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Keynote Speakers


Kristen Jacklin  

Kristen Jacklin, Ph.D, Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Biobehavioral Health, Associate Director, Memory Keepers Medical Discovery Team – Health Equity

Dr. Jacklin is a medical anthropologist who has recently joined the University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth. Prior to joining the University of Minnesota, Dr. Jacklin spent 12 years as Founding Faculty in the Human Sciences Division at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine at Laurentian University. Dr. Jacklin has an extensive background in community-based Indigenous health research and health equity. Her research focuses on chronic disease care for Indigenous peoples, including investigations concerning aging; cognitive health and dementia; diabetes; and Indigenous health/medical education.

Dr. Jacklin is a principal investigator on Canada’s national dementia research strategy - the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA) where she is the co-lead for Team 20 “Issues in Rural and Indigenous Dementia Care. Dr. Jacklin is also the founder of the International Indigenous Dementia Research Network and the Indigenous Cognition Awareness and Aging Awareness Research Exchange (I-CAARE.ca).


Ben Albensi, PhD, Manitoba Dementia Research Chair

Dr. Albensi’s background is diverse where he has received training in both basic and clinical research. He has also worked in both academic and in industrial sectors on several drug discovery and drug development projects. For example, prior to PhD training, he worked at NPS Pharmaceuticals in Salt Lake City, UT, USA, investigating molecular structures obtained from natural products (e.g., spider venoms) for their potential application in treating CNS disorders.

Dr. Albensi continued his academic training and received a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Utah’s Medical School in 1995, where he developed novel MRI methods for characterizing neonatal hypoxic-ischemic injury. Subsequently, he was awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, USA (working with Drs. Faden and Pekar), where he further developed novel MRI methods for investigating TBI and brain cognition. Following this, he went on to work as a Postdoctoral Scholar with Dr. Mark Mattson, an internationally recognized leader in neurodegenerative research, at the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging – the University of Kentucky. While working with Dr. Mattson and using electrophysiological methods, he published the groundbreaking study that TNF and NF-kB play important roles in synaptic plasticity and memory (Albensi and Mattson, Synapse 2000).

Subsequently, he joined the Clinical Research Department at Parke-Davis/Warner-Lambert in Ann Arbor, MI (Pfizer acquired PD-WL in 2000) to obtain additional experience in clinical trials. Following this clinical research training, he was appointed as Project Staff in the Department of Neurological Surgery – Cleveland Clinic Foundation and also as an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biology at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, where he conducted novel work on mechanisms of deep brain stimulation (DBS). He now has several appointments in Canada, which include serving as a Professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the University of Manitoba and as a Principal Investigator at St. Boniface Hospital Research. He is also a Core Member of the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program at the University of Manitoba. In addition, he is the new Manitoba Dementia Research Chair and the Everett Endowment Fund Chair. He is also currently a Director of the Board for MitoCanada and the Movement Ctr. of Manitoba. He previously served on the Board of the Alzheimer’s Society of Manitoba. He has reviewed grants for numerous foundations worldwide including NIH, CIHR, NSERC, US DOD, FASEB, to name a few.

Sienna Caspar

Sienna Caspar, PhD, CTRS, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences—Therapeutic Recreation, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, AB

Sienna received a B.Sc. in Therapeutic Recreation from the University of South Alabama in 1990. She has worked in long-term care facilities in both Canada and the United States for over 20 years as both a certified therapeutic recreation specialist (CTRS) and a consultant.

From 2003 to 2007 she was a national trainer for the American Therapeutic Recreation Association's Dementia Practice Guideline for the non-pharmacological treatment of disturbing behaviours. In 2008, she received a MA in Gerontology from Simon Fraser University.  Her thesis explored the relationship between care staff empowerment and the ability to provide person-centred care in long-term care settings.  She continued to study this important topic at the University of British Columbia, where she completed her PhD in the Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program.

As a postdoctoral fellow in a cross appointment at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute/University Health Network and the University of Victoria, she conducted an intervention study aimed at improving leadership and collaborative decision making in long-term care settings. Currently, she is an assistant professor at the University of Lethbridge in the Faculty of Health Sciences—Therapeutic Recreation program.

Rachel Herron


Rachel Herron, PhD, Brandon University

Dr. Rachel Herron is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at Brandon University and a Canada Research Chair in Rural and Remote Mental Health. The overarching goal of her research is to work with rural communities, students, researchers and policy makers to create more supportive environments for people with dementia, and mental health conditions.

Laura Funk

Laura Funk, PhD, University of Manitoba

Dr. Laura Funk’s program of research examines how older adults and carers interpret experiences, preserve identities, and negotiate normative ideals. Through this work she illuminates discourses surrounding age, care and responsibility, and interrogates the impact of structural changes on the unpaid and paid work of care in the context of decades of health care reform.



Katarina Lee is the Clinical Ethicist at St. Boniface Hospital and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Manitoba. She received her BA in Philosophy from the University of Dallas, her MA in Bioethics from New York University, her JD with a concentration in Health Law and Bioethics from the University of Minnesota and her post-doc clinical ethics fellowship from Baylor College of Medicine and Houston Methodist Hospital.


Melissa Blind is Cree and Ukrainian, and a member of Gordon’s First Nation, in the Treaty 4 area. She has a PhD in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and holds a BA honours and a MA in Indigenous Studies through First Nations University of Canada in conjunction with the University of Regina. Dr. Blind is a Senior Research Associate for the Memory Keepers Medical Discovery Team (MK MDT) at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in Duluth, MN. Prior to joining the MK MDT, she was a Research Associate with Centre for Rural and Northern Health Research, working closely with Dr. Kristen Jacklin on the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA) Team 20 Indigenous dementia projects in Ontario. Her research interests include Indigenous understandings of health and wellbeing, including health disparities, Indigenous understandings of neurological conditions, including dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, issues surrounding identity, and oral narratives.


Karen Pitawanakwat is an Anishinaabe Kwe from the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, Ontario, Canada. She has lived her life in Wikwemikong leaving only to complete her nursing diploma at Cambrian College in 1994. Karen is the mother of two children, grandmother to one, and lives in Wikwemikong with her husband of 29 years. She belongs to the Thunder Bird Clan and is an Anishnaabemowin language speaker.

Karen has over 25 years’ experience nursing in local First Nations on Manitoulin Island, focusing on care for the elderly. She is on secondment from her position as the Complex Home Care Coordinator for the Nahndahwehtchigeh Gamig (Wikwemikong Health Centre), to act as the community researcher for the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA) Team 20 Ontario Indigenous dementia projects. Karen has been involved in community-based research projects concerning diabetes, dementia and cancer since 2006.  Her work as a community researcher with First Nations on Manitoulin Island with the Perceptions of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias in Diverse Aboriginal Communities in Ontario study (2009-2013) and now the CCNA Team 20 Indigenous dementia study in Ontario (2014-2019), aims to address quality of life for Indigenous people living with dementia and their caregivers.

Her commitment to advancing the health and wellbeing of Indigenous people can be seen in her various advisory roles and committee memberships. She has served continuously on the Wiwemikong Health Centre Diabetes Advisory Committee since 2005 and has served on the Manitoulin Hospice Palliative Care Working Group, the North East Hospice Palliative Care Steering Committee, and is an active member of the International Indigenous Dementia Research Network."


Allison Bell is the Pharmacy Manager with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority Long Term Care Program.  In her role, she supports pharmacy services in personal care homes in the 5 regional health authorities across Manitoba.  In addition to her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy from the University of Manitoba, Allison has also completed an EXTRA Fellowship with the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement and Academic Health Science Leadership Program through the Centre for Healthcare Innovation.  As a member of the Canadian Deprescribing Network, Allison is passionate about optimizing medications in older adults.


Stephanie Jeffrey holds  almost 25 years of experience in recreation, fitness and community development. She believes heavily in not only talking about physical activity but getting out and being active. In addition to her role as the Executive Director of the Manitoba Fitness Council, she is a certified fitness leader, leading classes in Resistance Training, Aquafitness, older adult fitness and yoga weekly. She created “office workouts” and loves to share her passion for being active.


Stefanie Turner is a registered occupational therapist with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Occupational Therapy. Prior to beginning her management role Stefanie worked as first a Case Coordinator and then a Case Management Specialist for WRHA Home Care.


Luana Whitbread currently works as a Clinical Nurse Specialist for the WRHA Long Term Care Program. In her role as CNS, Luana provides clinical consultation, education and research on best practice related to geriatric concerns and person centred care.


Lorraine Peitsch graduated from University of Manitoba medical school and completed Residency in Internal Medicine and Fellowship in Geriatric Medicine at University of Manitoba. She currently works for the WRHA at Deer Lodge Centre, SOGH, VGH, and Health Services for the Elderly downtown; and for the University of Manitoba as Associate Professor. Prior to medical school, Dr. Peitsch was a Registered Dietitian and worked in the field of nutrition for 12 years.


Ginette Abraham is a social worker with a Bachelor and a Master’s degree in Social Work. She currently works at Actionmarguerite St. Boniface as the social worker for the dementia care units. She is one of the presenters at PIECES training as well as one of the presenters for the program Gentle Persuasive Approach that her site is using in addition to PIECES. Ginette is a registered social worker with the Manitoba College of Social Workers.


Emily Walker is a Policy Analyst at Manitoba’s Disabilities Issues Office (DIO).  The DIO's current priority is the development and implementation of standards under The Accessibility for Manitobans Act.  Prior to joining the government of Manitoba, Emily worked for a wide range of organizations including the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities and the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba. Emily earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Winnipeg and a Juris Doctor from the University of Manitoba.


Norma Kirkby is a Professional Home Economist with specialization in Family and Resource Management. She holds a Certificate in Financial Planning. With this background, Norma has worked in numerous fields where the underlying theme has been assisting individuals and families to live successfully.  Norma joined the Alzheimer Society in June of 2002 and has held the portfolio of Program Director since April 2007. As Program Director, she is responsible for the Society’s vision for education, client services and advocacy.


Shannon Watson works with Winnipeg Regional Health Authority as Initiatives Leader: Housing, Supports and Service Integration. Shannon manages the Health Outreach and Community Support (HOCS) team, a multi-disciplinary mobile team offering clinical consultation, capacity building, and individualized service to access health and social services to address homelessness or prevent eviction. Additionally, Shannon is responsible for development and support of initiatives that create access to care and housing for populations experiencing homelessness. Shannon has a Masters in Community Psychology with a specialized focus on supports for independent, integrated housing. Shannon has 20 years of experience in community and government sectors focused on community development and housing and supports.


Joyce Klassen is the Dementia Education Project Manager with the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba and has been with the Society since 2008. Prior to working with the Alzheimer Society Joyce worked as a clinical dietitian in Long Term Care facilities for 28 years.


Victoria Hampton is a Registered Social Worker with A & O: Support Services for Older Adults. Along with her Bachelor of Social Work degree, Victoria has completed the “Option in Aging” specialization through the University of Manitoba. Victoria’s past experience includes working within the mental health field, Community Living disABILITY Services, and Employment and Income Assistance.  Victoria currently works in a number of A & O’s program areas, including Elder Abuse Prevention Services, Older Victim Services, Counseling, This Full House, and the Safe Suite program.


Charleen Barkman has been a Registered Psychiatric Nurse for 35 years now and currently works as a staff educator. She previously worked as a Director of Nursing of a personal care home, worked in a special care unit of a PCH and at St. Amant Centre. Charleen has 2 adult married sons and is a new grandma – her family brings Charleen much joy! She is also passionate about making workplaces great which translates to great, innovative care for persons with dementia.


Zahra Moussavi is a professor, a Canada Research Chair, and the founder and director of Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program at University of Manitoba. Her current research focuses are on medical devices instrumentation and signal analysis for sleep apnea management and Alzheimer’s diagnosis and treatment using virtual reality, rTMS and EVestG technologies.  She is the recipient of several awards including the “Canada’s Most Powerful Women (Top 100)” and “Manitoba Distinguished Women” in 2014. She has published more than 250 peer-reviewed papers in journals and conferences, and has given 83 invited talks/seminars including 2 Tedx Talks and 8 keynote speaker seminars at national and international conferences. Aside from academic work, on her spare time, she writes science articles for the public and has developed and offered memory fitness programs for the aging population. 


Lynda L. Mandzuk worked for many years in an acute care facility as a clinical nurse, an educator and lastly a clinical nurse specialist.  She has a special interest in geriatrics, dementia, and fall prevention.  She has recently starting working at the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba as one of the Client Support Coordinators.


Beth Helliar is a nurse who worked for many years at St. Boniface hospital in direct care as well as education. She has experience in geriatrics, palliative care, and family medicine. Currently, she is working as a Client Support Coordinator for the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba.


Kim Wiebe completed medical school at the University of Manitoba in 1992 followed by residencies in Internal Medicine and Critical care.  Subsequent education has included: a master’s in public health, training in addictions medicine and training in palliative care. Her other work interests have included organ donation, bone marrow transplant, and overseas volunteer work with Medicine Sans Frontiers + the Canadian Society for International Health. Dr Wiebe is currently working as a physician with the provincial medical assistance in dying clinical team of which she is the administrative lead.


The Manitoba provincial Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) clinical team consists of several physicians, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, administrative assistants and speech language pathologists who have developed expertise in medical assistance in dying.  The team was an initiative of the provincial government including health, justice, the five regional health authorities and the four medical colleges (physician, nursing, social work & pharmacy).  The team provides consultation regarding medical assistance in dying to all regions in the province.  This includes providing MAID and supporting other practitioners to provide the service.  At present, all requests for MAID within the regional health authority facilities are being referred to and completed by the provincial MAID clinical team. On an ongoing basis, the team will (and does) provide support in the areas of education, monitoring & evaluation as well as standards of practice.


Ellie Caslake is the Older Adult Program Coordinator with the Over the Rainbow program at Rainbow Resource Centre. She came to the Centre in 2009 during her first tentative steps toward coming out. Recently, she reached a crossroad when she spoke to her family and friends, receiving incredible acceptance. Ellie has worked in Older Adult Social Support & Recreational Programming; Community Development & Revitalization; Non-Profit & Charities Fund Development; Community Outreach; Print & Online Media; Financial Management & Tax Planning; Adult Education; and, Written & Performing Arts, in particular, Theatre & Film. Her passion for dialogue, love of her craft, and a childlike enthusiasm for storytelling have taken her on many exciting journeys. Ellie feels privileged to be part of the team at Rainbow Resource Centre, to share her experiences and the gifts each of us carry along this path we walk together.


Roberta Bishop is Operations Manager at Rainbow Resource Centre, an organization with which she has been connected for over fifteen years.  An educator by profession having taught pre-school to post-secondary in three provinces, she has a couple of decades’ business experience in both the private and public sectors.  An assortment of jobs and lifetime career stepping stones have earned her natural silver hair highlights. With strong Maritime roots, and years overseas, she is proud to call Manitoba home. An active community volunteer, she contributes her skills to the International Children’s Festival, TREC (Translating Research in Elder Care) VOICES, Vision Quest Conferences, the Vestry at St. Luke’s Church, and Over the Rainbow.


Louise Boily is a registered social worker. She graduated from the Université de Saint-Boniface in 2011. She has worked at a number of hospitals and at the Riverview Health Centre before landing a job as the social worker for the Vulnerable Persons Unit of the Winnipeg Police Service in 2015. Louise works in a very unique setting being an employee of the Community Services Department working in partnership with the Winnipeg Police Service. This job allows her to be out in the community to help as best she can using the existing resources available through partner agencies such as A & O: Support Services for Older Adults.


Keri Ranson is the Deputy Public Guardian and Trustee of Manitoba. Ms. Ranson has a law degree and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Manitoba.  She practiced law in Brandon and Killarney, Manitoba with Meighen, Haddad & Co from 1996 until 1999 when she assumed a legal position with the Government of Manitoba’s Civil Legal Services Branch.  In 2007 she left Civil Legal Services to assume her current role as Deputy Public Guardian and Trustee with The Public Guardian and Trustee’s Office.


Marlee Chancy has been working in Seniors Mental Health for 16 years, most of that time with Southern Health. For the past 3 years, her role has been the Outreach Worker for the Special Care Environment (SCE) at Heritage Life PCH in Niverville where she functions as a liaison between the SCE and the other PCH’s in the region. Working closely with the wonderful SCE staff has been a great learning opportunity for her, and has been very validating, having been able to witness the enormous impact that environment and approach have on the behavior of residents with dementia. Marlee has been a PIECES facilitator since it was first introduced to Manitoba and is passionate about advocating for respectful dementia care.


Sophia Ali is a Social Worker who has experience in the areas of community development, mental health and health promotion.  Her education background consists of a BA (Psychology) and BSW both from University of Manitoba and has recently graduated with a MBA from Athabasca University.  She is currently the Executive Director at Aulneau Renewal Centre. She volunteers with the Manitoba Islamic Association by participating on the Muslim Mental Health Initiative and provides counselling to the Muslim community.  In her free time, Sophia spends time with her husband and three children, friends and family, and enjoys travelling and reading.


Lois Stewart-Archer is the Regional Clinical Nurse Specialist of the Winnipeg Health Region, Rehabilitation & Geriatrics Programme and a research affiliate of the Manitoba Centre for Nursing and Health Research, University of Manitoba. She provides consultations regarding management and treatment of challenging issues related to older adults with mental health/psychiatric concerns; clinical education and supervision; and develops policies/protocols, and practice guidelines for the GMH and GPAT teams. Dr. Stewart-Archer enjoys working with these wise older adults and strongly endorses maintenance of their dignity, spirit, and independence.