowledge and experience were consolidated as a member of a multi centre research ethics committee and subsequently he became Education Development Manager at the British Association/College of Occupational Therapy.

Returning to Canada in 2008, Kevin was accepted for a fellowship in Clinical and Organizational Ethics at the Joint Centre for Bioethics. The fellowship completed, he was appointed to the position of inaugural ethicist at the McKenzie Health and Southlake Regional Health Centers, developing ethics programs to fit the needs of the individual hospitals in Richmond Hill, Newmarket and Vaughan.

These challenges were followed by a position at the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health as Ethicist and Co-Discipline Chief for OT. His present position is Ethicist with the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network…LHIN. (Btw, for those of you in my cohort, or nearby, that includes what was called the Community Care Access Centre and before that the Home Care Program.)

Although his primary work is in ethics, Kevin also has a long term interest in understanding the sexual needs of people with disabilities. An active member of the UK based Sexual Health and Disability Alliance, he helps develop resources both for disabled individuals and the professionals working with them. In the wake of Canada’s recent attention to issues surrounding death and the legislation on Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID), Kevin is part of a group promoting the quality of end of life care and palliative approaches in occupational therapy. He is also involved in the formation of the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists’ Practice Network to examine end of life issues as they impact OT’s practice and was part of the group’s presentation at the CAOT conference in Vancouver in June 2018.

A formidable list of publications and presentations, both nationally and internationally, can perhaps be best represented by the following example from May 2015: Equal author and workshop presenter at the annual conference of the American Society on Aging: Intimacy and Aging: Sexual Expression as Part of Dementia Care

So, although Kevin has pursued a different direction from traditional clinical occupational therapy, he identifies as an OT and his work is strongly informed by OT principles. Students have the benefit of his wisdom and experience through his role as Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at U of T. Through his work at the LHIN, he is able to help community clinicians struggle with the complexities of applying ethical practices in their everyday work.

Kevin is an extraordinary example of some of the many paths open to OT’s and PT’s today and we look forward to exploring others as we Rove through Rehab.

Alumni profile: Jane Koh

By Wendy Campbell:

Jane Koh

Graduating in 1997 with a BScOT, Jane Koh began her professional career at Sheena’s Place, a setting in Toronto providing a range of supports for people with eating and body image concerns. Jane worked there for 8 years as a health promotion coordinator with a broad range of responsibilities, including community outreach and running the volunteer program. We began to collaborate closely when I arrived in 2001 to run the library and resource centre. Our task was to help individual volunteers recognize their skills and fit them with available work in the library that would build their strengths and self-esteem, employing principles we’d both learned as OT’s.  Jane’s portfolio also included developing a prevention-based program for eating disorders and training speakers to go into schools and community organizations to deliver presentations on self-esteem and body image as well as how and where to get help with eating disorders.

Jane then challenged herself with a move into the community, teaching life skills in a psychiatric day program at St Joseph’s Health Centre and working mainly with seniors in their homes at Community Occupational Therapy Associates (COTA). After receiving her MHSc in Health Promotion in 2006, she and her supervisor published a research paper on cultural identity. Her academic goal accomplished, she and her husband welcomed two children, while continuing to care for aging parents.

Jane’s present position is in the field of Public Health and involves working on policies and strategies to promote healthy eating in a variety of community settings. Her basic training in the principles and practice of occupational therapy inhabits and informs her current work and fits her very well for balancing both what she does at home with her family and at her job – life’s many occupations.

The Graduating Class of 1958

By Wendy Campbell:

From Atkey, Jane through all the Mac’s and Mc’s to the end of the alphabet, this year members of the 1958 class in Physical and Occupational Therapy celebrated 60 years since graduation.  Sadly Jane and a dozen others have died, and distance, disability or commitments kept others from coming, but a lively group of us gathered for lunch on the Uof T reunion week-end in June. There was lots of chatting, laughing, reminiscing and catching up with what the years had brought since our days scampering from the HUTS to the far reaches of the campus, changing our clothes more often than a stripper.

 Now the site of Massey College, our HUTS were temporary relics of WW11 built in 1945, serving as headquarters for P/OT into the 60’s. The present, well equipped location of the schools – now separate graduate programs on University Avenue, reflects the development of the dynamic and diverse professions of today.


Although the surroundings in the 50’s were meagre, 59 young women learned a lot, had some fun while they were at it, graduated and went out into the world of rehabilitation. Petrissage and efflurage, warp and weft were all new words in the vocabularies that occupied us every day from 9 to 5. And despite our love for Misses Levesconte and Robinson and Mrs.  Cardwell, most of us chose to begin our careers in the pragmatic practice of physiotherapy, taught by the very British Miss Pollard. The more subtle challenges and delights of OT would emerge later.

We wore white uniforms for our physio placements, and fetching green ones for OT, with white caps – like nurses. Both required stockings, white for PT, beige for OT; both needed garter belts to hold them up and we wore white shoes for PT, brown ones for OT.  After graduating, the OT uniform included a brown leather belt with a swell, sort of military looking buckle and green velvet bands were added to the caps. Placements included a bone shaking ride on an old bus to the Workmen’s Compensation Board clinic in Malton, wolfing our sandwiches on the way.

Despite the initial preference for physio (I think for me, it was an inclination to be a Bossypants) a number of us went on have prominent positions in occupational therapy…two founding heads of university programs in OT– one on each side of the country, two executive directors of the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists and one partner in a homecare program called Community Occupational Therapy Associates. The first president of the Alumni Association was from the class of /58, and two out of 22 recipients of the alumnae achievement award have been as well.

Wedding bells were frequently heard in the summer after graduation and the few years following because in our day, many young women married in their early twenties. Day care didn’t exist so it wasn’t so common for women to work until their children were in school.  For people not wanting to work in their profession, there were a number of interesting community involvements available, providing valuable support to individuals and organizations. Many of us pursued skills that have become honed into substantial talents – one of our classmates couldn’t attend the lunch because her choir was performing at Carnegie Hall.  A few took off in directions like social work, real estate and film making. Skills were explored in painting, quilting, weaving and a range of other things that are much more fun and creative than they were as OT assignments.  Many rounds of golf and tennis were played, aqua fit and tai chi enjoyed…and of course children, grandchildren and some great grandchildren produced and loved.

It was a different time in many ways, we were products of a post war era, a bit austere still compared to today’s wealth of consumer goods. There was very limited birth control, feminism had yet to emerge as a movement and the medical hierarchy was very much in evidence.  It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, but it was our time.  I began to realize many years ago how that training in rehabilitation concepts has formed my thinking and my life. So, here’s to the P/OT’s of /58, I’m proud to be one of you.

Benefactor Profile: Leighton McDonald

By Wendy Campbell:

Leighton McDonald

Although the internet was originally conceived as a free resource, creating and mounting content is far from free. This newsletter and the website where it appears are possible through the generous support of Closing the Gap, a healthcare organization providing a number of community health services in a wide range of settings. Occupational therapy and physiotherapy form part of the team of professionals that work toward Closing the Gap’s aim of “enriching lives and changing tomorrow”.

I met and talked with Leighton McDonald, president of Closing the Gap, in his Mississauga office on a recent wintry morning. Born and raised in Rhodesia, Leighton left for university in Cape Town in the eighties, during the war of independence that led to the establishment of the Republic of Zimbabwe. Although he came from a family of lawyers, he had always had medicine as his goal. While working as a family doctor for a short time after qualifying, he developed an interest in the field of occupational health and practiced for a number of years in the mining industry. During this time, he also gained a strong sense of the inequities and inefficiencies in the South African healthcare system and a desire to affect change. He brought these ideas with him to Canada in 2014.

Arriving here in Toronto without a commitment to a specific job, his interest in treating individuals with HIV/AIDS in South Africa led him to the Ontario HIV Treatment Network where he was Chief Operating Officer until recruited by Closing the Gap in May of 2016. It also prompted him to join the Board of Directors of Casey House, Canada’s first and only stand-alone hospital for people with HIV/AIDS. He has served on their Board of Directors since 2014, taking over the position of Chair in 2016.

Leighton feels passionately that investments in preventative medicine avoid extensive and expensive care as well as being the right thing to do for individuals and society. He and Closing the Gap value the role that physical therapy and occupational therapy play in keeping people, particularly our aging population, active, mobile and out of hospital. Although funding increases annually for community care, it doesn’t keep up with the increasing demand for service – and the gap widens. Representing Closing the Gap in meetings with government, Leighton’s philosophy is to work collaboratively towards a long term integrated strategy to better serve our citizens.

In addition to his involvement in improving the delivery of health care in the community, Leighton takes pride in Closing the Gap’s workplace wellness initiatives in a variety of settings. These take the form of identifying health risks by checking blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels and monitoring anxiety provoking situations that can lead to mental health issues. Recognition of the stresses faced by many low income employees has led to courses in financial literacy being given in the workplace.

We’re grateful for the financial assistance to launch our website, which we hope will inform and engage our alumnae. We’re also grateful to have a supporter like Leighton McDonald in our corner, both in our roles as rehabilitation professionals and as health care consumers.

Alumni Profile: Margaret Shaw

By Wendy Campbell: 

Margaret Shaw

As a small girl growing up in Wallaceburg Ontario, Margaret McQueen thought of being a nurse, one of the few options open to girls in those days. When a local librarian introduced her to the book Betty Blake OT, Marg was intrigued and enrolled in the program at University of Toronto in 1946.  That year the start of classes was delayed until November when construction of the HUTS (now the site of Massey College) was completed.  She still treasures memories of late afternoon classes lit with Coleman lamps during power cuts and Isobel Robinson teaching weaving with pictures because there were no looms.   The program was increased to three years during her time and Marg graduated with a diploma, in 1949.

A placement at the Hospital for Sick Children with Muriel Driver after first year fostered a love for pediatrics. Her first position was in London at a new centre opening in connection with London Children’s Hospital and devoted to children’s rehabilitation…job interviews at that time involved hats and white gloves!  It was an exciting time in the field with many innovative initiatives going on and Marg was at the centre. Her involvement in mobile clinics travelling the province to assess and treat children in remote areas was particularly satisfying.

In 1963 it was time for a change, and a move to Toronto.  Starting out as Head of OT at the newly opened Ontario Crippled Children’s Centre, Marg progressed to Coordinator of Therapies (OT, PT and Speech).  Again it was a time of progress and change – therapists were in the classrooms, wearing culottes and coloured blouses rather than white uniforms and caps. PT’s and OT’s were working together on teams with diagnostic groups. The Ministry of Education was implementing a Bill to mandate that all schools be made accessible to all children. And, during her time at OCCC, Marg McQueen married and became Marg Shaw.

Leaving the Centre in 1983, Marg’s expertise was put to good use in the development of the Assistive Devices Program administered by the Ministry of Health.  In 1985, another move took her to Sunnybrooke Health Centre to develop a resource centre for patients and their families. Ever the practical problem solver, Marg dealt with funding issues by running the centre as a store and the six months she’d intended to be there stretched to ten years.

In the early nineties, Marg became involved in setting up the Canadian Occupational Therapy Foundation, a body that funds scholarships and research grants to further the goals of the profession.  She also joined the executive of the P/OT Alumnae Association, and was president for five years, and past president for another five, retiring in 2017. She served a four year term representing our Alumnae Association on the University’s College of Electors which is responsible for the important tasks of electing a Chancellor and representatives to the Board of Governors. Although her official roles are over, Marg retains a keen interest in the alumnae and the profession and remains an active colleague and supporter.

During the time I was preparing this piece, I happened upon Patti Fleury, a classmate of mine, whose career intersected Marg’s, both in pediatrics and alumnae activities…watch for more about her in the future.

Alumni Profile: Danny Slack

By Wendy Campbell:

Photo of Daniel Slack
Danny Slack

When I first met Danny Slack about 5 years ago, he was an undergraduate in physiology, playing guitar and singing with a group of young musicians doing a weekly gig with patients at the Toronto Grace Health Centre. Next thing I knew he was a physio student and we discovered our common background. He graduated with an MScPT in 2015 (chosen by his classmates to be valedictorian) and is now on staff at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in the Critical Care Unit.

Since it’s possible for a person in acute care to lose up to 40% of their strength in a week, Danny and other members of a team focus on combating weakness with early mobilization and as much activity as is safe for the patient. There may be trauma from traffic accidents or advancing medical conditions and the challenge Danny faces as a physiotherapist is to find exercises that will challenge the muscles while accommodating equipment and allowing the healing process to progress. It may be as simple as passive range of motion movements and encouraging deep breathing, but the intervention gives patients a sense of hope that they will progress to more.

Danny’s first job, six years as a firefighter in his native UK, gave him a sense of how he liked working in an area of critical activity and as part of a team. His experiences in an undergraduate placement at Sunnybrook and as a musician at the Grace exposed him to a range of people and conditions and strengthened his sense of purpose. He loves his current job and, although it can be heart breaking at times, the support of the team and the importance of the work he’s doing make him very happy with his choice of career.

Profile of a Veteran: Phyllis Carlton

By Wendy Campbell:

Phyllis Carlton
Phyllis Carlton
Phyllis Carlton

It seems particularly fitting in this first online presence of Update, when anniversaries are abounding, to celebrate a pioneer in our two professions – the only person I know trained in both OT and PT separately, before anyone had thought of combining them.

Phyllis Carlton graduated as an occupational therapist from the University of Toronto in 1940. She took her first position with a Curative Workshop run by the Red Cross in Windsor, working as a volunteer for the first 6 months until a salaried position became available (sound familiar?)

WWll was raging in Europe and she enlisted in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, and was posted in England, working for the duration of the war in a Canadian military hospital in the Hampshire village of Bramshott, a bit north of London. Although the needs of the injured soldiers were serious and varied and the OT’s well trained to work with them, the supplies issued were limited to needlework kits, so a great deal of creative improvisation was necessary…something that comes naturally to OT’s

Phyl’s thinking was broadened by her wartime experience and she decided it was important to broaden her training as well. She was convinced of the value of OT’s and PT’s working together and when she found that her OT background would be credited at Duke University in North Carolina, she enrolled and proudly graduated as a physiotherapist in 1953.

Returning to Canada just as the field of rehabilitation was emerging, Phyl found the newly formed Canadian Arthritis and Rheumatism Society offered an opportunity to use both disciplines. She liked being involved in educating patients and family members and loved the practicality of working in patients’ homes, using their own kitchens and bathrooms to practice activities of daily living. Marion Leslie-Bethune, a former colleague at CARS remembers watching, fascinated, as Phyl skillfully fashioned splints (using plaster of paris, the available material of the time) an early indication of her talents with her hands.

After a productive eight years, she was ready for a new challenge and accepted a position as Coordinator of Therapies – OT, PT and Speech – at the Wellesley Hospital.   Phyl earned the respect and loyalty of her staff by being a supportive leader and setting high professional standards. Barbara Jackson, another colleague, remembers how Phyl was always fair and prepared to pitch in and work on a week-end or holiday to give staff members with young families a break. When the Director of Rehabilitation Medicine decided to replace physiotherapists who left with kinesiologists, at lower salaries, she defended her staff, and, along with the head of PT and OT resigned in protest. The courage of her stance inspired eighteen of the twenty four therapists in the department (both OT’s and PT’s) to resign in solidarity. This move united the group in the spring of 1972 and they have remained in touch ever since, meeting annually (often in Phyl’s home) over the past 44 years.

Her talents for leadership and organization took Phyl next to develop a Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at Toronto East General Hospital which she directed for 12 years before retiring in 1983.

Throughout her career and well into her retirement, Phyl has been a keen weaver – spinning, dying and producing beautiful lengths of cloth on two large looms in her home. Using the fabric, she made clothes for herself as well as upholstering furniture and cutting small squares to adorn Christmas and birthday cards. She often can be seen in one of the beautiful sweaters that she’s knitted over the years, reflecting her keen sense of colour and design. A lifelong member of the Toronto Guild of Spinners and Weavers, Phyl retains many contacts in that community.

Last November for their annual get together, the Wellesley gang brought food, cutlery, dishes, and glasses – everything necessary for a gracious lunch – to a sunny dining room on the Veteran’s Wing at Sunnybrook in Toronto where Phyl now lives. They came from all directions, united by their fondness and respect for a fellow professional who had inspired them and influenced their practices and their lives early in their careers. At 97, Phyl continues to enjoy these reunions and retains her calm sense of herself and what things are important in life.

I feel very lucky to have had a chance to meet and get to know Phyllis Carlton as I prepared this piece and have been struck by the loyalty and affection she’s inspired in her colleagues. She has a well deserved place in our history and a life membership in the Canadian Physiotherapy Association recognizes the important part she’s played in our formation as a rehabilitation profession.