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Leadership in Action: Vernissage Health Alumni from 2017 Dialogue Series

Updated: Jul 8, 2021

As we look back on five years of the Vernissage Health Leaders Dialogue Series, we’ll be featuring updates from some of the emerging leaders in each cohort and asking alumni how the Health Leaders Dialogue Series impacted their leadership careers after graduation. Let’s start at the beginning with the inaugural 2017 cohort and check in on Craig Thompson and Dr. Ali Damji! Both are now making significant contributions to our health systems in leadership roles!

Patient Ombudsman in Ontario - Craig Thompson, BASc Civil, P. Eng., MHSc HA, CHE

Before making the transition to health care, Craig had over 25 years of leadership experience working for public and private organizations in the design sciences and communications sectors. While enrolled in IHPME's MHSc Health Administration program, Craig worked as the Director Digital Communications at Women’s College Hospital and was responsible for strategic digital communications and patient engagement. After graduation, Craig joined Patient Ombudsman as the Executive Director and in spring of 2021, was appointed Ontario’s Patient Ombudsman.

An irrepressible advocate for patients and families, Craig has been a recognized community leader working to improve the quality, safety and experience of healthcare in Ontario. He was the recipient of the Robert Wood Johnson Award presented in collaboration with the Canadian College of Health Leaders (CCHL) and the Kevin J. Leonard Award presented in collaboration with University Health Network’s Centre for Global eHealth Innovation.

In spring of 2017, when Craig was in his last term in the Health Administration program, he participated in the inaugural Vernissage Health Leaders Dialogue Series. Craig reflects, “The path from recent graduate to where I am now was helped immensely by what Vernissage allowed me to do: become more comfortable with being a leader and with the challenges that come from leading."

“As an emerging leader in the 2017 cohort, it was such a privilege to be able to engage with established leaders who for all their accomplishments, knowledge, and experience, were extremely humble and generous; sharing the highs and the lows of leadership and pulling back the curtain on what it means to be a leader in healthcare. I honestly feel that Vernissage had no small part to play in developing my resiliency as a leader which has been tested more than a few times these past years.” Read more about Craig's career at

Family Physician Leader - Dr. Ali N. Damji, BHSc, MD, MSc, CCFP

Since graduating from the MSc System Leadership and Innovation program in 2018, Ali was appointed as a Family Physician at the Credit Valley Family Health Team and Trillium Health Partners with an additional focused practice in addiction medicine. He is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Family & Community Medicine at the University of Toronto and also engaged in quality improvement and health systems research as an Investigator at the Institute for Better Health.

At the system level, Ali is now involved as a member of the Ontario Medical Association SGFP Executive and Founding member of the Mississauga Halton Primary Care Network. He is also a member of Ontario Health Central Region’s Mental Health & Addiction Advisory Table and Primary Care Leadership Council.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ali’s leadership skills were put to the test, as he became Physician Lead for the THP COVID-19 Assessment Centre and one of the Clinical Leads for THP COVID-19 Vaccine Centres. At his Family Health Team, he is the COVID-19 Medical Director, and has led a patient-centred team through novel models of care, and supported innovations in primary care such as virtual care, remote monitoring, assessment of COVID patients, and vaccination in primary care.

Ali most recently received a COVID Hero Award from the City of Mississauga and was elected by his colleagues at Trillium Health Partners to represent them to hospital administration as the newest member of the Professional Staff Association Executive.

Ali reflects, “Vernissage Health was a foundational experience for me, that continues to drive me to this day. As an emerging leader, it was a privilege to speak with and learn from established leaders across the healthcare system, and recognize that I too have something to offer. I learned what a privilege it is to be a leader in healthcare. Leadership in healthcare can be an isolating experience, but it hasn’t ever felt that way for me. Because I know that despite the challenges, my teams and I will persevere, thanks to the confidence, knowledge, and supportive network I built with Vernissage Health.” Read more about Ali at

Other emerging leaders in the 2017 IHPME cohort included Dr. Noah Crampton (SLI), Alex Gao (MHI), Alice Lan (MHI), Meghan McMahon (HSR), Elaina Orlando (QIPS), Sayyed Rayyan (MHI), Nadine Reid (HSR), and Sandra Yue (MHSc). Stay tuned for updates from alumni in the 2018 cohort next month!

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