Board & Staff
NADA Board of Directors, September 27, 2016(L-R) Dr. Agnes Coutinho, Leon Simard, Troy Paul, Melita Paul, Kerry Spence, Virgil Nathaniel, Catherine Turner, Wendy Fontaine, Jeff LaPlante, Roslynn Baird
(missing: David Gill, Mandy Gudjonson, Robert Fenton)
I am a mother and a proud woman of mixed heritage, Mohawk, wolf clan from Six Nations and English. I began working in Diabetes prevention in 1996 at the Niagara Regional Native Centre, facilitating a talking circle. In 1997 I began working for the Southern Ontario Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative as a Regional Diabetes Worker. For the past 17 years I have been the Executive Director with the organization (SOADI) and continue to fight the epidemic in our communities. I have been the chair of the National Aboriginal Diabetes Association and sat on many health and diabetes related committees and boards and currently am chair of the Indigenous Health Network in the HNHB LHIN region. SOADI has expanded throughout the years to provide innovative services that are responsive to the needs of our people, respect autonomy and incorporate our teachings wherever possible. I also enjoy being in nature, off the grid, fishing, hiking, cooking, and spending time with friends and family.
DR. AGNES COUTINHO
Dr. Coutinho has always been fascinated by the health benefits of physical activity, particularly prevention and management of chronic metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and CVD. She completed her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology and Health Science, followed by MSc degree specializing in exercise physiology and metabolism at York University (Toronto). At York she obtained the Fitness Assessment & Exercise Counseling Certificate, as well as the Certified Fitness Consultant (CFC) and Professional Fitness & Lifestyle Consultant (PFLC) certificates through the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. She then moved to the UK to complete a PhD in medical sciences (specializing in Endocrinology) at the University of Edinburgh. Dr. Coutinho stayed for an additional 4-year Postdoctoral position funded by the Medical Research Council, UK. Currently, she is an Asst. Program Head of Kinesiology at the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto and the Director of Health Communications for Urban Poling Inc. These complementary and exciting roles fit incredibly well with her personal and professional goals around fitness and health promotion.
David Gill was born and raised in Mashteuiatsh, an Innu community. David left his native community at 19 to pursue my goal of becoming a world-class athlete, dream that was eventually fulfilled when he made it to team Canada in athletics (800-1500m) from 2005 to 2007. Parallel to his athletic career, he is CEO of TotalCoaching, a software company I built to give easier access to personal trainers, to anyone with an Internet connexion. TotalCoaching is currently being used by thousands of personal trainers and hundreds of thousands of health enthusiasts from over 40 countries around the world. David believes physical activity is not sufficiently recognized as the most important factor for diabetes prevention.
Wendy McNab is a Cree/Salteaux woman from the Treaty 4 Area (Gordons First Nation, Cowessess First Nation and Peepeekisis First Nation) in Saskatchewan. She is the mother of son Justice, who is an avid lacrosse player. For over ten years Wendy has worked collaboratively to create spaces for learning and sharing stories about Indian Residential Schools in Canada including community forums, panel discussions, conference presentations, and digital storytelling projects featuring survivors and their families. Wendy also has over ten years’ experience working closely with post-secondary students, faculty and staff, and First Nations communities. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Winnipeg in Conflict Resolution Studies and a certificate in Aboriginal Focusing-Oriented Therapy and Complex Trauma from the Justice Institute of British Columbia. She is currently completing a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at the University of Winnipeg. Since 2014, Wendy has been the Coordinator for the Partners for Engagement and Knowledge Exchange (PEKE) project funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and housed at the Nanaandawewigamig First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba.
VIRGIL E. NATHANIEL
Virgil is currently an Associate Professor at the University College of the North in Thompson, Manitoba, and has taught Anatomy, Physiology, and Chemistry and other courses in the northern Nursing program for over 20 years. He holds a Ph.D in physiology from the University of Manitoba. His doctoral research pertained to the study of diabetic neuropathy, a complication seen in longstanding diabetes in both Type 1 and Type 2 forms. His research involved examining specific structural, biochemical, and physiological changes that occur in distal symmetric polyneuropathy, and what could be done to prevent or reverse its progression. He continues to be interested in diabetes and what can be done to reduce its incidence, especially in the north. He believes that close monitoring and early detection may be essential in preventing diabetic complications. Although trained in the medical sciences, Virgil also considers himself to be a “closet musician” and plays piano, organ, some guitar and with interest in blues, southern rock, gospel, classical, and movie score music production.
Melita Paul is a community health worker for NunatuKavut Community Council in Labrador. She has worked in this position for more than 10 years. Melita have spent most of this time working on the Learning For Life ~ Preventing Diabetes project teaching people in her communities about the prevention of type 2 diabetes by promoting a healthy active lifestyle. Melita works predominantly in the communities on the South East coast of Labrador where there are little resources available to residents in the communities. Melita is also very active in providing aboriginal representation on many issues both regionally and provincially. Some of her involvement has been: The Canadian Diabetes Association and their advocacy team for which she received volunteer of the year award a few years ago, the provincial planning committee for the Aboriginal Women’s conferences in NL, Chairperson / board member of the Southern Labrador Family Resource Centres for the past 10 years. In her personal life, Melita lives in Charlottetown, Labrador with her husband Wayde and is a Mom to her son MacKay and daughter Alyssa and a Grandmother to her 5 year old grandson Kobe.
Troy is a Mi’kmaq, originally from the Nova Scotia community of Membertou. He is currently employed with Membertou First Nation in Nova Scotia as the Director of Human Resources. He has had over 10 years experience working with and for Aboriginal communities and organizations across Canada. He believes the effect of diabetes is a national problem of eminent proportions, requiring immediate actions to lessen harmful effects to grassroots people both on and off reserve. His personal concern is direct, with family members, friends and relatives suffering the dreadful effects of such an insidious disease. Amputations, blindness, insulin dependence, and even death are but a few examples of situations he has encountered first hand. Therefore, it is of great personal satisfaction to him to help address potential solutions and answers to this plague affecting Aboriginal people.
Leon was raised a free range organic kid in the small Metis community of Manigotogan, Manitoba and is a member of the Hollow Water Ojibway Band. He earned his Bachelor of Education degree from Brandon University and subsequently taught school in remote First Nation communities as well as in the inner city of Winnipeg at Children of The Earth High School. While earning his Master’s Degree from the University of Manitoba he became acutely aware of the health disparities between First Nations people and the rest of Canadians. His interest in curriculum development led him to work with the Kidney Foundation of Canada to research, write and implement a K-6 Curriculum on the prevention of kidney disease, it is currently being piloted in several schools in northern Manitoba. For the past two years, Leon has worked as the Manitoba First Nations Food Security Coordinator with the Four Arrows Regional Health Authority office in Winnipeg. The complex issues involved in food security, nutrition, education and community development combine to make his job very interesting and challenging. He lives in Winnipeg where he is actively involved in his neighbourhood community gardening program and crime prevention activities.
Board Director – Youth Representative
Kerry Spence is an Ojibway-Métis woman, originally from Eddystone, Manitoba, and a member of Lake Manitoba First Nation. In 2015, she completed a Master of Science (Human Nutritional Sciences) degree, and she recently completed training (a dietetic internship) in Manitoba to be a Registered Dietitian. Her passions lie in indigenous health and indigenous foods. She will be returning to the University of Manitoba for her PhD Studies in Fall 2017, in which she will assess the indigenous cultural safety training of dietitians in Canada. Her overall goal is to utilize her knowledge, skills, and cultural humility to assist Indigenous people in attaining optimal nutritional health and healing through food.
Catherine Turner is Métis, originally from Manitoba, residing in Courtenay, BC, since 1991. She has been involved in health promotion programs for Aboriginal people at the community and national levels. She brings many years of experience related to diabetes and Aboriginal people. In addition to studying at the University of Manitoba and North Island College, Catherine completed her Bachelor’s degree in Professional Communication, Royal Roads University in 2009. She is committed to reducing health disparities experienced by Aboriginal people. Currently Catherine is involved in First Nations/Aboriginal kidney awareness & education activities, under contract with the Kidney Foundation of Canada, BC Branch.
Jeff LaPlante is Métis (Saulteaux and French) from the Red River Valley, Red Lake Minnesota, Woodridge, Manitoba, and Winnipeg. Jeff has worked in the fields of human rights, First Nations self-government, First Nations community-based research and advocacy, program development and delivery, and Indigenous health and wellness since graduating from the University of Manitoba in 2001. Jeff envisions an expanded reach and network for NADA, based on existing connections and relationships, and looking to extensive partnerships and collaborations with diabetes-related health researchers; programs and services; and community-based practitioners, knowledge-keepers and healers.
Mandy Gudjonson is a proud mother of 2 darling boys. She is a Norway House Cree Nation band member from the Treaty 5 territory. She grew up and lived in Norway House most of her life, until she moved to Winnipeg to continue her education and got her Business Administration Diploma. Mandy has several years of experience working with organizations such as Norway House Cree Nation and Southeast Child & Family Services where she served as a Management Administrative Assistant. Mandy is a natural caregiver and thrives on helping others and making a positive impact. As the newest member of NADA she looks forward to upcoming ventures that NADA has in motion and also helping to serve NADA members and staff to the best of her ability.