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After a year unlike any other, YWCA Regina will be using our Women of Distinction celebration to honour the women in South Saskatchewan who have shown exceptional courage in answering the call to support their community during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Women across the globe have been disproportionately affected by the Pandemic, representing 70% of all job losses. In addition, 56% of women workers held occupations in the 5C’s category: caring, cashiering, catering, cleaning and clerical functions. Many of these positions are essential workers, which means more women than men have had to risk their health and safety for the overall good of our community.
Empowerment is at the heart of everything for Kam Bahia. Kam is a high school teacher in Regina whose passion for uplifting and empowering youth has manifested meaningful impact in the community. Kam founded I am H.E.R. – a non-profit organization with the goal of providing workshops, counselling, and mentorship opportunities to young women. She has partnered with local business and community partners to create opportunities and help young women recognize their strengths and abilities. She founded a wellness club for girls in collaboration with Local Barre Fitness, and facilitated the creation of the Raising HER Champions of Change mentorship program. As an educator, Kam goes above and beyond for the wellness of her students. When the pandemic meant students were learning from home, Kam saw the gap in the nutritional needs of many students and launched the Reverse School Bus Initiative which provides students with free warm meals delivered to their homes. Working with the Lobby Kitchen and Bar, Kam provides meals to kids in need, knowing the importance of nutrition in young people’s safety, growth, and development. Thanks to Kam’s initiatives and community involvement, our community’s youth are supported to be healthy, confident, and become tomorrow’s change-makers.
Carly Patryluk embodies the meaning of community in all she does. As the CEO and owner of a local independent business – House of Paws Pet Boutique, Carly saw her fellow business owners struggling amid the Covid-19 Pandemic, and she was not going to stand by and do nothing. Carly started the Facebook page, “I Support Local Business Regina” to garner support and attention for local businesses – the page grew to over 20,000 likes. Carly believes in community over competition, taking all she’s learned in her business and training and sharing her skills, knowledge, and tips with fellow business owners. Each time she learns a new skill, she does not hesitate to pass on her knowledge and support her fellow business owners in their development. Undoubtedly, Carly’s contributions have helped small business make it through an unprecedented year with confidence instead of uncertainty.
For over 20 years, Janet Kotylak has been a champion for education in Southern Saskatchewan. She has served as the Board Chair of the Prairie Valley School Division for 9 consecutive years, and is the Southern Constituency Representative on the Saskatchewan School Boards Association. Janet has spent her many years in education fiercely advocating for students, family, and a strong education system. Since the start of the pandemic, Janet has been instrumental in guiding the school division through the challenges and changes to education – Her work and advocacy has impacted pandemic planning and decision making at both the division and provincial level. Janet consistently works to reduce the barriers facing students and families through the pandemic and prioritizing the mental health and safety of all students and staff in her division and province. Thanks to Janet’s tireless advocacy, students, families, and staff in the Prairie Valley School Division have had a true community champion in their corner through the pandemic.
Throughout the Covid-19 Pandemic, Karen Nurkowski has been the face and voice for Saskatchewan’s deaf community. Since the start of the pandemic, Karen has been providing all the American Sign Language interpretation for Provincial Covid-19 updates, having interpreted over 100 live updates. In uncertain times, where the language around Covid-19 was evolving and developing in live time, Karen used her expertise, tireless research, and collaborative skills to ensure deaf people had equal and timely access to information. Karen has served as an interpreter for Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services for 35 years, and while you’ll recognize her from interpretations in big events, like pandemic updates, Rider games, and even the Olympic torch stop in Regina, off the cameras, Karen is serving the deaf community with everything from appointments, education, workplace navigation, and more, not only providing interpretation, but advocacy for more awareness and accessibility. She has stood by members of the deaf community to have ASL recognized as an official language and advocates for hearing individuals to learn ASL and be more inclusive. In a challenging time, Karen ensured deaf individuals was not forgotten in important health updates, building equity and assurance for her community.
Dr. Andrea Lavoie
Dr. Andrea Lavoie is a heart health hero for South Saskatchewan. She is the only female interventional cardiologist in South Saskatchewan, the medical director on the Cardiac Care Unit in Regina, and a fierce advocate for heart health in Saskatchewan. She is the founder of the Prairie Cardiac Foundation and Saskatchewan Cardiac Care Network, which provides advice and system supports to get those living with heart conditions the best care, wherever they are. She advocates especially for women’s heart health, organizing campaigns for Women’s Heart Health Month, even getting February 13, “Wear Red Canada Day” for women’s cardiovascular health official recognition from the Province this year. When the pandemic struck, Andrea took on the role of Pandemic Lead for cardiology in Regina, and championed videoconferencing apps to ensure the ongoing well-being of patients. With many resources being funneled into Covid-19, Andrea stood as a strong force of awareness and advocacy for heart health, using creative solutions to keep patients safely connected to needed health care access, and using her platform in the community to provide important Covid-19 information. Andrea personifies what it means to have a big heart, in her work, her life, and her advocacy.
Dr. Glenda Kaban
Dr. Glenda Kaban has been on the frontlines of the Covid-19 Pandemic, calmly and strategically leading her team, providing not only leadership, but heart too. Glenda has been an emergency room physician for 20 years, and is the Co-Lead of the Department of Emergency Medicine in Regina. She also took on the role of the Covid-19 Pandemic Lead of Emergency. In a time of uncertainty, Glenda stepped forward and used her expertise, experience, and natural affinity for leadership to guide the Emergency Team through. At the start of the pandemic, when emergency room staff were watching the situation worsen worldwide, Glenda proactively jumped into solution-based thinking and planning. She helped develop practices for the emergency room team, and helped develop an “airway kit” for airway management that keeps doctors and patients safer – a development that became provincial protocol. More than that, Glenda has offered compassion, care, empathy, and support to not only her fellow physicians and everyone working in emergency, but to her patients too. In short, Glenda’s fearless leadership has led the emergency medicine team in Regina through uncertain times with grace, confidence, and care.
Keri Crawford is a true unsung hero in the Covid-19 Pandemic. Keri is the Director of Laboratory Medicine in Regina. She was instrumental in leading the amalgamation of the Regina Hospital Laboratories and Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory, with a goal to produce a coordinated and integrated delivery of lab services. When Covid-19 hit, Keri was instrumental in leading the operational establishment of the hub of Covid-19 testing in Saskatchewan. Her leadership led to the ability to process over 3,000 covid tests per day. Early this year, Keri helped support the implementation of variants of concern screening. Saskatchewan faced a shortage of medical laboratory technologists, a big challenge to have during a pandemic. (Keri rose to that challenge, using the new classification of Laboratory Scientists she created for the amalgamation, and bolstered COVID capacity to ensure demand for testing, along with routine testing, could continue smoothly through the pandemic.) Keri’s work often goes unseen and unknown, but thanks to her tireless advocacy, strategic thinking, and organizational know-how, Saskatchewan citizens are kept safer in this pandemic.
Tanya Whitebear embodies what it means to be a nurse – caring, selfless, dedicated to patient-first health care. Tanya faced many challenges growing up, becoming more like a mom to her siblings than a sister. That caregiving streak pushed Tanya through exceptional achievements in her education as a licensed practical nurse. Tanya has worked in oncology, the emergency room, post-partum care, and the operating room. Often, Tanya is the only visible minority in the operating room, and she uses her identity as an Indigenous nurse to bridge the gaps, challenging systemic racism and providing culturally-sensitive care to her patients. Despite the frightening risks of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tanya has stepped forward and is currently working in the Covid-19 assessment and testing site, and mobile testing and vaccination sites. Tanya brings her caring nature, strong work ethic, and consistently high spirits to her work, making her not just a great nurse on the frontline, but a true health care hero.
Not only has Barb Beaurivage been on the frontline of the pandemic since the beginning, she has spent her nursing career in selfless service. She’s worked with the Child Abuse Team since 2004, and is currently the only Nurse Practitioner in Saskatchewan who does child abuse medical forensic examinations. Her dedication to the health, safety, and well-being of children and youth in her extends in many areas of her work – she also provides primary care services to the teen moms and their children at the Shirley Schneider Support Centre at Balfour Collegiate. Barb recognized a gap in healthcare for homeless youth and reached out to Street Culture Shelter and also provides primary care to youth. Barb does not accept the barriers of the system – she actively advocates for her patients to get exactly the care they need. When Covid-19 struck, she did not hesitate to take the lead at the Family Medicine Unit developing pandemic procedures and protocols to ensure the safety of the patients and staff. She organized the first single day immunization clinic at the Family Medicine Unit, getting vaccines to 300 vulnerable seniors. Barb was one of the first to volunteer on the frontlines of the pandemic at Parkside Extendicare, thinking little of herself, even spending some of her days off vaccinating at the drive thru clinic in Regina. For decades, Barb has been behind the scenes and on the frontlines, constantly pushing for the very best for her patients.
Mandy Boersch has been on the front line of the pandemic, going above and beyond for those who need it most, bravely leading her staff in uncertain times. Since 2014, Mandy has served as the Director of Mental Health with Creative Options Regina – a first of its kind position in Saskatchewan. As a highly skilled and educated psychiatric nurse, Mandy provides strong, calm, and kind leadership to not only the 275 employees of COR, but to all the individuals – adults living with disabilities – served by COR. She’s worked to bridge the gap between COR’s clients and access to health care services, and in the pandemic, she turned an uncertain and frightening time for them into safety and security. Mandy was instrumental in organizing Covid-19 testing and vaccination clinics on-site at COR facilities and ensured all staff and clients had consistent access to personal protective equipment and education. Because of her client-centered approaches and kindness, individuals who felt fearful and nervous in medical settings felt safe and stayed safe. Mandy was the front line hero her team needed in a challenging time.
Robyn Anaquod embodies what it means to be a caregiver. Robyn has been a licensed practical nurse since 2013, and has been working on the Covid-19 unit at Regina General Hospital since the start of the pandemic. A mother of two young children, Robyn stepped out of maternity leave in March, 2020, and right into a global pandemic, working directly with sick patients. Each day, despite putting her own wellness at risk, Robyn bring joy, laughter, and hope to her co-workers and patients on the frontlines of the pandemic. As the situation worsened and the Covid-19 unit filled, Robyn continued to show up to work with bravery and integrity, working overtime and caring for patients in frightening circumstances, becoming an integral part of the Covid-19 unit. The care that Robyn brings to her work as a nurse is evident in every part of her life, and she extends her natural affinity for compassion, patience, and optimism to her kids, husband, friends and family. Robyn’s caregiving spirit and selfless dedication to patients despite the dangers makes her a distinguished frontline hero.
Dr. Jessica Minion
Dr. Jessica Minion’s work in microbiology has been the silent driver behind quick and accurate Covid-19 testing in Saskatchewan. The Important work of laboratory testing that often goes unseen has emerged as one of the three integral pillars in curbing the pandemic, and Jessica has been behind the scenes doing that important work for years. She is the Provincial Clinic Lead at the Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory, and is part of the team developing and implementing Covid-19 testing. Jessica’s expertise and research has ensured Saskatchewan’s lab is one of the top labs in Canada for detecting and testing for Covid-19. Jessica has also been instrumental in bringing advanced Covid-19 testing that will help identify variants of concern to Saskatchewan. Before the very first case of covid arrived in Saskatchewan, Jessica was helping to formulate the pandemic organizational response, and provided calm and proficient leadership to her team in a time of uncertainty, where information was shifting daily. Jessica used her platform, research, and expertise to share the science across the province and educate the public on testing. Her drive, innovation, and tireless work in the lab has helped our province through some of the biggest challenges of the pandemic.
Laveena Tratch’s dedication to comprehensive and community-minded public health care has led to many innovations in accessing health care services. Beginning in 2014, she was instrumental in redesigning primary health care in Regina, with a focus on supporting the client in their health care journey from hospital to home, leading to more accountable patient care systems. She is the Director of Primary Health Care for the Central Network in Regina; she has lead the establishment of the Meadow Primary Health Care Centre, Four Directions Community Health Care Centre and Al Ritchie Heritage Community Health Centre. Laveena recognized the gap in health care for vulnerable communities and the need for culturally relevant care for Indigenous people, and she was a tireless advocate for making health care spaces safer for communities. In 2021, Laveena took on a big role: Vaccine Chief for the Regina Integrated Incident Command Centre – overseeing the Covid-19 vaccination program in the city. Laveena’s selfless leadership, public health expertise, and consistent advocacy for patient comfort has led to a well-oiled vaccination plan. More than providing leadership, Laveena does not hesitate to jump to the frontlines, immunizing, training immunizers, and supporting patients through the process. Whether it’s in the trenches or in the command centre, Laveena is an advocate, leader, and innovator on the frontlines of the pandemic.
Lori Garchinski has spent over three decades being an innovator in Saskatchewan health care. She has served as the Executive Director of Provincial Programs Tertiary Care since 2018, and has been integral in the development of important innovations that have improved health care delivery in Saskatchewan, like the Medical Surveillance Unit at Pasqua Hospital, the Provincial Smart IV pump program, the Provincial Tavi Program, and the first fully functioning Electrophysiology Lab in Saskatchewan. Lori has provided leadership and expert guidance in critical care, cardiosciences, neurosciences, respirology, and organ donation – her work in expanding the organ donor registry exceeded the Ministry of Health targets. Lori took over the role of Planning Chief for the Regina Integrated Health INCIDENT Command Centre IN THE SPRING OF 2020 providing the leadership and direction in preparation and response to the pandemic. She’s provided provincial leadership and oversite for ICU surge capacity preparation and the Ventilator Acquisition and Deployment Plan, to ensure Saskatchewan is prepared for covid surges and able to provide comprehensive care in the ICU. Lori’s innovative thinking, proactive planning, and leadership has led to safer communities and better outcomes in a challenging time.
At the young age of 26, Daniela Mintenko opened her own independent business, Dandy’s Artisan Ice Cream, which specializes in unique, gourmet ice cream flavours. Daniela’s business has grown exponentially since she opened in 2019, with the launch of her specialty chocolate business, Luxe Artisan Chocolates in February, and plans to open a second location and a large-scale production facility. As a young female entrepreneur, Daniela has overcome ageism, sexism, and racism. She left her home country, Colombia seeking political asylum in the US, and followed her dreams to culinary school in BC before calling Regina home and launching her incredibly successful businesses. When the pandemic hit, Daniela did not give up on her dream – she rolled up her sleeves and single-handedly kept Dandy’s Ice Cream going with online orders. She and her team have pivoted in challenging times to keep the shop open and continuing to be successful. Daniela has been a leader in her business, and a leader in the business community, supporting and working with other small businesses, and passionately expanding sharing her knowledge with her team. Daniela’s passion for her work, and drive to keep growing her dream makes her a truly distinguished entrepreneur.
LeeAnn Croft embodies the spirit of Women of Distinction – women lifting each other up. As a founding partner of 1080 Architecture, Planning, and Interiors, LeeAnn has been a leader in the world of architecture, and has used her platform to raise up other women in this male-dominated field, with a majority female architecture firm. When LeeAnn co-founded 1080 in 2017, only 25% of architecture firms were led by women. LeeAnn broke down barriers, and continues to do so for others – she is the regional coordinator for the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s Syllabus Program, which offers flexible Architectural Training opportunities that break down barriers to education access. LeeAnn’s innovative community and client-centered thinking has earned her provincial and national recognition. Her creative work in projects like the Saskatchewan Science Centre’s JoyLab Project have brought the beauty of creative architecture to many in Regina. LeeAnn has a passion for the arts too, serving on the Globe Theatre Board and Provincial Heritage Board. Covid-19 posed many challenges to her business, and to the economic growth in the province, but with reassurance, support, and compassion, LeeAnn led her team through the uncertainties, and continued the firm’s success. She continues to make her mark on the architectural landscape of Saskatchewan, and help build the careers of the women in her firm.
Jasmine Gemmell is a fiery and focused local entrepreneur, and has been since the start. Jasmine became passionate about making crystal jewelry as a teen, and started as simple as it gets – selling her creations out of her locker. But what started small as a passion grew into a successful business enterprise, Bellezza Moda Beauty and Fashion, offering fashion, jewelry, esthetics, and more in both Regina and Saskatoon. 2021 marks 7 years in business for Jasmine, and in that short time, she’s learned to be a professional piercer, hired over a dozen women in her community, and expanded her services and offerings. Living with autism, Jasmine has also been a strong advocate for autism acceptance in the workforce, and has even learned sign language to help deaf customers feel more comfortable when they come to her stores. Throughout the pandemic, Jasmine pivoted her business to online and curbside options, developed a piercing course which she now teaches at The Style Academy, and, always believing in community over competition, made space in her business for the products of fellow local business owners. Jasmine’s success is seconded only by her drive, collaborative spirit, and dedication to her trade.
Emily McCreery is making big waves in her community at the young age of 17. She is a grade 11 student in Regina who single-handedly established “Laptops for Kids.” When schools in Regina pivoted to virtual learning, Emily recognized the disparities in technology access for students, and sprung into action. Putting a call out to her friends and family, Emily began the process of collecting laptops to ensure every kid learning from home had access to a reliable working computer. She connected with Computers for Schools, a group of retirees who assist in cleaning and refurbishing computers for use, and then with businesses, like Viterra, to get as many computers as possible. To date, Emily has donated 72 computers to kids, working with non-profits and the school boards. It’s just one example of how Emily takes action to make change in her community. She’s volunteered over 500 hours in the past several years, all while maintaining a part-time job and staying on the honour roll. Born in China, Emily was adopted, and just afterwards, her dad faced significant health challenges that have impacted the family for all of Emily’s life. Despite those challenges, she has an attitude of gratitude and has found self-worth and identity in helping out. Emily has big dreams for the future, too, as she plans to pursue a degree in commerce, and continue supporting anyone in need in her community.
Hani Rukh E Qamar
Hani Rukh E Qamar defines what it means to be a change-maker. At the young age of 19, Hani has already amassed an impressive portfolio of activism work – she founded a non-profit organization, the Canadian Advisory of Women Immigrants, a youth-led organization advocating for rights and resources for immigrant women. She is the Board Director for SOFIA House, the program assistant for the Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation, a youth care worker for Street Culture, and is pursuing a bachelor of Science in Psychology and International Development Studies. Hani’s family immigrated from Pakistan, and all her life, she has been passionate about her identity as a daughter of immigrants, and dedicates her time to ensuring her peers who immigrate to Canada have resources, support, and a warm welcome. Hani has been volunteering in the non-profit world since she was 12-years-old, and has never looked back – she has organized mentorship programs, fundraisers, sexual health campaigns, and is a passionate advocate for women’s rights. Hani is currently working on a research project examining the impact of Covid-19 on women and developing a video series about influential Immigrant women in Canada. Her drive, passion, and work ethic has created truly meaningful change in her city, province, and country, and Hani continues to advocate, educate, and change her world for the better.
Sung Park and Erin McCracken
Navigating high school education and being a teen in a pandemic is a big challenge – but for Sung Park and Erin McCracken, that challenge is an opportunity. The two teens, who are in Grade 11 at Campbell, founded the non-profit, Stargivers Initiative as a direct response to the pandemic. Sung and Erin recognized that the pandemic presented unique challenges to Regina’s most vulnerable communities who were at higher risk than others. Their initiative creates essentials kits to help Regina’s homeless stay safe in the pandemic. The kits include personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer, snacks, notes of encouragement and more, to offer a helping hand in a tough time – they deliver these kits to Carmichael Outreach, Soul’s Harbour, and more. Their initiative is completely grassroots – the teens did raffles, bottle drives, and promotion in their school and community to raise the funds to put the kits together, and they single-handedly developed a website and social media pages to increase donations from the community. Sung and Erin are stars themselves – both teens are honour roll students, exceedingly skilled in academics and athletics, and volunteers in their communities. The two continue to put together kits and consistently show up for their community, and their generous spirit makes them true change-makers in Regina.