The Hub Specialists

The Hub Specialists are from several domains in the system of child and youth mental health care. Other types of expertise will be added as needed for a particular case or if our spokes identify a gap in what support they need from us.

Psychiatrist/Co-Director: Dr. Kathleen Pajer, M.D., M..PH.

Dr. Pajer is from the U.S. and has been a researcher and psychiatrist for over 30 years, spending much of that time working in child psychiatry. She is passionate about finding better ways to deliver care to children, youth, and families, and finding effective treatments for girls with severe behaviour problems. Dr. Pajer spends her time outside of work writing, reading, and travelling around the U.S. visiting her five children (an activity she shares with Co-Director Dr. Gardner – her husband).


Psychiatrist: Dr. Michael Cheng, M.D., F.R.C.P. (C)

Michael is a child psychiatrist who is passionate about the importance of healthy attachments to people and activities that give purpose, hope and meaning. He is the co-founder of eMentalHealth.ca/PrimaryCare, a website that seeks to support primary care providers in their work with patients with mental health needs. He is a mentor with the Collaborative Mental Health Network (CMHN) of the Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP). Michael is married to a family physician, with whom they share two wonderful young children. During his spare time, Michael’s interests are sleep. 


Psychiatrist: Dr. Hazen Gandy, M.D., F.R.C.P. (C)


Psychologist: Dr. Simone Kortstee, C. Psych, PhD

Dr. Simone Kortstee is a child psychologist with special interests and experience in brain-behaviour relationships and who thrives to empower children, youth and their families in the process of overcoming mental health and neuropsychological challenges. She has worked as a psychologist in various pediatric health care settings. Currently, she leads the professional practice in psychology at CHEO. Simone loves being with her family and friends, and she enjoys painting, music, sewing, and gardening.


Psychologist: Dr. Allison Kennedy, C. Psych, PhD

Dr. Allison Kennedy is a clinical psychologist with special interests in pediatric emergency mental health.  She is the clinical lead for the CHEO Urgent Care and Crisis teams and she works with other hospitals and community agencies to establish and maintain clinical pathways to facilitate the provision of appropriate and timely child/youth mental health services, based on the nature and acuity of clinical needs.  Allison’s clinical practice focuses primarily on evaluation of children and youth with acute mental health needs and crisis intervention. She is also active in clinical research and is the Principal Investigator on a research program involving the development of a brief group treatment for adolescents with mild to moderate suicidal ideation.  Allison loves spending time with her friends and family in her free time and is an active member of Ottawa’s choral music community.


System Navigator: Cindy Dawson, CYC (Cert.)

Cindy is a Certified Child and Youth Counsellor who works at the CHEO as the Team Leader of Centralized Mental Health Intake. Cindy has joined ECHO Ontario CYMH as the Systems Navigator due to her extensive mental health experience in working with community partners, families and high-risk youth. Cindy is a strong advocate for self-care, balancing family and her passion for running.


System Navigator: Ghyslaine Paquette, CYC (Cert.)

Ghyslaine is a Child & Youth Counsellor for the past 20 years with the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. Her career exploits include in-patient mental health, the Eating Disorders Day Treatment Program, Outreach, Mental Health Intake, Tele-Mental Health Service and ECHO Ontario CYMH. Ghyslaine is passionate about assisting families and community mental health providers’ access services and education in their local communities across the province of Ontario. She is an avid traveller, a fun spirit and a football mom.


The Operational Team

You’ll get to know the operational team throughout your experience with ECHO Ontario CYMH. These individuals work behind the scenes to ensure everything runs smoothly, but you may see them during an ECHO Session and communicate with them from time to time.

Co-Director: Dr. William Gardner, PhD

William Gardner is co-director of ECHO Ontario Child and Youth Mental Health along with Dr. Kathleen Pajer. Dr. Gardner is a child psychologist, statistician, and mental health services researcher. He studies children’s mental health interventions, statistical methods, psychiatric measurement, and health system change. He is a professor of epidemiology and the CHEO RI and the University of Ottawa Chair in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Research at the University of Ottawa. He is a senior research scientist at the CHEO Research Institute (CHEO RI, Ottawa, ON), where he directs the Centre for Pediatric Mental Health Services and Policy Research. 


Manager: Josée Blackburn, M.S.W., RSW

Josée has spent most of her career working within the health care sector. In the last 10 years, Josée has been dedicating her practice to mentoring, supporting and coaching health care professionals to offer exceptional patient experience in leadership roles at CHEO. Josée is passionate about community partnership, collaboration and system transformation. Josée loves a challenge on the ski hills where you will most likely find her with her family on the weekends.


Administrative Assistant: Roxanne MacKay

Roxanne MacKay brings with her 15 years of experience in the private and government sectors. Not only is she skilled at supporting and organizing her team members, she is adept at organizing large scale local and national level events. Constantly learning, Roxanne endeavours to expand her skill set through courses and networking. When not busy multitasking at work, she volunteers her time as a Scout Leader with “Scouts du Canada”, winding down with a good read and creating fabric art through cross-stitching.


IT Support: Daniel Peregrym

Daniel started his career with CHEO as a student two years ago answering phones for the HelpDesk.  Since then, he has worked tirelessly with his team to improve the day-to-day operations of the hospital and deploying its new electronic health record system. Recently he has accepted a full-time position as a Technical Support Analyst. His first official project in his new role is to support the ECHO Team and the wonderful work they do. During his off-hours, you can often find him either nose deep in a book, or building models at his kitchen table while his wife complains about the paints’ smell.


Training and Development Specialist (on leave): Veronica Hoch, B.A.Sc.

Veronica has a background in Child, Youth and Family studies. She is passionate about adult learning and project management and continuously pursues professional development in these areas. She is also enthusiastic about collaboration to improve the outcomes for children and youth and that’s why Project ECHO®‘s free technology-enabled knowledge-sharing networks to improve the care for children and youth mental health excites her. She is a planning, organizational and multi-tasking guru. Veronica is also known as a former tea-lover now turned coffee enthusiast.


Training and Development Specialist: Gina Chowdhary, CHRP

With a background in training and development at CHEO, Gina’s passion is to educate and support new hires and to design and deliver training programs across the hospital. Gina’s training has focused on time management, wellness and conflict. She graduated from Algonquin College with a Post-Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Management and obtained her Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation in 2014. She enjoys spending time with her family, is an Indian-tea lover and is a Provincial bowling champion.


Research Assistant: Carlos Pastrana

Carlos completed his Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience with a specialization in Mental Health at Carleton University. He has been a part of CHEO’s mental health research team for four years, primarily working on projects regarding biological and psychological responses to stress, and improving access to child and youth mental health services. Carlos is truly grateful to be a part of ECHO Ontario CYMH and to spread knowledge to improve the quality of mental health care in Ontario. On his off time, you can find Carlos cycling, making pizza or running around the park with his corgi.