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Leadership in Action - Vernissage Health Alumni from the 2020 IHPME Cohort

As we continue to reflect on five years of the Vernissage Health Leaders Dialogue Series, we’re 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 continue with the 2020 cohort and check in on Carolelina San Jose and Maaike Devries! As emerging leaders, both are making valuable contributions to our health system!

Carolelina San Jose – Manager of Organizational Quality and Safety, Michael Garron Hospital

A graduate of the MSc program in Quality Improvement and Patient Safety, Carolelina is currently the Manager of Organizational Quality and Safety at Michael Garron Hospital, a career advancement after she completed her graduate studies in IHPME. Carolelina also has a Masters in Nursing from York University as well as many continuing education certificates in the area of clinical quality and risk.

She began her nursing career at Michael Garron in 2010 and during her graduate studies, she served as a Quality and Risk Specialist at the hospital. Vernissage Health gave her the confidence to advance her leadership career and step into the role of Manager. Carolelina is proud of her Filipino heritage and her family. She wanted to share her cultural pride by wearing a traditional Filipino gown in this photo.

Carolina reflects: “The lessons I took away from Vernissage Health and applied to my own leadership practice and career advancement are many! Here are a few about leading with integrity, generosity and mindfulness.

“There was a session where the established leaders shared stories about their own leadership challenges and what they learned from these experiences. I reflected about my own personal leadership practice and how important it is for me to be a healthcare leader that leads with integrity. As Brene Brown puts it, integrity means "You choose courage over comfort. You choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And you choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them."

The practice of checking in to circle was so impactful for me. It allowed us to support each other in the same space and appreciate what each of us were going through in our personal and professional lives. I found this time very humbling and sacred and it opened me up to practicing generosity. The work of healthcare is so vast that working together and being generous with each other is the best gift we can give to others and in turn, ourselves.

Having permission to reflect and absorb, to give and to receive within the Vernissage Health group was a unique exercise in mindfulness for me. The dialogue experience took me out of my comfort zone, elevated my ability to appraise my own leadership challenges and use these insights to rise and improve myself. I now practice mindfulness daily and I'm able to accomplish more during my day by being more strategic as opposed to being reactive. I am able to self-regulate my emotions with more compassion for myself and others and am better able to empathize and communicate that intention openly.”

To learn more about Carolelina’s leadership career, please visit:

Maaike Devries - PhD Candidate, IHPME Health Services Research

Maaike is a PhD student in the final stages of the health services research program at the University of Toronto's Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation. Working with the HumanEra team at North York General Hospital under the supervision of Dr. Patricia Trbovich, Maaike is studying vulnerabilities in the security and accounting of medications in Ontario hospitals. Prior to starting her doctoral work, Maaike completed her masters in Epidemiology at McGill and worked as a senior methodologist on the Health System Performance team at Health Quality Ontario.

Maaike reflects on her experience in Vernissage Health and its impact on her leadership practice in research: “ When I’m trying to learn or understand something, my tendency is to want to approach it from a little distance and with some structure - take time to read up on it, listen to a lecture on it, and reflect on it. This approach was why applying for a program like Vernissage Health was so attractive. I felt this experience would help me to carve out the space and time to focus on how I could, as a PhD student, hone my leadership skills.

In reality, my time with Vernissage Health pushed me to rebalance this approach – reminding me how important and rewarding it is to actually exercise your leadership skills in unpredictable and real-world situations compared to trying to grow them just by building on your understanding of them. The dialogue circle used in Vernissage Health to listen, share and reflect provided the space for participants to share their authentic experiences through personal stories. The learnings came from listening to these narratives.

One of the learnings that I often think about came from an established leader who emphasized that although most of us can name what we believe our core values are (e.g., trust, creativity, teamwork), it isn’t until a value gets challenged or threatened that we can really learn what is at the heart of our value system and therefore what drives and motivates us as leaders.

Knowing our motivations and how we lead is a powerful insight. As I head towards the next phase of my career, this knowledge will help me to find the right positions and projects where I can make impactful contributions to our health system.”

As Vernissage Health alumni, Maaike and Husayn Marani, are also generously giving their time as members of a research team, led by Arlinda Ruco, overseeing study design, data collection and analysis of the Five Year Impact Study of Vernissage Health's Dialogue Series. Stay tuned for the team to release their results in March, 2022! Spoiler Alert: The results are very positive!

For more information about Maaike’s leadership career, please visit:

Other emerging leaders in the 2020 IHPME cohort included Olivia Ng (MHSc), Ryan Fitzpatrick (MHSc), Stephanie Robinson (QIPS), Shuranjeet Takhar (MSc) , Nicole Minutti (HSR) Min Cho(MHI), Michael Dewitt (MHI) and Sarah Sawaya(MHI). Stay tuned for updates from alumni in the 2021 cohort!

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