In these wild times, our collective health is the last thing we can take for granted. These women are helping all Canadians live longer, healthier, and more rewarding lives.
We are all on our own health journey. Some factors we can’t control: our genetics, the environment of our childhood years, and luck—both good and bad. Still, there’s a lot we can control. It’s what we do day in and day out that determines much of our future health.
At OptiMYz we break overall health down into five broad categories: health, mental well-being, life/adventure, fitness/sport, and nutrition. These are our brand pillars.
This is important because health is the cornerstone of the good life. It provides the stamina and energy to get the most out of life in good times and bad. To support our families and friends. To build a better world that we can all share.
In all these areas we are influenced by role models. Some are the people in our lives. Some have become cultural icons. The people on our TOP 100 Health Leaders influence those far beyond their immediate neighbourhoods. Each one represents a quality, or several qualities, that we admire. We look to them for inspiration and guidance.
For the moment, our lives have been upended by a virus. You know the one. So this year we include our Frontline Heroes: people, mostly out of the public eye, whose compassion and skill help those afflicted to recover and to thrive – and sometimes, to die with dignity.
Life takes faith. We all have to believe in something. The TOP 100 help us to believe in ourselves – and in our ability to make a better world.
One more thing: this year we took one more step. Only women are on the lists this year.
OptiMYz TOP 100 Health Leaders, we salute you!
Dr. Lisa Barrett
Newfoundland native Dr. Lisa Barrett has been an integral part of Atlantic Canada’s response to the pandemic. Dr. Barrett has been praised by journalists and viewers alike for her ability to break down complicated topics into easy-to-digest answers. She was also a huge proponent of normalizing pop up testing, something that has become commonplace in Nova Scotia. She was committed to destigmatizing the testing process, and making it a part of the new normal, something that she calls “de-medicalizing”. She has become trusted and beloved on the East Coast.
Kassandra Bazinet, a.k.a Kassie Taylor, is taking the magic of Disney to the people who need it most. At the beginning of the pandemic, Taylor was doing up to 10 free, socially-distanced concerts a day in Sudbury. She plays Elsa (but also Anna) from Frozen, performing everyone’s favourite songs. Taylor focused on long term care homes, but also families with young children, who couldn’t be at school or with their friends during this time. She was in such high demand, that she had to expand to Facebook live as well, where kids could do crafts and sing with their favourite characters.
Caremongering Facebook Groups
The pandemic has inspired a lot of people to lean in to how they can help their communities. Caremongering groups popping up for communities across the country is the perfect example of that. These Facebook groups, of which there are over 35, help Canadians with anything they could need while in lockdown. It’s a place where members can ask for anything from furniture donations, grocery delivery, to help with technology. Caremongering groups have been crowdsourcing the good will of others to brighten the days of people in need.
Jessica Dearborn and the Good Newsletter
Jessica Dearborn, like a lot of us, has been spending a lot of time reading the news over the last year. She realized how terrible it was making her feel and came up with a solution. Her newsletter, Good Newsletter, was born. Her tagline is “a weekly dose of something good.” It is a place where she shares all the good news, positive stories, and gives love to her favourite businesses. Dearborn works at the University of Manitoba and hopes to spread a little positivity during these times.
Courtlyn Fazakas is a Regina fitness instructor who has used her social media platform to get people moving and stay connected during the pandemic. She started her socially distanced running club in the Spring to create a community around staying active, something that she lost when fitness studios shut down. She encourages participants to run 30 minutes per day for 14 days, to see what a difference a little movement can have on your mental and physical health.
Monique Gauthier has been busy during the pandemic. She’s been knitting hats for newborn babies. Gauthier, who is intellectually challenged, used to work for Special Olympics P.E.I., but became bored when she couldn’t work anymore. She started making hats as a way to deal with this but has now been able to donate over a hundred hats to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown. She has now taken on another project, making hats for cancer patients who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy.
Kaylah Gormley knows that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the homeless population hard. She’s trying to raise awareness, while making someone’s winter a little warmer. With a little research, Gormley was able to get Atlantic Canada’s first Sheltersuit, a sleeping bag/winter coat combo. Gormley is giving hers to a local shelter so they can distribute it to someone in need. Gormley acknowledges that the Sheltersuit is not a solution, but she wants to make someone’s winter a little warmer.
Through the pandemic, big box retailers have been able to stay open, while smaller local businesses have had to close, without an e-commerce platform to back them up. Ali Haberstroh set out to change that. She started Not-Amazon as an Instagram post, and tagged her favourite Toronto small businesses. Her website now has more than 500,000 clicks, and has expanded to over 4,000 businesses all over the country.
“The site is a directory you can use to find your favourite shops and also meander around and explore new gems, much like wandering through a new neighbourhood.”
– Ali Haberstroh
Karen Ho is a Canadian journalist who coined the term “doomscrolling”. Doomscrolling is scrolling through bad news on Twitter and consuming it without realizing how its making you feel. This is something that Ho found herself doing often at the beginning of the pandemic, and started tweeting out nightly reminders. “Hi, are you doomscrolling?” she would write. The simplicity of her messages has reached far and wide, inspiring people all over the country to take some time off their phones and engage in activities that will help their mental health.
Charmaine Holland and Aliza Prodaniuk
Charmaine Holland and her former classmate from McMaster University Aliza Prodaniuk are brightening the days of those in long term care homes with an age old tradition: pen pals. They started a pen pal service during the pandemic, and it has reached far and wide, serving over 30 care homes. Long term care homes have been hit the hardest by this pandemic, but it is initiatives like this that remind seniors that there are people out there thinking of them. Holland and Prodaniuk are hoping to get non-profit status and expand their initiative even bigger in 2021.
Hygiene for the Homeless
Hygiene for the Homeless was started by a group of university students in Vancouver back in 2016. Since then they’ve opened a branch in London, and in Toronto. When the pandemic hit, the team at Hygiene for the Homeless recognized the need to expand their hygiene products in their boxes to include reusable face masks, hand sanitizer, and other COVID-19 protection items. Homeless populations are more likely to contract severe cases of COVID-19, and Hygiene for the Homeless has stepped up to try and save people on the street. In December, they donated 300 kits to Toronto’s homeless population.
Courtney Jewell has been a nurse in Alberta for 13 years. She has been braving the front lines of this pandemic, working in 2020’s battleground: the intensive care unit. When she started to see discourse on social media downplaying the pandemic, she wrote a now-viral Facebook post that has been shared nation-wide. With around 6.5 thousand shares on Facebook, Jewell has hit home with healthcare workers and frontline workers alike. She humanizes and represents the people fighting this virus.
“Despite all the crap you are spreading on-line, when you come into [the emergency room], with your eyes bulging out of your head because you can’t breathe…we’ll take care of you. Even at great risk to our own health, we will do everything we can to help you oxygenate better as COVID starts to ravage your lungs.”
– Courtney Jewell
When the pandemic hit, Maddie Lymburner, 25, had over five million subscribers on her Youtube page, MadFit. In the first month of the pandemic, the Ontario native gained another million subscribers. She has workouts of all types and all lengths, from 5 to 45 minutes, from barre, to HIIT, to “apartment friendly” cardio workouts. Known for workout videos set to the beat of catchy pop songs, Lymburner has been helping millions all over the world stay active from their living rooms.
Dr. Heather Morrison
Dr. Heather Morrison personally calls every patient who contracts COVID-19 in Prince Edward Island, something that she says she feels lucky to be able to do. The chief public health officer for the province has become a trusted source to PEI residents, partly because of her clear dedication to keeping them safe. Dr. Morrison also tries to keep a smile on people’s faces, dressing up in a Santa Claus outfit around the holidays to keep people’s spirits up during a difficult year.
Sarah Robichaud is a former professional dancer and the founder of Dancing with Parkinson’s Canada. Since 2008, Robichaud has been offering dance classes to people with Parkinson’s disease. When the pandemic hit, Robichaud pivoted to a Zoom format. Dancing with Parkinson’s now offers free classes, 7 days a week for seniors. This is to keep them active and feeling connected to each other at a time that has been hard on the older generation.
Dr. Joannie Rochette
Dr. Joannie Rochette is best known for her figure skating career, winning a bronze medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics just days after the death of her mother. But the Quebec native has been busy since her retirement from skating in 2013: she’s been in medical school. Dr. Rochette graduated in April of 2020 and was determined to lend a helping hand in the pandemic where it’s needed most. She now works on the front lines of the pandemic in Montreal’s long-term care homes as a resident doctor.
Laurie Dillon Schalk
Laurie Dillon Schalk is the Co-Founder of Conquer COVID-19, a grassroots organization that is focused on securing personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers. Dillon Schalk identified the problem Canada was facing, as workers struggled to get clean PPE for every shift. She used connections and resourcefulness to find creative ways of helping those working on the front lines. For example, she called out on social media for baby monitors, as an alternative solution for healthcare workers to communicate with their COVID-19 patients. With the help of some star power from Canadian hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser and actor Ryan Reynolds, Conquer COVID-19 collected and distributed 730,000 PPE items, and raised over $2 million for PPE procurement.
Clarice Shen, 25, was the primary nurse for Canada’s first COVID-19 patient. Only working her job at Sunnybrook’s Acute Care Nursing Resource Team for three months before the pandemic began, she volunteered to do it. In a story published by Sunnybrooke, Shen describes how she was acting out of empathy for the patient. She was worried about how lonely and scared he was feeling, and felt that she could be a familiar face, as she had cared for him the day he was admitted. She continued to work with this patient until he was discharged. Shen exhibits the kind of courage, compassion, and selflessness that healthcare workers have been demonstrating throughout the pandemic.
Dr. Theresa Tam
Dr. Theresa Tam has been the voice of the federal government over the pandemic. Born in British Hong Kong, Dr. Tam became a pediatric infectious disease specialist, and was appointed chief public health officer of Canada. Asking Canadians to put their lives on hold to stop the spread of COVID-19 is no easy task, but Dr. Tam did so with confidence. Her ability to answer hard questions and explain complex issues to Canadians has been commended. Many believe that due to her leadership, a disastrous first wave was avoided. Dr. Tam’s work is not done, as the Public Health Agency of Canada continues to work with vaccine rollout into 2021.
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.
Dr. Lori A. Brotto
Dr. 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. Dr. Brotto 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 centers.
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. Jen Gunter
Obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Jen Gunter is a vulvar and vaginal diseases expert. 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. Dr. Gunter writes regular columns for The New York Times and has written for academic publications. CBC Gem has launched her series Jensplaining. She recently called out Vagisil for “predatory” products aimed at teens.
After going through her own transformation of overcoming bulimia, damaged hormones and body image disconnect, Jackson used holistic nutrition and health coaching to not only lose 50 pounds, but to get her body and mind in balance. Jackson is the co- founder of FIT CHICKS, previously Canada’s Largest Women’s only fitness bootcamp company and Lead Educator at FIT CHICKS® Academy for their online programs in fitness, nutrition, wellness and business. Over the last 12 years, she has trained and coached over 10,000 women around the globe.
Dr. Joanne Liu
Dr. Joanne Liu, a Canadian paediatrician and former International President of Médecins Sans Frontières, has been appointed to the board of The New Humanitarian, which provides independent journalism at the service of the millions of people affected by humanitarian crises around the world. It reports from the heart of conflicts and disasters to inform prevention and response. While heading MSF, Dr. Liu 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. Dr. Liu was also included in TIME’s Top 100 Most Influential People list in 2015.
Dr. Charu Kaushic
A professor at McMaster University, 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. Dr. Kaushic 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.
Dr. Gillian Mandich
Dr. Gillian Mandich, PhD, uses the latest science to help people live happy, healthy lives. She has a PhD from Western University in Health Science, specializing in Health Promotion. Her primary areas of research are happiness and health and she is the founder of the International Happiness Institute of Health Science Research. Dr. Mandich appears regularly as the “resident Happiness Expert” on The Social and Breakfast Television and is a top rated keynote speaker at TEDX events.
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. Dr. Martin 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.
Dr. Freda Miller
Neurologist Dr. Freda Miller joins the University of British Columbia from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, where she was a Senior Scientist and Professor at the University of Toronto. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and at the Hospital for Sick Children she was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Research Scholar and the Canada Research Chair in Developmental Neurobiology. Most recently, Dr. Miller’s accomplishments were recognized by the naming of the “Dr. Freda Miller” public school by the Calgary Board of Education.
Rachel Ollivier is a PhD Candidate and Vanier Scholar at the Dalhousie University School of Nursing. She is also a practicing Registered Nurse at the IWK Health Centre. In her first four years of practice, Ollivier had nursed in three countries and three provinces. She has helped to develop practice policies in Zambia, facilitated simulation learning for nurses and midwives in Tanzania and participated in resident teaching simulation at South Health Campus in Calgary. She has also promoted the health of populations through cardiovascular research (Zambia) and maternal health research (Tanzania and Canada). Ollivier has also been recognized for her nursing work in receiving several awards, including the 2020 Dr. Ronald Stewart Award for Global Health Leadership. In November 2020, she was named an Emerging Leader on the Canadian Women in Global Health List.
Dr. Cynthia Morton
Dr. Cynthia Morton is CEO of The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. The organization is working with partners across Canada to innovate cancer care, with a focus on improving access to world class cancer screening services for underserviced populations in the wake of a pandemic that’s changed the face of health care. In 2020, The Partnership invested $24.5 million and supported 20 partners to bring innovations to cancer services across Canada including actions that will address the urgent needs of people affected by cancer during the pandemic.
Dr. Michelle Ploughman
Dr. Michelle Ploughman is a physiotherapist, neuroscientist and Canada Research Chair at Memorial University of Newfoundland. She 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, Dr. Ploughman works on the front lines to improve the health care that patients receive.
Dr. Sheila Singh
Dr. Sheila Singh is an Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery and Biochemistry at McMaster. She is Director of the Surgeon-Scientist Program, Director of the Pediatric Brain Tumour Study Group and a Scientist appointed to the Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute (SCCRI). As a scientist and a pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Singh is especially aware of the needs of patients and clinicians dealing with brain diseases. Thus, her current research is dedicated to applying a developmental neurobiology approach to the study of brain cancer.
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 healthcare to patients. Dr. Zelmer 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.
Elsabeth "Ellie" Black
Ellie Black is a two-time Olympian, representing Canada in artistic gymnastics. She is the 2017 World all-around silver medalist, making her the first Canadian gymnast to win a world all-around medal. In 2018 she was named one of the greatest 15 athletes in Nova Scotian history. Also in 2018, Black was awarded the Order of Nova Scotia for her contribution as an ambassador for both gymnastics and the province. She is currently training to compete in Toyko 2021.
Jeenie Brasseur is a fitness expert and owner of KeepFit Women, an organization that creates fun and motivating fitness programs that promote sustainable fitness, simple nutrition and improving mindset. KeepFit Women empower women to create their own, personalized version of health and wellness through fitness, nutrition, self-care and whole body health knowledge. They help women of all levels progress towards their personal fitness and life goals in a supportive, welcoming environment.
“Jeenie Brasseur is the most caring and passionate person, and she is constantly thinking about how she can help women feel good in their skin and improve their education about health and fitness in their WHOLE lives, not just how their bodies look.”
– Courtney St Croix
Oonagh Duncan is a multi award winning Fitness Expert, author and speaker on feeling amazing. She is the founder of the Feel Good Movement which recognizes that fitness is not about a number on the scale but about feeling good. Duncan’s outdoor Bootcamp company was recognized by NOW Magazine Readers as one of the best “gyms” in Toronto, but her primary focus right now is her five-star reviewed online fitness program.
As an Olympian, Phylicia George has represented Canada all over the world. The Scarborough-born athlete first started running hurdles when she was 15 years old, and first represented Canadians on an international stage at the 2012 Olympics in London. It was there that she finished sixth in the hurdles event and achieved a personal best time. Although she had to battle through injuries, George continued to compete, appearing at both the Pan Am Games in Toronto and the 2016 Rio Olympics. But an Olympic medal eluded her—until PyeongChang. In 2018, George became the first Black Canadian woman to compete in both the summer and winter games when she teamed up with champion bobsledder Kaillie Humphries.
Maureen "Mo" 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.
Brooke Henderson is a Canadian professional golfer on the LPGA Tour. She was named the Canadian Press female athlete of the year for 2015, 2017 and 2018. She won her first major at age 18 in 2016 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, becoming the event’s youngest winner. With nine LPGA wins as of June 2019, Henderson has the most victories of any professional golfer on major tours in Canadian history. In November 2019, she was named the winner of the 2019 Founders Award by a vote of fellow golfers on the LPGA Tour as someone “whose behaviour and deeds best exemplify the spirit, ideals and values of the LPGA.”
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, Marchant is a vocal advocate of gender equality in sports and has been a critic of Athletics Canada’s policies toward women and girls.
A love of health and fitness led Nichelle Laus to leave her 15 year career as a police officer. She is a mom of 4, a fitness expert, an on-air TV Fitness Personality, and a 7 time fitness cover model. She has also changed thousands of women’s lives as a transformation specialist with her online training programs—nichellelaus.com.
Shakera Martin is a Canadian Movement Coach, Speaker and Wellness Entrepreneur. Since earning a Bachelor of Applied Science degree at Ryerson University, Martin aimed to promote the relationship between health, wellness and dance. With her major being Occupational Health and Safety, she identified a need for more joy in the lives of others, as stress increases the risk of injuries and accidents in the workplace. She therein created Simply Shakera Inc., a lifestyle brand focusing on the empowerment of women through dance, fitness and culture. Martin offers workshops, online resources, event entertainment, flash mobs and youth mentorship programs.
“Shakera Martin shows us how to utilize dance to shift our emotional and spiritual well beings. I also enjoy how intentional she is about creating a safe environment for us to let us loose and make time for ourselves.”
– Angela Daley
Founder of FitnessJunky.com, Medford has 28 years of experience in the fitness industry. Her enthusiasm, energy and passion for movement through music have inspired her clients towards wellness. Medford now shares that passion with seasoned and aspiring fitness professionals through teacher training and education as Director of Training and Development for SoulBody Fitness in Canada, a PRO TRAINER with Canadian Fitness Professionals (canfitpro) and through her Virtual Class Studio!
“Stephanie Medford is an amazing fitness instructor! She inspires many people to keep moving during this pandemic. I signed up with her classes when my gym closed and she’s been so fun. She definitely brightens my day when I’m doing her classes.”
– Andrea Adams
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. Moore has been honoured by the Black Business and Professional Association as a Woman of Honour.
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.
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. Qualtrough practiced human rights law at both federal and provincial levels and was named one of Canada’s Most Influential Women in Sport six times.
Lynx Fitness Master Trainer Carmel Rodriguez is the founder and creator of the YG12 series. Her knack for perfecting acrobat-level handstands and inversions earned her a spot as one of Instagram’s Top 10 New Female Fitness Gurus (New York Observer). Rodriguez believes that every outrageous move is achievable with sheer will and consistency.
“Carmel Rodriguez is an amazing person with a tremendous heart who genuinely loves to help others in their health and wellness journey.”
– Kayla Lauren
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.
Helen Vanderburg is owner of The ACADEMY fitness, yoga, spin studio and Fusion Fitness Training. With over 35 years of experience in teaching, training, club management, program development and motivational speaking she brings a wealth of experience to her presentations worldwide. A World Champion synchronized swimmer and honored member of the Sports Hall of Fame, Vanderburg is the Commercial Fitness Education Manager for Balanced Body and International master trainer and educational program developer for BOSU, Hedstrom Fitness, Schwinn Cycling and Fusion Fitness.
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. Ward leads workshops for people with chronic pain and those who are recovering from trauma.
Doris Ward is a kind, fitness loving mastermind in all things mind-body fitness! I admire her passion for helping others in their wellness journey and she ignited a similar goal for me that I didn’t even realize was there. She’s motivating, fun, and determined to have you succeed!
– Melissa Larter
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.
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.
“Linda Bolton is truly one of the strongest, most caring and inspiring individuals I know. Her heart is massive and is literally changing the world by helping the most vulnerable.
I am so thankful that I have had the opportunity to learn from Linda and develop a beautiful friendship.”
– Kerri Roberts
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.
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.
Nancy Di Nino
As a Certified Clinical Weight Loss Practitioner who has spent over three decades working as a CPF certified personal trainer, Di Nino has coached thousands of people to optimal health and fitness with personal training and tailored nutrition. A lifelong athlete, national level figure athlete, fitness model and former world-class salsa dancer, she understands how paramount it is to feel great in your skin. She tailors her diet and exercise plans to meet the unique biological needs of her clients.
“I believe so strongly in Nancy Di Nino as I have seen first hand as a client what she has done for me, that no one has been able to do before. And that is because she cares, she is invested and she has the expertise to know how to work with everyone and their own individual needs and strengths.”
– Heidi Flynn
Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Author, and Award-Winning Influencer, Andrea Donsky is passionate about helping people make healthier choices. She is the Co-Founder of naturallysavvy.com and has more than 20 years in the health and wellness space. She is also the Co-Founder of Morphus, Inc., a company dedicated to providing science-backed education and solutions for women in perimenopause and menopause.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“I strongly believe Andrea Saliba not
only changed my life but maybe even saved my life. Andrea Saliba pushes you beyond your limits, stresses the importance of celebrating small victories and is always available to help.”
– Gita Deol
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.
Kate Sinclair is working at the World Food Programme, Sri Lanka while simultaneously finishing her PhD in Human Nutrition at McGill. In December, she and her World Food Programme colleagues were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Sinclair’s work at WFP Sri Lanka started modestly enough when, in August 2018, she began a six-month internship. Two years later, as WFP Sri Lanka’s International Nutrition Consultant, she supports the development, implementation and evaluation of a wide range of nutrition-related programs. This includes school feeding, rice fortification, knowledge management and resiliency building, among others.
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.
“Lauren Toyota is more than just hot for food. She’s also a Globe and Mail bestselling cookbook author and the go-to source for easy, completely satisfying vegan food. If you’re looking for a place to start with the transition to plant-based eating, I can’t think of a better place to start!”
– Bryce Taylor-Vaisey, owner, am bagel
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.
As President and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Louise Bradley oversaw the 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, Bradley 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.
When struggling with an eating disorder, Kyla Fox identified care gaps and fundamental flaws in treatment and recovery approach in Canada. 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.
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. Furneaux is one of the Top 15 most successful athletes of all time in Nova Scotia.
Dr. Liisa Galea
Dr. Liisa Galea is a Professor in the Department of Psychology and a member of the Centre for Brain Health at the University of British Columbia (UBC). She is also Director of the Graduate Program in Neuroscience, Lead of the Women’s Health Research Cluster and a Scientific Advisor for the Women’s Health Research Institute. Dr. Galea developed the first animal models of postpartum depression and was among the first researchers worldwide to study the impact of motherhood on the brain in later life. Her research shows that motherhood permanently alters the brain.
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.
“Lisa Greenbaum is a beacon of light in the yoga community. She is a person who people turn to for advice, help, guidance and to be around her is wonderful.”
– Lindsey McFarlane Costard
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.” Holmes can be seen on the web series The Communist’s Daughter.
Sonia Jhas is an award-winning health and wellness expert and go-to media personality. She is the author of I’ll Start Again On Monday And Other Lies I’ve Told Myself. Jhas is also an ambassador for the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Four-time Olympian Silken Laumann is one of Canada’s most inspirational leaders, a best-selling author, a child advocate and a mental health advocate. Laumann’s Olympic story is legendary and inspirational. As reigning world champion, she fought back from a devastating rowing accident to win a bronze medal in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Her best-selling memoir, Unsinkable, shines a spotlight on all the obstacles she has encountered and overcome. Laumann is the founder of Unsinkable, a multimedia non-profit organization that uses story-telling and lived experience to move people further along their mental, physical and spiritual journey.
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 inspires audiences to create happier, more fulfilling relationships. She and Marla Renee Stewart are the authors of The Ultimate Guide to Seduction & Foreplay (Simon & Schuster 2020).
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. She then 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. Dr. Rosen was also elected to the College of the Royal Society of Canada.
Ruby Smith-Diaz is founder of Tierra Negra Arts, an arts based facilitation business with a mission to deliver workshops that foster inclusion and social justice in communities. She is also the owner of Autonomy Fitness, a body positive personal training business inviting people of all sizes, abilities, genders and sexual orientations to learn the joy of movement. Smith-Diaz is a certified personal trainer and hopes to utilize her own journey through battling body shame and chronic pain to support others in becoming the fullest and most powerful selves. In 2020 she was the keynote speaker at the Anti-Oppression Educators Collective.
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, Warhaft is the author of The Body Image Survival Guide for Parents. She also published The Good Stripper (Sutherland House 2020), a memoir about coming to terms with dysfunction.
Dr. 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, Dr. Zahn received the Bryden Award for Outstanding Achievement and the University of Toronto Faculty of Health Policy Management and Evaluation Prize for Innovation.
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. Dr. Andrew is advocating for the end of size and appearance-based discrimination through amendments to the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC). Dr. 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.
Sarah 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, Austin 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.
Dr. Rumeen Billan
Dr. Rumeet Billan is an award-winning, internationally recognized entrepreneur, learning architect and humanitarian. Her mission is to raise potential by designing experiences that build resilience. Dr. Billan is the President and CEO of Viewpoint Leadership and an expert on Psychological Capital. She completed her PhD at the University of Toronto and has led the ground-breaking national research study on Tall Poppy Syndrome. Dr. Billan has revealed the impact of the silent systemic syndrome on women in the workplace, and is the National Ambassador for Not Myself Today®, an initiative of the Canadian Mental Health Association that aims to transform workplace cultures.
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.
Dr. Euginia Duodu
Dr. Eugenia Duodu is a Toronto-based academic, mentor and CEO of Visions of Science Network for Learning, a STEM-based organization that runs educational programs for low-income youth in the GTA. Her love of science and volunteer work came together after volunteering for Visions of Science at a science fair during the studies at University of Toronto. By the time she finished her PhD in Chemistry, Dr. Duodu went from being running the organization part-time, to handling all aspects of the organization full-time as CEO.
As recently as 2017, Dr. Duodu spoke at the annual TEDxYouth Conference in Toronto about her pursuit of science as a black woman in STEM.
She continues to work in Toronto with various community partners to engage and encourage youth to explore opportunities in STEM.
Jennifer Ettinger is Canada’s first Social Media Correspondent and a globally-connected powerhouse. A member of some of the most influential social media incubators and collaborators, including the Twitterati, she has built a reputation for creating true, amplified brand awareness across social media channels. Ettinger holds 3 degrees from the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology. She is an ACE certified personal trainer and a certified health coach, with over 17 years of experience in North America. She is the CEO of two companies: Fit Your Style Inc. is a fitness and holistic lifestyle company and Pink Dreams Inc., a social media PR agency.
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 understanding of their bodies.
Federal Minister of Health Patty Hajdu is an 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.
Mitzie Hunter is an Ontario MPP. Hunter, who immigrated to Canada with her family from Jamaica when she was just four years old, definitely leads by example. Before becoming a politician, the U of T grad was the CEO of the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance, where she dedicated herself to social, economic and environmental issues. First elected to the Liberal government in 2013 (then re-elected in 2014 and 2018), Hunter also worked as the minister of advanced education and skills development, where she focused on issues like providing free post-secondary-school tuition to students in need.
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.” In 2020, she released a book of poetry called “Home Body”.
In 2014, Janaya Khan co-founded Black Lives Matter Canada after the death of Jermaine Carby, who was fatally shot by a police officer in Brampton, Ont. and the police officer was not charged. Currently based in Los Angeles, Khan continues to fight for the justice and equality of people of colour and the LGBTQ community. She is also an International Ambassador for the Black Lives Network.
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. Loyst is the 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.
For years, Traci Melchor has been bringing her vibrant personality and intelligent reporting to our TV screens. Born in Pickering, Ont., the Etalk correspondent got her start as the host of MuchMusic’s RapCity. Throughout her career, Melchor has covered countless red carpets and conducted insightful interviews with hundreds of stars, including Beyoncé, Oprah and Mariah Carey. Melchor helped launch The Social as a co-host, but left the show in 2016 to take care of her mental health. Today, aside from her duties at Etalk, she inspires by supporting a number of charities and by talking openly about the importance of self-care.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A speaker on women’s empowerment, five-time ice hockey Olympic medalist Hayley Wickenheiser was elected to the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes Commission. In 2019, Hayley Wickenheiser was inducted into the 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.
The 2021 OptiMYz Top 100 Health Leaders 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