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St. Joseph's Health Centre Toronto

Our Shared Values Awards ceremony provides levity during COVID-19

When this year’s Our Shared Values Awards ceremony at St. Joseph’s Health Centre was cancelled in March as a result of COVID-19, Unity Health Toronto’s Mission and Values team wasn’t sure when they’d be able to reschedule.

But on June 5, more than 120 staff, physicians, families and community members gathered online to honour the St. Joseph’s staff who exemplify Unity Health’s mission and values.

The Our Shared Values Awards, previously known as the Legend Awards at St. Joseph’s, represent one of the highest honours at Unity Health. The award recipients are peer-nominated and those chosen are singled out for how they live Unity Health’s values in their day-to-day work. The criteria for the selection process are informed, in part, by the tradition of compassionate quality care instilled in us by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto.

Beth Johnson, Executive Director of Mission Integration, Volunteer and Visitor Services, said the decision to hold the ceremony in the midst of the current pandemic was both intentional and important.

“During these extraordinary times, it seems fitting that we should take a moment of pause to celebrate our mission and values,” said Johnson, who worked with Vanessa Nicholas-Schmidt and Donna Romano, Managers of Mission and Values, to plan the modified virtual ceremony.

“The way our staff and physicians live our mission and values has no doubt helped us through this challenging time, at St. Joseph’s and across Unity Health.”

The ceremony, which was broadcast online, included stories from the recipients’ nominations. Here they are below.


Dr. Chris Compeau, a thoracic surgeon and Surgeon-in-Chief at St. Joseph’s, is this year’s recipient of the Human Dignity Award for an individual or team who affirms that every person has sacred value and is worthy of respect. Dr. Compeau was nominated for this award by one of his patients, who shared the following:

“At my first appointment with Dr. Compeau, I could tell right away he was different than the many doctors I had previously seen. I came prepared with all of my records and he didn’t rush me out of the room – he took the time to go over my previous tests and explain everything.

“At one point, I was desperate to figure out what was wrong with me and emailed some doctors in the United States. I was worried how Dr. Compeau might take it but he listened. He admitted he could learn new things and even spoke to one of the other doctors on the phone.

“I am forever grateful that he took an opportunity to expand his knowledge and has helped so many women like myself. That may not seem like such a big deal, but as someone who has a chronic illness, I saw many doctors before I got my diagnosis and he is one in a million.”


Registered nurse Lorna May Forbes is known for her compassion on the Psychiatry Unit. This dedication earned Lorna May the Compassion Award, presented to an individual who enables health and healing by understanding each person’s needs and by providing care with kindness and sensitivity.

According to one of her colleagues: “Lorna May demonstrates compassion and sensitivity every day to our most acutely ill patients. She is constantly saying that ‘we, as health care providers, need to put ourselves in our patients’ or families’ shoes to understand how they’re feeling.

“One example of Lorna May’s compassion was with a patient we received in the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit who also had autism. This is not a diagnosis we deal with often so many staff were concerned about the patient’s responsive behaviours and inability to communicate.

“Lorna May got the whole team together and explained what the patient was going through and what we needed to do to help them feel comfortable. She wrote up a care plan right away and posted it in the nursing station and patient room so that everyone understood the routines.”


This year, two staff received the award for Inclusivity, which recognizes an individual or team that fosters an inclusive, welcoming environment where everyone is treated equitably and without judgment.

Jackie Boyce, a social worker in the Family Birthing Centre, NICU and Pediatrics Unit, and Liana Salvador-Watts, a registered nurse and lactation consultant, are our joint-recipients. One of Jackie and Liana’s colleagues shared the following nomination.

“Jackie and Liana have been working towards improving inclusivity in the Women’s and Children’s program. They started a working group, the Equity Committee, with like-minded peers to begin to brainstorm how to best actualize their vision of a more inclusive environment.

“The first initiative was a ‘Language Matters Campaign,’ which included training and several posters highlighting opportunities for more inclusive language in support of creating an inclusive birthing environment.

“They treat all parents alike and encourage others to use culturally sensitive and family-inclusive language, behavior and signage.”


Dr. Stavros Karanicolas, a nephrologist, was this year’s recipient of the Excellence Award, presented to an individual or team who strives to achieve the best care and quality through innovation and continuous improvement. One of Dr. Karanicolas’ colleagues shared a few notes on the impact Dr. Karanicolas has had at St. Joseph’s.

“Dr. Karanicolas started his career at St. Joseph’s 40 years ago. At that time, there was no Hemodialysis unit at the hospital but Dr. Karanicolas and his team were able to train patients in continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis so they could do their own dialysis at home.

“In 1992, Dr. Karanicolas helped introduce a novel process for treating acute kidney failure in the ICU. In 1997, he helped open the first hemodialysis unit at St. Joseph’s and more recently, Dr. Karanicolas was involved in the opening of our new Bachir Yerex Family Dialysis Unit.

“No matter how fast-paced his job is, Dr. Karanicolas is always fully present for those who need him. He treats his team and patients as if they’re family and his daily motto, ‘Don’t wait until tomorrow for something you can achieve today,’ inspires us to make the hospital a better place.”


Unity Health’s value of Community expresses how our teams embrace diversity, trust and teamwork to fulfill human potential. This year’s winner of the Community Award is our Mental Health Short Stay Unit team. One of our staff and patients shared the following about the team.

“The Mental Health Short Stay unit is staffed by nurses, social workers, mental health workers and physicians. The team serves an extremely diverse community, including individuals who come to us in crisis or who have lost hope.

“Each patient is cared for as an individual, with an emphasis placed on preserving each person’s dignity and autonomy during a time of considerable vulnerability.

“Without exception, every nurse and team member I have dealt with here has given me hope and support so that I believe I have a team rooting for me.”

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