Who are the most influential Canadians in health care?

These experts, role models, advanced thinkers and passionate doers are dedicated to improving the health and quality of life of Canadians. They will make our lives better—and those of our children and grandchildren.

Canada is a healthy society by global standards—but we still have a long way to go. Poor nutrition, lack of exercise and education, limited resources and the constant stress of our fast-paced life take a toll on too many individuals and their families. Even for the healthiest, an illness, accident or difficult life event can cause the needle to dip sharply. Then loved ones and colleagues get drawn into the downward spiral as well.

That’s why OptiMYz presents our 5th annual list of TOP 100 Health Influencers. This remarkable group of people represent our five brand pillars: health, nutrition, fitness, life/adventure and mind/metal wellbeing. Together, these five categories present a holistic view of a healthy body and mind—and also of a healthy individual within a healthy society.

These influencers are on the cutting edge of health in Canada—and indeed in the world. From medical researchers and business people to athletes and media stars, from policy makers and not-for-profit leaders to chefs and psychologists, they are showing the way forward. By example, they show that it is possible to lead a healthy life. And that broad social challenges have solutions that we can embrace collectively.

Influence is a simple word. It means that ideas have power, that individual and small groups can have a big impact. We have selected 100 who make a difference, but indeed there are thousands of people across Canada dedicated to making the future healthier than the present. It’s a group we are proud to follow.

Important Note on Nominee Selection: We research nominees throughout the year based on reader surveys and feedback. We do NOT charge any fees to be listed or promoted by Optimyz. Selection is made by our editorial team independently.

Bianca Andreescu
Tennis player Bianca Andreescu was ranked No. 178 in the world at the beginning of 2019 and ended the season ranked World No. 5. Besides winning the BNP Paribas Open and the Rogers Cup, she defeated Serena Williams at the US Open Finals, making her the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam singles title. She credits meditation and visualization, as well as hard work in the gym and on the court, as the recipe for her success.

Dr. Jill Andrew
Dr. Jill Andrew, PhD, is an award-winning community advocate, educator, writer, and speaker on issues of body image, body-based discrimination, anti-bullying, race, women and girls’ empowerment, media representation and fashion equity. Andrew is advocating for the end of size and appearance-based discrimination through amendments to the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC). Andrew’s philanthropic work supports feminist, LGBTQ2, eating disorders and racialized communities. She was also recently elected an ONDP MPP, and is the Culture Critic, Official Opposition.

Jann Arden
Jann Arden is a singer, songwriter, broadcaster and author. Her memoir Feeding My Mother, recounts her voyage with her mother in her final years with dementia. Now a vegan who exercises regularly, she is public about her struggles with alcohol and poor health habits. She starred as a fictionalized version of herself in the CTV original series, JANN, and has been awarded the Order of Canada.

Aeryon Ashlie
After struggling with her own issues of hormonal, sleep and weight management, Ashlie established Aeryon Wellness to produce natural, scientifically formulated support supplements. Her autobiography Bulimia to Balance hit number one on Amazon. She hosts a daily wellness segment on a Vancouver radio station and is a regular speaker at wellness shows and consumer events.

Sara Austin

Sara L. Austin
Sara L. Austin is founder and CEO of Children First Canada, a national non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and empowerment of children. An expert in international human rights law, she has led global advocacy campaigns, shaped policy, and launched philanthropic campaigns. She was inducted into the Women’s Executive Network Top 100 Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame and has been named as a Top 25 Women of Influence in Canada.

Leslie Beck
Leslie Beck’s nutrition advice can be found in the pages of her best-selling books and weekly column in The Globe & Mail. She’s also a regular guest on CBC Radio. Beck runs a private practice in nutrition in Toronto and acted as nutritionist to the Canadian International Marathon and the NBA’s Toronto Raptors Basketball Club.

Dr. Brett Belchetz
Dr. Brett Belchetz, is a practicing emergency room physician and the CEO and co-founder of Maple, a medical platform that provides online access to physicians, 24/7/365. With a network of over 400 doctors, Maple provides care for over 400,000 patients, with an average wait time of less than two minutes.

What is the biggest barrier to delivering healthcare to patients in rural areas? How can it be overcome?
Canada has one of the lowest population densities of any nation, so it’s difficult to provide healthcare access evenly to our citizens. By embracing new technologies like virtual care, we can remove location as a barrier and ensure all Canadians have access to the healthcare services they need.
– Dr. Brett Belchetz

Linda and Dale Bolton
Linda and Dale Bolton are the founders of Natural Calm Canada, which specializes in magnesium products. They are founders of the non-profit organization Thrive For Good, which is located in Kenya. Thrive teaches sustainable organic gardening, nutrition, natural medicine, and income generation. Dale has worked in the non-profit arena for over 40 years with a focus on helping to end poverty. The CEO of Natural Calm Canada, Linda has helped to develop the curriculum for Thrive. 

Photo by Danny Abriel

Dr. Amy Bombay
Anishinaabe Dr. Amy Bombay of Dalhousie University explores relationships among historical trauma, stress exposure, and well-being among Indigenous peoples. She and her colleagues have shown how Indian Residential School trauma is transmitted across generations. Their work was cited in a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision that the federal government discriminates against Indigenous children by providing inequitable child welfare services.

Photo by Epic Action Imagery

Melissa Boufounos
An elite obstacle course athlete and Certified Holistic Nutritionist, Melissa Boufounos helps fellow race athletes around the world achieve personal bests. Before hanging up her skates with Post-Concussion Syndrome, Boufounos was a competitive hockey player. She was named the official nutritionist of the 2019 North American Obstacle Course Racing Championships. 

What did you learn about yourself while recovering from post-concussion syndrome?

I learned the value of rest and listening to my body. Before then, I had always been a go, go, go type of person with a “no pain, no gain” mentality. Now I am much more in tune with my body. Sometimes that means scaling back my workouts or workload. I’ve learned to be okay with that.

– Melissa Boufounos

Louise Bradley
As President and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Louise Bradley oversaw development of Canada’s first Mental Health Strategy. She helped to launch the Opening Minds anti-stigma initiative and the globally recognized Knowledge Exchange Centre. The recipient of three honourary degrees, she has been recognized by the Canadian Psychological Association (Humanitarian Award) and the Canadian College of Health Leaders (Innovation Award). She is a member of the Order of Canada.

Lori A. Brotto, Ph.D.
Lori A. Brotto, PhD is the Executive Director of the Women’s Health Research Institute at BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre. Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, with a Joint Appointment in the Department of Psychiatry, she holds a Canada Research Chair in Women’s Sexual Health. She teaches psychological and sexual health interviewing for medical students and supervises residents. She completed her PhD in Clinical Psychology at the University of Washington where she worked with Seattle’s major cancer centres. 

Ashley Callingbull
Ashley Callingbull, from the Enoch Cree Nation in Alberta, is a model, actor, and First Nation’s activist who was Mrs. Universe 2015 and a contestant on The Amazing Race Canada. She is a spokesperson and model for the Nike N7 organization and has worked with the Stollery Children’s Hospital, Walk for the Cure and Run for the Lung.

Paul Rivett-Carnac
Paul Rivett-Carnac is CEO of St. Francis Herb Farm. Born on a biodynamic farm on Vancouver Island, he spent 15 years learning the family business from ground up, including leading the company through the new Health Canada regulations, obtaining organic certifications and leading St Francis to become one of the leading herbal companies in Canada.

Dr. Dominique Charron
Dominique Charron is a feminist and an expert in public health, environment, and sustainable international development. She holds a Ph.D. in epidemiology and is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. She is a VP at the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), which funds research in developing countries. At IDRC, she supervised research on agricultural productivity and food security, and protecting against disease. She has managed research at the Public Health Agency of Canada where she faced crises such as the West Nile virus outbreak.

Dr. Elaine Chin
Dr. Elaine Chin, founder and Medical Director of the Executive Health Centre, established North America’s first physician and naturopathic doctor-integrated health clinic in Toronto, using both digital health technology and precision medicine. The former Chief Wellness Officer at TELUS Communications, Dr. Chin is also the author of Lifelines—Unlocking the Secrets of Your Telomeres for a Longer, Healthier Life. As part of Innovation Health Group Inc., she developed a virtual health care offering, Health-in-a-Box which includes a patient health record.

Dr. Imogen Coe
Dr. Imogen Coe was the founding dean of the Faculty of Science at Ryerson University. A leader in research into cancer chemotherapeutics, Coe is internationally recognized as a Canadian thought leader in the area of equity, diversity and inclusion of the role of women in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Dr. Joan Crane
Dr. Joan Crane is a maternal fetal medicine specialist and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Memorial University Faculty of Medicine. Her research includes preterm birth prediction and prevention, and obesity in pregnancy. Her expertise has helped to set national standards for care in obstetrics. She completed a fellowship in Maternal Fetal Medicine and a masters in Community Health and Epidemiology, and has received many academic and research awards.

Dr. Lisa Crossley
Dr. Lisa Crossley is a healthcare technology executive with a track record of building and leading global tech companies. She was CEO of VitalHub Corp., a healthcare IT company that provides clinicians with secure mobile access to comprehensive patient health information. She serves on the Genome Alberta Board of Directors and on the Mitacs Research Council.

Julie Daniluk
Nutritionist and TV personality Julie Daniluk is the bestselling author of Meals That Heal Inflammation, and Slimming Meals That Heal. Her latest book Hot Detox was on the Canadian Bestseller’s list in 2017. Daniluk has appeared on hundreds of television and radio shows, including The Dr. Oz Show. She is going into her ninth season as a resident expert for The Marilyn Denis Show.

Dr. Lesa Dawson
Dr. Lesa Dawson, MD FRCSC, is an associate professor at Memorial University Faculty of Medicine and a gynecologic oncologist. With expertise in the care of gynecologic malignancies, inherited cancer screening/prevention and clinical epidemiology, she runs an inherited cancer prevention clinic. Her research interests include genomics and public health, and hereditary cancer prevention.

Marilyn Denis
Canadian broadcaster Marilyn Denis hosts The Marilyn Denis Show on CTV and co-hosts CHUM 104.5’s Marilyn Denis with Jamar. Her daytime series gives viewers advice on a wide range of lifestyle topics and health issues. Committed to making a difference and supporting many Canadian charities, Denis was one of the first members of the SickKids Constellation, a premier group of stars who support the efforts of the SickKids Foundation, and is an on-going ambassador for SickKids Get Better Gifts. 

Farah Dhukai
After the death of her grandmother, Farah Dhukai found inspiration by posting her makeup tutorial videos on YouTube. Now, with over six million Instagram followers, over four million followers on Facebook, and over two million YouTube subscribers, Dhukai shares natural beauty tips and makeup tutorials. She also created her own skincare line, Farsáli.

Anne Dimon
Anne Dimon is president of the Wellness Tourism Association, a not-for-profit with a mission to support the sustainable growth of the wellness tourism industry for the global good. She has travelled the world writing about wellness resorts and is founder of traveltowellness.com.

David Patchell-Evans
A Canadian rowing champion, David (Patch) Patchell-Evans is an international speaker and advocate for health and fitness. He created GoodLife Fitness and established Canfitpro, Canada’s largest fitness education organization. Patchell-Evans is the past chairman of the board of the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association and winner of Canada’s Most Admired CEOs award. He received the Canadian Medical Association Medal of Honour for his dedication to Autism Research.

Kyla Fox, M.Sc.
Struggling with an eating disorder, Kyla Fox identified care gaps and fundamental flaws in the treatment and recovery approach. A master’s level clinician with degrees from the University of Toronto in social work program and women’s studies, she is a member of the Academy of Eating Disorders and the National Eating Disorders Association. Fox is a regular media commentator on eating disorders, self-esteem, women’s health, body image, pregnancy and body confidence. 

Karen Furneaux
An author and three-time Olympian, Karen Furneaux is a two-time World Champion. Her business, I Promise Performance Inc., works with organizations and youth to promote confidence and resilience. Her Strong Beauty book and online P.O.W.E.R. program encourage people to be active and develop positive, life-long healthful habits. She is one of the Top 15 most successful athletes of all time in Nova Scotia.

Gail Garland and Sharon Louis
The Stem Cell Network (SCN) has appointed two new directors. As President and CEO of the Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization, Gail Garland brings business acumen and board experience from the healthcare sector. Dr. Sharon Louis leverages her scientific expertise as Vice President, R&D, at STEMCELL Technologies, a Canadian biotechnology company. The Stem Cell Network plays a pivotal role advancing regenerative medicine, which holds immense promise in Canada’s health and innovation sectors.

Taran and Bunny Ghatora
Taran and Bunny Ghatrora are the co-founders of menstrual product firm Blume, aimed at helping young girls entering their menstruation journey. They offer chemical-free period necessities such as tampons, pads, and liners that are biodegradable and hypoallergenic. They hope to instill teens with self-acceptance, confidence, and a deeper sense of understanding of their bodies.

Barbara Grantham
As President and CEO of the VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation, Barbara Grantham champions the power of philanthropy to transform health care. She has brought attention to acute mental health care and palliative ambulatory care. Last year, the Foundation raised close to $100 million for medical equipment and research. She is on the board of the YMCA and Jack.org

Louise Green
Louise Green collaborates with media and brands to expand size-inclusivity in health and fitness and trains women who are outside the cultural norm. She educates fitness leaders and advocates for authentic representation of different body types. Green is the author of Big Fit Girl. She recently released the first all-inclusive fitness app of the same name.

Lisa Greenbaum
Lisa Greenbaum holds E-RYT 500 and is a C-IAYT Yoga Therapist and author. Winner of the 2018 Canadian Presenter of the Year for Canfitpro and a Global Ambassador for the Women in Fitness Association, she is the founder of Sangha Wellness Retreats. She travels the world, empowering her students through the practice of yoga and community.

Dr. Jen Gunter
Obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Jen Gunter is a vulvar and vaginal diseases expert. Soon to be profiled as an ELLE Magazine Woman to Watch, she has been called Twitter’s resident gynecologist, the Internet’s OB/GYN, and a fierce advocate for women’s health. She writes regular columns for The New York Times and has written for academic publications. CBC Gem has launched her series Jensplaining.

Hon. Patty Hajdu, MP
Federal Minister of Health Patty Hajdu is a strong advocate for women’s rights, youth employment, and affordable housing. Before entering politics, Minister Hajdu was the Executive Director of Shelter House Thunder Bay and a co-author of the Thunder Bay Drug Strategy. She previously worked in public health and focused on drug policy, youth development, and homelessness.

Maureen Hagan
Maureen (Mo) Hagan is the Chief Operating Officer at Canfitpro and National Program Director at GoodLife Fitness. Mo, as she is known in the fitness industry, is a licensed physiotherapist and a physical health educator. She is a global fitness ambassador, an award-winning fitness professional, best-selling author and a Reebok sponsored athlete.

Katie Heggtveit
A master’s student at Queen’s University, Katie Heggtveit founded “Bootcamps for Change,” fitness classes for youth in homeless shelters in Canada. An instructor with Canfitpro, she runs workshops at shelters in Toronto, and mobilizes instructors across the country to volunteer in their own communities.

What is the most important policy change the government could make to improve the overall health of Canadians?

Household food security needs to be an explicit focus of poverty reduction strategies. It results in poor physical health, mental health, and productivity, leading to overcrowding of our healthcare systems. Ensuring food security for Canadians should be a priority within the political domain, instead of the charitable domain.
– Katie Heggtveit

Brooke Henderson
At age 20, Brooke Henderson became the first Canadian woman to win a golf major since 1968. At age 18 she was a member of the Rio 2016 Canadian Olympic Team. She won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, becoming the second-youngest women’s major winner ever. She rose to second in the World Golf Rankings, the best ever by a Canadian. In the summer of 2018, Henderson became the first Canadian in 45 years to win the Canadian Women’s Open.

Abby Hoffman
As the ADM the Strategic Policy Branch at Health Canada, Abby Hoffman advises on health care policy. She was the Director General of Sport Canada. As a middle-distance runner, she participated in four Olympic Games and won gold medals at both the Pan Am and Commonwealth Games. She has been at the forefront of the battle for the rights of women in sport and the rights of athletes on athletic decision-making bodies. The first Canadian woman elected to the Executive Committee of the Canadian Olympic Committee, she is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a member of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. In 2019, she was appointed as the member of the executive board of the World Athletics Council. 

Jessica Holmes
Comic Jessica Holmes is on a mission to help her audience laugh their stresses away. A wellness coach and author of the book Depression, the Comedy, she puts a comedic spin on her experiences of dealing with post-partum depression and “regular, garden-variety depression.” She can be seen on the upcoming web series The Communist’s Daughter.

What is a simple, but powerful way to deal with the stress of everyday life?

Ask yourself: What are my values? And look for ways of inserting them into everyday life. It’s much more fulfilling.
– Jessica Holmes

Clara Hughes
Clara Hughes is the only Canadian athlete to win multiple medals in both summer and winter Olympic Games. A six-time Olympian, she has won medals in both speed skating and cycling. She is the national spokesperson for Bell Let’s Talk, a campaign designed to end the stigma of mental illness. Her memoir Open Heart, Open Mind is a bestseller. She is an Officer of the Order of Canada and received the International Olympic Committee’s Sport and Community Trophy.

Matthew James
Matthew James is president and CEO of Purity Life Health Products, a leading distributor of natural health products. James has received the Canadian Health Food Association John Holtmann Leadership Award. He is also an active CrossFit enthusiast.

Dr. David Jenkins
Dr. David Jenkins is credited with developing the glycemic index to explain how dietary carbohydrate impacts blood sugar. He researches the potential of a plant-based diet to prevent and treat chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. His studies on cholesterol-lowering foods have been recognized as an effective dietary alternative to drug therapy (statins). He works with the food industry to develop products with specific health attributes.

Sonia Jhas
Sonia Jhas is an award-winning health and wellness expert and go-to media personality. She recently finished writing her first book I’ll Start Again On Monday And Other Lies I’ve Told Myself, due in the Spring. Jhas is also an ambassador for the Canadian Mental Health Association.

What is the best way for people new to fitness to create habits that will last a lifetime?

Align yourself with your values and carve out realistic goals. Instead of looking at the next six months, ask yourself, “What change can I make today?” One healthy meal. One glass of water. One walk around the block. Commit to doing it all again the next day. And the next.
– Sonia Jhas

Rupi Kaur
Rupi Kaur is a poet, writer and illustrator. Her book of poetry and prose dealing with violence, abuse, love, loss and feminism sold over a million copies and topped The New York Times bestseller list. Her photo essay on menstruation has been called “a piece of visual poetry meant to challenge societal menstrual taboos.”

Dr. Charu Kaushic
Dr. Charu Kaushic holds an Applied Research Chair Award from Ontario HIV Treatment Network. Her research examines interactions between HIV-1 and HSV-2, and the interactions between sex hormones, microbiome and immunity in the female reproductive tract. She advises on women’s reproductive health issues and has collaborated with community research organizations such as Women’s Health in Women’s Hands in Toronto.

Debbie King
Debbie King is a multi-sport athlete in track and field. At age 43, she’s on a mission to medal at the 2020 World Masters Athletics Championships. Under the tagline “Supafitmama,” she connects active women with resources across sport, fitness and wellness. As a Fast & Female Ambassador, she promotes participation of girls in sport; and promotes broader ethno-cultural representation of women’s health and fitness.

What is your favourite way to get motivated to work out?

Lately, I wake up on workout days looking forward to the sweat. I’m motivated to begin with, but my readiness really kicks in when I put on my workout gear. The fit and colours I choose have a lot to do with my mood and how I envision the session.
– Debbie King

Adam Van Koeverden, MP
Olympic kayaker and Liberal MP Adam Van Koeverden is a community leader who has represented Canada at four Summer Olympic Games, winning four medals including a gold. He won the Lou Marsh Award as Canada’s top athlete in 2004. He served as Chair of the Canadian Olympic Athletes’ Commission, and was a member of the Federal Government’s working group for Gender Inclusion and Gender Based Violence in Sport.

Nichelle and Dave Laus
A love of health and fitness led Nichelle Laus to leave her career as a police officer. Along with her husband, fitness photographer Dave Laus, she co-owns Optimum Training Centre in Toronto, which won The Reader’s Choice Awards for Best Bootcamp and Personal Training Facility in Toronto. A skilled writer, she is a fitness trainer and transformation specialist. Together, the couple promotes an ideal of women who are fit, strong and confident.

Angela Liddon
Plant-based blogger and recipe developer Angela Liddon has been bringing healthy and delicious recipes to her readers through Ohsheglows.com for 11 years. The blog features over 600 recipes and receives over a million visitors each month. Liddon is also the award-winning author of two New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling cookbooks: the Oh She Glows Cookbook: Vegan Recipes To Glow From The Inside Out; and Oh She Glows Every Day: Quick and Simply Satisfying Plant-Based Recipes.

Dr. Joanne Liu
Dr. Joanne Liu was elected as the international president of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) in 2013 and served for six years. While heading MSF, she brought international health issues to the attention of the Canadian public. With experience helping displaced refugees left without care in conflict zones, she launched a telemedicine program that allows for medical teams in the field to receive clinical information. Liu was also included in TIME’s Top 100 Most Influential People list in 2015.

Helen Long
Helen Long is President of the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA), the largest trade Association in Canada focused on helping Canadians achieve better health, naturally. She oversees CHFA’s strategic priorities of advocacy, education and experience. She leads the CHFA team to ensure the growth and advancement of the industry. She often appears in the media representing the industry while advocating for natural health and organic products.

Lyzabeth Lopez
Award winning trainer, registered holistic nutritionist, and creator of the popular Hourglass workout gym franchise, Lyzabeth Lopez is one of the top fitness trainers in the industry world-wide. She specializes in shaping women and teaching nutrition through her award- winning on-line training programs. Lopez shares her experience through her social media channels as well as traditional media. She was listed as one of Forbes magazine’s Top 10 Fitness Influencers in the world.

Cynthia Loyst
Cynthia Loyst uses her platform as producer and television personality to advocate for women’s issues. As co-host of CTV’s daytime talk show The Social, she is known for her expertise on love, relationships, parenting, and gender equality. She is founder of Find Your Pleasure, a website dedicated to decadence, sensuality, and indulgence; and author of Find Your Pleasure: The Art of Living a More Joyful Life.

Rosie MacLennan
At age 11, Rosie MacLennan began competing internationally in trampoline. She was the Canadian Women’s Champion three times. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, she made history when she became the first trampolinist to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals. She also became the first Canadian athlete to successfully defend an Olympic title at the summer Games and the first Canadian woman to win two gold medals in an individual event at the summer Games. 

Dr. Gillian Mandich
With a PhD from Western University in Health Science specializing in Health Promotion, Dr. Gillian Mandich researches happiness and health. She is the founder of The International Happiness Institute of Health Science Research and appears as the resident Happiness Expert on The Social and Marilyn Denis. She is also a top-rated keynote and TEDx speaker.

Lanni Marchant
At the University of Tennessee, Canadian Lanni Marchant won titles in steeplechase, 5,000m, 10,000m and cross country. She turned to road racing and set the Canadian record in women’s marathon. A participant in the World Championships, Commonwealth Games and the Pan Am Games, she is a vocal advocate of gender equality in sports and has been a critic of Athletics Canada’s policies toward women and girls.

Dr. Danielle Martin
Dr. Danielle Martin is the Executive VP and Chief Medical Executive of Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, where she is a practicing family physician. She leads the hospital’s strategy to establish Women’s Virtual, Canada’s first virtual hospital, aimed at improving care and reducing costs in ways that can be scaled up across the health care system. She is the author of Better Now: 6 Big Ideas to Improve the Health of all Canadians. In 2019 she became the youngest physician ever to receive the F.N.G Starr Award, the highest honour from members of the Canadian Medical Association.

Dr. Linda Maxwell
ENT surgeon Dr. Linda Maxwell is the founder of the Biomedical Zone a partnership between Ryerson University and St. Michael’s Hospital. Its mission is development of technology-focused, early-stage companies. In 2017 she was the only Black professional to make the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women list.

Joy McCarthy
Joy McCarthy is a certified holistic nutritionist and founder of Joyoushealth.com, an award-winning blog on healthy living. She is the bestselling author of Joyous Health and Joyous Detox. A trusted nutrition expert, McCarthy has been featured in hundreds of publications and is a regular health expert on TV. McCarthy loves social media and shares her passion for food as a way to channel positive energy into the lives of others.

Did you grow up in a family with good health habits? How has that affected you?

Yes, my mom always had dinner prepared every weeknight and my dad did more of the “slow cooking” on weekends. This has shaped my views on togetherness. My mom also made sure we ate “the rainbow.” I don’t think she knew the importance of phytonutrients but she knew there was something to eating a variety of colours!
– Joy McCarthy

Triona Harrop and Eli MAcEachern
Dave “Eli” MacEachern, Olympic Gold Medallist and Olympic Hall of Famer in bobsled, formed Dynamic Fitness Inc. to train hockey players and other elite athletes. His wife Triona Harrop started PEI’s first Pilates centre within Dynamic Fitness. When Dynamic Fitness introduced Charlottetown to the medical grade infrared Hot Yoga Studio it was the second of its kind in North America. 

Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod
For over 30 years, Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod have encouraged Canadians to “get fit and have fun.” As the hosts of BodyBreak, Johnson and McLeod showcase exercise and healthy eating during commercial breaks. They participated in the first season of The Amazing Race Canada and received the Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada for their years of dedication to helping Canadians.

Heather McPherson
Heather McPherson is the President and CEO of Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. With extensive experience in clinical, academic and health system leadership, she is an innovative leader who has been instrumental in establishing clinical programs and services that close the health gaps for patients—not only at Women’s College hospital but throughout the province.

Dr. Freda Miller
Neurologist Dr. Freda Miller of the Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute is a professor at the University of Toronto. An advocate for women in science and public policy, she discovered that stem cells could be used to grow nerve cells with the potential to help people with spinal cord injuries or Parkinson’s disease. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, she is a founder of biotech firm Aegera Therapeutics Inc.

Waneek Horn-Miller
Waneek Horn-Miller is one of the country’s most influential First Nation Olympic athletes. Co-captain of the first Canadian Women’s Olympic water polo team at the Sydney Olympics, she is an advocate for Indigenous health and youth involvement in sport. With the Aboriginal Peoples’ Television Network, she created Working It Out Together, a documentary series. In 2019, she was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Tracy Moore
Tracy Moore is the host of daytime TV show Cityline, where she showcases fitness and nutrition. She has volunteered for causes like breast cancer and heart disease in women, non-violence, and boosting the self-esteem of young girls. She hosts fundraisers and has been honoured by the Black Business and Professional Association as a Woman of Honour.

Karen O’Neill
CEO of the Canadian Paralympic Committee and 2018 Sports Executive of the Year by Sports Media Canada, Karen O’Neill was CEO of Field Hockey Canada, COO of the Rick Hansen Foundation and CEO of the Commonwealth Games Canada. She is a member of the Sports Matters Group and a board member of the True Sport Foundation.

Dr. Jessica O’Reilly
Dr. Jessica O’Reilly is an award-winning authority on sex and relationships. Her podcast Sex with Dr. Jess, webinars, and retreats receive rave reviews. She inspires audiences to create happier, more fulfilling relationships via her practical, entertaining, and educational programs.

“The key to a successful relationship is investment from both parties. Compatibility is something you cultivate. You need to clarify your expectations and consider your partner’s without judgment. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to relationships, so you need to custom-design yours as a team.”
– Dr. Jessica O’Reilly

Robert Pierce
Founder and President of Prairie Naturals, Robert Pierce has led the research and formulation of over 270 natural health products. He has become a champion of men’s health and wellness and is recognized as a walking example of healthy aging. 

Dr. Michelle Ploughman
Dr. Michelle Ploughman is a physiotherapist, neuroscientist and Canada Research Chair at Memorial University of Newfoundland who designs exercise-based treatments to help repair and protect the brain. Her research targets stroke and multiple sclerosis, two common and disabling diseases. She is an internationally recognized expert on exercise and neuroplasticity. Besides research, she works on the front lines to improve the health care that patients receive.

Dr. Amy Porath
Dr. Amy Porath specializes in the health effects of cannabis use among youth, who are at greater risk of experiencing harm than adults because adolescence is a time of rapid brain development. She advocates education in schools, resources for parents and families, and community interventions, as well as mass media. She advises the Government of Canada, parliamentary committees, and the World Health Organization.

Hon. Carla Qualtrough, MP
Carla Qualtrough, the MP for Delta, is minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion. She was previously in charge of the public service. Legally blind, the former Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities won three medals for Canada in the 1988 and 1992 Paralympics. She practiced human rights law at both federal and provincial levels and was named one of Canada’s Most Influential Women in Sport six times.

Aurélie Rivard
Winning two gold, one silver and two bronze at the 2019 Para Swimming World Championships, Aurelie Rivard padded her career total to 14 world medals. She won medals at the 2012 London Paralympics and the 2013 World Championships. In 2014, Swimming Canada named Rivard “Female Para-Swimmer of the Year.” At the 2015 Parapan American Games in Toronto, she became the most decorated female athlete of Parapan Am history. At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, she won five Paralympics medals, and set two World Records and a Paralympic Record.

Dr. Natalie Rosen
Dr. Natalie Rosen of the Departments of Psychology and Neuroscience and Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Dalhousie University researches how couples cope with sexual dysfunction and translates that knowledge into psychological interventions to improve couples’ health and well-being. Her YouTube videos #postbabyhankypanky promote healthy sexual relationships. She has received awards from the Canadian Pain Society and the Canadian Psychological Association and was elected to the College of the Royal Society of Canada.

What are the main benefits of having a healthy sex life?

Maintaining an active and satisfying sex life over time is linked to better physical health (live longer!), mental health (reduce stress! feel happier, less anxious!) and relationship health (greater intimacy and satisfaction!).
– Natalie Rosen

Dr. Sue Ross
Since 2012, Dr. Sue Ross has been at the helm of the Carvazan Chair in Mature Women’s Health Research in Edmonton. With a multidisciplinary team, she leads Canada-wide research in the management of menopausal symptoms, pelvic floor disorders and pelvic organ prolapse. Dr. Ross also works with local menopause clinics to expand upon the factors that contribute to mature women’s wellness.

Andrea Saliba
Andrea Saliba is a Holistic Nutritionist and health coach. Her business focuses on empowering women to lead a healthy, balanced life from the inside out. A public speaker, she has created a group nutrition and wellness coaching program called Recenter Within and develops nutrition plans that are available through her website.

What is one easy way an entire family can improve their daily diet?

The best way is by meal prepping—having a weekly plan of what they will be having each day to make life simpler and quicker. Families will ensure they are eating nutritious home cooked meals while modeling healthy eating habits.
– Andrea Saliba

Tanya Salituro
Tanya Salituro founded CanPrev after three separate journeys with breast cancer. When first diagnosed at age 21, she looked to natural options for aid and prevention. After research into therapeutic herbs and supplements, she founded CanPrev with the expertise of Canadian Naturopathic Doctors. She also created CanPrev Women, a set of natural health products designed to support women’s health.

What is the biggest lesson you learned from surviving cancer?

There are many lessons to be learned after surviving the emotional and physical traumas of cancer. There is a huge humbling effect on your life knowing that metastasis of this disease is out of your control. But then comes the appreciation that every breath and every hour of every day is a gift.
– Tanya Salituro

Dr. Joe Schwarcz
Dr. Joe Schwarcz is Director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society, which has the mission of “separating sense from nonsense.” Professor Schwarcz has received awards for teaching chemistry and interpreting science for the public. He hosts The Dr. Joe Show on Montreal’s CJAD and has appeared often on the Discovery Channel, CTV and Global Television. He also writes a newspaper column and has written 18 books.

Beckie Scott
An anti-doping and fair play advocate, three-time Olympian Beckie Scott is Canada’s most successful cross-country skier. Her pursuit of justice around her 2002 Olympic gold medal was considered a triumph for athletes’ rights and fair play. She served on the IOC Athletes’ Commission and is on the board of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport. She is a former member of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Executive Board and in 2018 she became an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Heather Shantora
Heather Shantora is the CEO of PT Health, a national physiotherapy company, and InnoCare, a health technology company with a proprietary suite of software and services. She participated in Women’s Forum Canada 2018, a discussion among global CEO’s focussed on gender equality in the workplace. She also received a Top 40 Under 40 Business Achievement Award from the Business Link Media Group.

Dr. Marla Shapiro
A breast cancer survivor, Dr. Marla Shapiro is a public advisor on personal health, appearing as the medical consultant for CTV and The Globe and Mail. She is associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto and founding editor of ParentsCanada magazine. The author of Life in the Balance: My Journey with Breast Cancer, she was named a Member of the Order of Canada in 2015.

Abbey Sharp
Registered dietitian Abbey Sharp is the creator of the popular food blog and YouTube channel Abbey’s Kitchen. She appears regularly on TV and is the author of the award winning The Mindful Glow Cookbook. She believes that a pleasurable relationship with food, your body, and yourself is the fundamental secret to good health.

Dr. Peter Singer
Dr. Peter Singer is Chief Medical Officer of Grand Challenges Canada, which works to remove barriers to health in the developing world. He is professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, director at the Sandra Rotman Centre at University Health Network and foreign secretary of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Co-Chair of the UN’s Every Woman Every Child Innovation Working Group, he is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Medicine and The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World.

Kasia Sitarz
Kasia Sitarz is a health and wellness coach and owner of two businesses: The Clinic Health and Wellness and True Mentality Inc. Sitarz has over 15 years of experience in fitness and has developed a program, through the physical and mental struggles of being a top level fitness competitor, to create balance in mindset, exercise and nutrition for her clients. Sitarz is also a speaker, published author, and a sports/boot camp coach. 

Tricia Smith
Lawyer Tricia Smith is president of the Canadian Olympic Committee and a member of the International Olympic Committee. She is a four-time Olympian in rowing, with a silver medal at the Los Angeles Olympic Games and seven world championship medals. She is vice president of the International Rowing Federation where she has played a strong role in anti-doping policies. A member of the Board of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport, she is a member of the Order of Canada and the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame. The Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Society recognizes her as one of the Most Influential Women in Sport.

Dr. Sapna Sriram
Dr. Sapna Sriram is a chiropractic physician with a focus on sports medicine and performance optimization, and the co-founder and CEO of Integra Health Centre, Toronto’s largest collaborative full-service medical and health facility. As a sports chiropractor and Medical and Traditional Acupuncturist, Sriram has worked with athletes from the NBA, NHL, Olympics, and celebrities. As an injury expert, she is often featured in the media.

Dr. Sherry Stewart
Dr. Sherry Stewart of Dalhousie University Medical School has made significant contributions to the understanding of anxiety and addictions. She has helped to identify the basic personality, motivational, and situational factors underlying excessive anxiety and addictive behaviors. She has studied adults and adolescents in mainstream and Aboriginal communities.

Sherry Torkos
Sherry Torkos practices pharmacy with an integrative philosophy—educating patients on the role of nutrition, lifestyle and supplements for better health. As a leading health expert, Torkos is frequently interviewed by the media. She has written several books including The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Saving Women’s Hearts, and The Glycemic Index Made Simple.

Lauren Toyota
Lauren Toyota is the creator of Hot for Food, one of North America’s most watched vegan channels on YouTube. She is also the author of best-selling cookbook Vegan Comfort Classics: 101 Recipes to Feed Your Face. A former MuchMusic VJ and MTV Canada host, Toyota’s channel and blog attract a wide and engaged audience of young people curious about how to make vegan food fast and fun. 

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau uses her position as the Prime Minister’s wife to highlight issues of women’s empowerment, eating disorders, mental health, and self-esteem. She is the national ambassador for Plan Canada’s “Because I am a Girl” initiative. She is also a certified yoga instructor. She was honoured as the 100th member of Nature Canada’s Women for Nature initiative for her support for nature and the outdoors. 

Karine Vanasse
Karine Vanasse is a Canadian actress recognized internationally for her French and English performances. She received a 2019 Canadian Screen Award as Best Lead Actress for her role in the award-winning CTV series, Cardinal. As Valerie in Polytechnique, Vanasse earned the Genie for Best Female Performance. She is a bilingual role model for Canadian women, focussing on a healthy diet, ballet, breathwork and, as a mother, work-life balance in a demanding career.

Lorna R. Vanderhaeghe
With degrees in biochemistry and nutrition, Lorna R. Vanderhaeghe she is the author of 13 books including A Smart Woman’s Guide to Hormones and Beautiful Skin Begins Within. She was named one of Profit Magazine’s Top 100 female entrepreneurs, and awarded the CHFA’s Hall of Fame Award for her work educating Canadians. She developed her own line of smart nutrients for women which was acquired by Jamieson Laboratories Inc.

Tessa Virtue
Canada’s ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won two gold medals in both the ice dance and team events at the 2018 winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. They are the first figure skaters to own five career Olympic medals. They are the 2010 Olympic champions, the 2014 Olympic silver medallists, three-time World champions and holder of other international medals and world records. In 2018, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were inductees to Canada’s Walk of Fame.

Doris Ward
Doris Ward is a wellness educator and an award-winning personal trainer. On PEI, she has developed body acceptance workshops and races in fundraisers for non-profits. She created the Karma class program as a fundraiser for the PEI Humane Society. She leads workshops for people with chronic pain and those who are recovering from trauma.

How can a commitment to fitness improve your self-confidence?

This has a positive ripple effect. Our confidence improves when we choose to take care of our body, appreciate it for what it can do, and understand that its value is not based on appearance. Then you feel good about yourself inside and outside.
– Doris Ward

Marci Warhaft
After struggling with her own body image, Marci Warhaft developed a workshop to challenge fitness and beauty myths. She teaches parents, teachers and coaches how to spot potential signs of body image and eating disorders. A fitness instructor, she is the author of The Body Image Survival Guide for Parents.

Jason Watkin
Cofounder and CEO Jason Watkin is chief formulator of Purica, whose supplements are intended to reduce stress, aid sleep and improve athletic and mental performance. The flagship Recovery formulation has been used by ballet dancers and athletes, arthritis sufferers and diabetics — and by race horses and pets. Watkin blends western science with Eastern medicine and Indo-Tibetan philosophy.

Jana Webb
Jana Webb discovered yoga as a method to recover from an injury. Traditional yoga did not adhere to her athletic body, so she created Joga, a hybrid of yoga with the biomechanics of sport movement. Her clients include many major league professional sports teams. Joga is available on FITPLAN APP.

What can the average person learn from the mindset of competitive athletes?

Nothing worth getting comes easy. If you want anything in life, you have to commit, work hard, and be diligent. It’s all-in, all the time!
– Jana Webb

Hayley Wickenheiser
A speaker on women’s empowerment, five-time ice hockey Olympic medallist Hayley Wickenheiser was elected to the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes Commission. In 2019, Hayley Wickenheiser was inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame. She is a member of the Order of Canada and involved with charities including Right to Play, JumpStart and Ovarian Cancer Canada. She founded the Canadian Tire Wickenheiser World Female Hockey Festival, which focuses on education as well as hockey. 

Bryce Wylde
Bryce Wylde, a natural healthcare practitioner with a focus in functional medicine, is a clinic director and television host. As a charity runner and hiker, he helped raise over $1 million for organizations like Sick Kids Hospital. His books include The Antioxidant Prescription and Wylde On Health. As associate medical director at P3 Health in Toronto and director of My Health Report, he blends science with traditional and ancient remedies. He is a partner in YouNutrients, which provides clients with genomic information and custom supplementation. 

James Yurichuk
Former CFL player James Yurichuk is CEO and founder of Wuxly Movement, which produces animal-friendly parkas designed by master tailor Anthony Debartolo. Aided by Yurichuk’s wife Daniella, the outerwear brand created the Live Warm Trade Up program that accepts goose-down filled or fur trimmed items and donates these items to homeless shelters.

Catherine Zahn
President and CEO of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, neurologist Dr. Catherine Zahn integrates psychiatry and neuroscience to bring mental illness and equitable care into the medical mainstream. A member of the Order of Canada, she received the Bryden Award for Outstanding Achievement and the University of Toronto Faculty of Health Policy Management and Evaluation Prize for Innovation. 

Dr. Jennifer Zelmer
Dr. Jennifer Zelmer joined the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement as President and CEO in 2018. She brings expertise in spreading and scaling innovations that deliver better health, care. She is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Victoria, and a member of health-related advisory committees and boards. As President of Azimuth Health Group, she was a strategic advisor to leaders who sought to advance health and healthcare at local, national, and international levels.

Silvia Ruegger
On August 23, 2019, Silvia Ruegger died of cancer at age 58. A former elite runner, she was National Director of Running & Reading Clubs for 15 years. At age 23, she finished eighth in the 1984 Olympic marathon. She won the Houston Marathon, setting a Canadian record. Directing a children’s program in a poor neighbourhood, she witnessed loss of hope in the lives of those she served. Joining former CFL all-star Brian Warren, who founded Start2Finish to distribute school supplies to children in financial need, she co-founded the nationwide Running & Reading Clubs, which combine fitness, literacy and mentorship.

Research notes

The 2020 OptiMYz Top 100 Health Influencers list was compiled from many sources and reveals the amazing diversity of influences on health and wellness. Sources include interviews with industry experts, nominations from readers, surveys of top Canadians produced by industry associations and the media, and our own personal contacts, experience and insights.

The goal of the research was to explore the many categories that help to improve the health and wellness of Canadians; and to find a selection of individuals whose values and initiatives support a healthier Canada. Final decisions on the candidates were made by the editors of OptiMYz.

– The editors

Visit the 2019 Top 100 Health Influencers here.

Visit the 2018 Top 100 Health Influencers here.

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