NO ONE IS AN ISLAND: Improving access and removing barriers to psychosocial oncology

Pre-Conference Workshops 

All workshops will be held from 0830-1200 hrs on Wednesday July 15, 2020.

  • We say we’re “okay” after someone has died, but are we really?
  • Patients are a Virtue: Adding Lived Experience to Your Research Team
  • The LowDown on Down There: A workshop to prevent deterioration and to restore vulvovaginal and sexual health of cancer patients
  • A Community Guide to Cancer Nutrition: Practically applying cancer nutrition knowledge in a socially and emotionally supportive setting
  • STUDENT/TRAINEE Workshop: Building Your Career

We say we’re “okay” after someone has died, but are we really?

The Presenters:

Shelly Cory, MA: Shelly Cory, Executive Director of the Canadian Virtual Hospice, has led the growth of Virtual Hospice into the world’s most comprehensive online knowledge management centre on palliative care, loss, and grief. Originally from a rural community of 500, Ms. Cory is committed to leveraging technology to ensure that where you live doesn’t affect how you die or how you grieve. A hallmark of her work is engaging diverse populations in the development of online tools. In 2017, she was named one of the Top 10 Women Leaders in Digital Health in Canada.

Mary Jane Esplen, PhD: Dr. Esplen is Professor, Vice- Chair, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, a Clinician- Scientist at University Health Network, and leads de Souza Institute –a National Knowledge Translation Centre supporting health professionals in oncology or palliative care. She held prior Career Scientist awards from CIHR and NCIC for her research in psycho-oncology, completing therapy trials and development of psychometric instruments. She currently leads a program on managing grief and loss. Dr. Esplen has given numerous workshops/ keynotes on topics from prevention to palliative care. She is past President of CAPO and recipient of CAPO’s lifetime achievement award.

Chris MacKinnon, PhD: Dr. Chris MacKinnon holds an academic appointment in the Department of Oncology at McGill. A practicing psychologist for 12 years, he serves as Director of Training at Mount Royal Psychology, a private clinic in Montreal, Canada. Early in his career he was a palliative care psychologist at the McGill University Health Center. He now works closely with the Canadian Virtual Hospice where he writes psychoeducation and training material for paramedics, intensivists, and military veterans. He publishes regularly on psychological themes related to palliative car and depth psychology. Since 2014 he sits on the executive of the International Congress on Palliative Care


Healthcare providers often experience grief as they are confronted with numerous losses resulting from patient death or other work-related grief. Healthcare providers might have an accumulation of bereavement and traumatic episodes during their career. This can take the form of vicarious trauma through chronic exposure to suffering and loss. Loss on one or more levels may be experienced as healthcare providers become invested in their relationships with patients and families, their goals and interventions, their dreams and aspirations, and their professional identity and role. It can be difficult for healthcare providers to acknowledge and talk about their grief and trauma. There are often barriers, both internal and systemic, to seeking support to help move through it. This workshop aims to equip healthcare providers to understand and learn about evidence-informed strategies to process their own grief and trauma. Current research related to healthcare provider grief will be highlighted, including risk factors and prevalence of healthcare provider grief and trauma. The workshop will identify tools and resources that offer support to healthcare providers who are grieving. Personal grief experiences of healthcare providers will be shared in video format and small and large group exercises and discussions will be incorporated throughout the workshop.

Learning objectives:

  1. Understand the prevalence of and risk factors related to healthcare provider grief
  2. Identify individual- oriented and team-based strategies for moving through healthcare provider grief
  3. Learn about tools and resources designed to support healthcare providers who are grieving

Patients are a Virtue: Adding Lived Experience to Your Research Team

The Presenters:

Catherine Street: Catherine Street is the Director of the NL SUPPORT Unit. Ms. Street is an experienced senior project manager with a clinical pharmacy background, who has worked in public health, health policy and health service commissioning at senior manager and director level within Social Services and the National Health Services (NHS) in the East Midlands region of the UK. Since moving to Newfoundland and Labrador, she has worked as a senior project manager on a range of health care related research projects.

Kathleen Mather: Kathleen Mather is NL SUPPORT's Patient Engagement and Training and Capacity Development Lead. She has a Bachelor of Science (Applied Human Nutrition) from The University of Guelph and a Master of Science (Applied Human Nutrition) from Mount Saint Vincent University. She is a Registered Dietitian and most recently worked in clinical practice with Western Health. She uses her prior research and clinical experience in this role. Chelsey McPhee: Chelsey McPhee is NL SUPPORT's Patient Engagement and Training and Capacity Development Lead. She has a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) from Ryerson University and a Master of Applied Psychological Science from Memorial University. She applies her research design, program evaluation, qualitative analysis, public engagement, and project coordination skills to this role.

Kate Lambert: Kate Lambert is NL SUPPORT’S Knowledge Translation Lead. She attended Memorial University, where she earned a Bachelor of Kinesiology and a Master of Public Health. Kate uses her extensive event planning, relationship building, and community and stakeholder engagement skills to help researchers move knowledge to action and realize real world impacts on Newfoundland and Labrador’s health care system.

Rosemary Lester: Rosemary Lester joined NL SUPPORT’s Patient Advisory Council in 2015. Bringing lived experience both as a cancer patient and a caregiver for a cancer patient, Rosemary actively contributes to the regular council activities and is also a member of a team conducting a patient-oriented research project about the experiences of breast cancer patients.


The Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR), an initiative led by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), focuses on improving outcomes for users of the health care system. SPOR aims to create a patient-oriented research culture which achieves real-world impacts that are important to patients. Engaging patients as partners on research teams (as opposed to as participants) ensures research is conducted with patients, not for or about them. The purpose of this workshop is to introduce the concept of patient-oriented research and showcase the impact of engaging patients on research teams.

This workshop will include:

  1. An overview of the CIHR SPOR strategy
  2. Local examples of patient-oriented research
  3. Interactive activities
  4. Examples of how patients can meaningfully contribute to research

Learning objectives:

  1. The value of patient-oriented research and the changing landscape of research in Canada
  2. How to develop a patient engagement plan and supports available for patient-oriented research projects
  3. The strengths and challenges of conducting patient-oriented research

The LowDown on Down There: A workshop to prevent deterioration and to restore vulvovaginal and sexual health of cancer patients

The Presenters:

Dr. John Robinson: Dr. John Robinson has spent the last 30+ years creating and evaluating interventions to address the sexual health concerns of cancer patients and their intimate partners.

Dr. Lauren Walker: Dr. Lauren Walker is an internationally recognized expert in oncology and sexuality and is the creator of the LowDown on Down There Workshop.


The majority of women treated for cancer experience debilitating changes in their vaginal health. Primary among these changes is sexual dysfunction, including loss of desire, loss of sensation and painful sex. Women also experience difficulties with activities of daily living such as toileting and wearing certain clothing. Some find that they can no long have a pelvic examination. All of these changes lead to a deterioration in women’s sense of wellbeing. Women needlessly suffer not realizing that there are effective strategies to preventive deterioration of their vaginal health and to restore it. Over 200 women have attended the 1⁄2 day LowDown on Down There workshop in Alberta. Results show that the workshop reduces sexual distress and assists women in taking steps to improve their vaginal health. Specific instructions are provided on how to use evidence-based strategies to manage vulvovaginal symptoms, adapt sexual practices and manage reduced sexual desire. Interventions include vaginal dilation, moisturizers & lubricants, pelvic floor physiotherapy and adapting sexual practices. Mindfulness meditation, sensate focus and psychoeducation about responsive sexual desire are introduced. Techniques such as motivational interviewing, goal setting and commitment-to-change exercises, are employed to support behavior change.

Learning objectives:

  1. Evidence-based strategies to prevent loss of vaginal health and how to restore it
  2. How to support participants with behavior change strategies in the context of a group based workshop
  3. How to deliver the LowDown on Down There workshop to their patients

    A Community Guide to Cancer Nutrition: Practically applying cancer nutrition knowledge in a socially and emotionally supportive setting

    The Presenters:

    Amy Symington: Amy is a nutrition professor, chef and researcher at George Brown College (GBC) in Toronto, ON. She is also the nutrition and culinary program coordinator at Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto (GCGT), a not-for-profit cancer organization that provides social, emotional and nutritional support to those touched by cancer. Here Amy runs nutrition workshops, culinary demonstrations and their supper club programming. In partnership with GBC, GCGT and SSHRC Amy recently published a cookbook entitled The Long Table Cookbook, which is a practical application of research conducted at GCGT and the community guide to cancer nutrition.


    It is apparent that there is currently a void in the cancer care realm for a concise, evidence-based cancer nutrition guide equipped with recipes to provide to those touched by cancer, their caretakers, oncologists, doctors and/or nurses in order to alleviate the stress and frustration of seeking out answers in relation to cancer nutrition individually. Please join nutrition professor, researcher and chef, Amy Symington, for a nutrition focused workshop and food demonstration showcasing the SSHRC funded research, community guide to cancer nutrition and evidence-based cookbook she has compiled in collaboration with George Brown College and Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto.

    Learning objectives:

    1. Showcase the community guide to cancer nutrition
    2. Showcase the research completed in relation to the programming run at Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto
    3. Showcase the practical application of cancer nutrition utilizing the evidence-based cookbook called, The Long Table Cookbook

    STUDENT/TRAINEE Workshop: Building Your Career

    The Presenters:

    Brooke Russell: Brooke is a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at UCalgary studying psychosocial outcomes for childhood cancer survivors under the supervision of Dr. Fiona Schulte and Dr. Lianne Tomfohr-Madsen. Her dissertation work examines fear of cancer recurrence for survivors of childhood cancer. Brooke’s previous work has evaluated sleep and fatigue in long-term survivorship from childhood cancer, unmet needs of adult survivors of childhood cancer, and models of care for long-term follow-up of adults survivors of childhood cancer.

    Michaela Patton: Michaela is an MSc student in Clinical Psychology at UCalgary studying pain in childhood cancer under the supervision of Dr. Fiona Schulte. Her thesis work describes and characterizes chronic pain in long-term survivors of childhood cancer. Michaela’s previous work has examined psychosocial consequences of and interventions for youth living with chronic pain, concussion assessment in collegiate athletes, and familial adjustment to children newly diagnosed with cancer.


    This workshop will bring trainees together to discuss topics relating to building a career in psychosocial oncology. Trainees will learn about building a brand, knowledge translation, navigating and utilizing social media for professional use, and self-care strategies. Specifically, attendees will work to develop a personal value statement that can be used to guide a narrative on their career trajectory. This can be a helpful tool for articulating what you can bring to the table when applying for scholarships and writing grants. Attendees will also learn about disseminating research findings beyond publishing in scientific journals, and the role of social media (e.g., Twitter) in networking and dissemination. Finally, this workshop will help attendees to recognize the unique contributors of burnout for students and healthcare providers, identify signs of burnout, and to develop a personal self-care strategy. Ultimately, this workshop is intended to help trainees from all disciplines to develop a “toolkit” for growing and pursuing their careers.

    Learning objectives:

    1. How to develop a personal value statement
    2. How to use social media professionally for networking and knowledge dissemination
    3. How to recognize signs of burnout and create a self-care plan