Our Team

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 traveling 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 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 Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario as the Team Leader of Centralized Mental Health Intake. Cindy has joined project ECHO 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 Project ECHO® Ontario CYMH. Ghyslaine is passionate in assisting families and community mental health providers’ access services and education in their local communities across the province of Ontario. She is an avid traveler, a fun spirit and a football mom.


Project ECHO Ontario CYMH is currently piloting a Local Health Integration Network Mental Health and Addiction Nurses (LHIN MHAN) cycle. We have added two front-line LHIN MHAN Hub Specialists to share their knowledge and experiences.

LHIN MHAN: Elzar Sipin, RN, BScN, CPMHN (C)

Elzar Sipin is a Ryerson University alumni with a nursing background of 10 years. He is currently a Toronto Central LHIN MHAN member who is partnered with the TCDSB for almost 5 years. He has worked in Kinark Child and Family services as a Registered Nurse in youth residential homes and forensic youth justice/secure treatment/ORB units. Previously he has volunteered with the Sherbourne health bus, an advocate as an RNAO policy and political action officer, a faculty assistant for the RPN program at Sheridan College, and a community RN with St. Elizabeth. He will be pursuing his MHSc Health Administration with the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto in September 2019. In addition, he has a passion for travel, food, gaming, and – especially – coffee!


LHIN MHAN: Miranda Bevilacqua, RN

Miranda Bevilacqua was born and lives in Thunder Bay Ontario. She loves to be outdoors where she can fish and hunt. Miranda graduated from her Nursing degree in 2011 and is almost done her Masters of Nursing. Miranda started off her nursing career working on a dementia and cardiology unit, she ventured into sexual assault/domestic violence nursing and currently is working as a mental health and addictions nurse within a French board and still works casually at her local hospital. Miranda works casually as a professor at a local college and has dreams to pursue her Nurse Practitioner certificate. Miranda has been volunteering as a board chair for a local non-for profit agency for the past 6 years. She is also a member of OCASI’s Positive Space Initiative committee. She is also a trainer in Mental Health First Aid and SafeTALK. Miranda’s dream has always been to work within the mental health field.

The Operational Team

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

Co-Director: Dr. William Gardner, PhD

William Gardner is co-director of Project 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 professor of epidemiology and the CHEO RI and University of Ottawa Chair in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Research at the University of Ottawa. He is a senior research scientist at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario 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 the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. 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 endeavors 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 their 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 Project 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: Victoria Smith, M.Sc.

Victoria has a background in kinesiology, having completed both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Human Kinetics at the University of Ottawa. She has six years of experience working in research on a variety of projects, primarily in the areas of human motor control and learning. Now joining the Project ECHO team she is excited to be a part of working towards improving access to mental health care for youth all across Ontario. When not helping out at CHEO, you can probably find her exercising, reading, traveling or volunteering.