WAMS Gala Luncheon April 21, 2017 Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Women of WAMS

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Women of WAMS features inspiring women and their thoughts on networking, finding work/life balance, mentoring, and the importance of ending MS with the WAMS program.

BCY WAMS Ashley Dean

Ashley Dean is a mother of two, who lives with MS in the Lower Mainland.

When were you diagnosed with MS?

I got my official was diagnosis October 2011. My first relapse was March 11, 2011.

What symptoms led to your diagnosis?

I lost my peripheral vision, difficulties with balance, extreme headaches like I’ve never experienced and numbness in legs making it difficult to walk.

What does a typical day in your life look like?

I set my alarm 15 mins earlier than my normal alarm so that the numbness goes away enough to know if I can walk or not. Get my two girls 5 and 3 ready for school and daycare and drop them off. Come home and rest. Then I try a light exercise. Rest again. Then do one household chore, then rest again. Pick up the girls from school and daycare and get the evening routine going (dinner, baths and bedtime). Then in bed myself by 9ish and up all night with bladder urgency.

What has been your experience with the MS Society since your diagnosis?

The MS society has been great and always there to help when I need it. I appreciate that they are always there for me. I was involved with the MS Walk for four years and was able to raise over ten thousand dollars. I have also attended WAMS breakfast and I really enjoyed it.

Who has been your biggest support?

I would say I don’t have just one. My biggest supporters would be my MS Nurses at the Burnaby MS Clinic, my mom and my husband. I think it’s important to have support from people who understand the disease, have people who are there to listen and have people who live with it with you. No one can really know what your going through and what pain you face, but having people who know the disease or hear about it and lastly watch you go through it are everything to managing it. The disease is just part of it, you also are forced to change your lifestyle, actually listen to your body and try not to get sucked into a hole of depression.

What have you learned about yourself since finding out you have MS?

I have learned that people judge what they don’t understand and to have thicker skin. That there’s more to life than working; health and family should always come first. Finally that I am stronger than I thought.

What advice do you have for young women starting out their careers and family who are diagnosed with MS?

My advice is be as active as possible. Don’t give up vices, we are human after all. Stop worrying about what people think especially if you’ve chosen the path like me where my family and health is my job and priority. Remember there will be really bad day so always enjoy the good ones and cherish them


BCY WAMS Cindy ElliottCindy Elliot is a practice consultant at Providence Health Care, whose husband lives with MS.

What drew you to support the Women Against MS luncheon?

I attended two years ago and enjoyed the event so much I wanted to get involved, to contribute. WAMS Gala Lunch about women in business and about raising money to end MS perfect combination of important things in my life….along with getting dressed up and going out for lunch with friends.

What role has the MS Society played in your life?

The fundraising the MS Society plays a big role in my life as the contribution the Society makes toward research brings us closer all the time to ending MS.

Why do you think events like WAMS are important?

My husband lives with MS so I know intimately the impact MS can have on a person. I also know how close we are to finding a way end or at least limit that impact. The last number of years has seen huge success in managing relapse remitting MS, this is encouraging and exciting. Therapies have become more tolerable and more successful. I want the same for people living with primary progressive MS, and we have made such progress. The money raised at WAMS goes directly to research related to ending primary progressive MS we must keep the momentum.

In your opinion, what makes a great leader?

Someone who can make decisions, is clear about their expectations and supports their people to be the best they can be.

How do you find work/life balance?

I have not found it yet, have you seen it? Some days/weeks/months are better than others. I thrive in chaos so sometimes the balance is just being okay in the imbalance. I started playing tennis a year ago and have found an oasis in that.

If you had the opportunity to meet one successful female leader, who would you pick and why?

There are so many to choose from but I’d like the chance to talk with Florence Nightingale. She was such an intelligent visionary woman who’s work had immediate impact and far reaching care reforming changes. Her impact formed what we know in healthcare today. What I would want to talk to her about is how she influenced people to listen, how she got her work done in a world where women did not hold influence. Her story and her contribution is remarkable.

BCY WAMS Cindy Elliott and Christine Sinclair

Who has someone who has been a mentor in your life? Why do you think a mentor is important for women in business?

I’ve had a few mentors in my career, I’ve been fortunate. Having someone or a few people in your professional life that you trust and respect and can go to for guidance is like having a safe place to grow and learn, to push your own boundaries, and to learn from feedback. Mutual trust and respect is a must in a mentor relationship, both parties need to be invested in the relationship that is when real success is found. I think having a mentor is important for everyone, and if you are fortunate enough to find one who, don’t let go. I’ve been a leader in healthcare for a long time, I’ve mentored others - the benefit I continue to get from my mentors helps me pass along knowledge and understanding. We all win.

What advice would you give to young women just starting out in their career?

Learn as much as you can and take opportunities when they present themselves. Be clear and strong, put your fears aside and don’t let the bastards grind you down. Find you allies and stay true to them, figure out the game and play smart.


BCY WAMS Kristy JamesKristy James is the CEO of Burnaby Hospital Foundation

What drew you to support the Women Against MS luncheon?

While I haven’t really talked publicly about it, my mom had MS and passed away last year from complications.

What role has the MS Society played in your life?

I reached out to MS Society to get information on resources for my mom’s care. They were very helpful and even after she passed they helped me re-gift her wheelchair to someone else suffering from MS to use.

Why do you think events like WAMS are important?

While I don’t feel there is a stigma behind MS like there is with Mental Health illness, I still feel that people aren’t open about this disease. It is debilitating and life changing for those suffering. It is a life of pain and struggle. I think we need to talk more openly about the research being done to put an end to this battle.

In your opinion, what makes a great leader?

Collaboration and Inclusivity. Being open to others opinions and always hearing out others ideas. I thrive in a collaborative environment and feel my team does as well. I want to see everyone succeed and if that means outgrowing their position with me and moving on then I celebrate that!

How do you find work/life balance?

Haha! Does that exist? Actually, being a single mom with two kids who have Type 1 Diabetes means I have to have work life balance. I think finding a career that you love helps with that I have no problem putting in time towards my career on evenings and weekends so as to allow me the time I need with my kids. I make sure my priorities are covered with both my job and my family and I don’t follow a Monday to Friday 9-5 schedule.

If you had the opportunity to meet one successful female leader, who would you pick and why?

There are so many to choose from! Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg? But I think if I could only chose one it would be Malala Yousafzai. Malala is not only a leader and an activist but I have seen the affect she has on younger people and our future leaders. My 15 year old daughter was deeply moved by her biography and it broadened her mind on what a leader looks like. Malala connects with all ages, races, both men and women and I found it so moving to see her speak even in fear of her own life. That is a true inspiration and leader.

BCY WAMS Kristy James and Family

Who has someone who has been a mentor in your life? Why do you think a mentor is important for women in business?

I have a number of women in business I would call mentors some of whom include….Judy Savage, Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia, Tania Vrionis and Jill Krop. All of whom have inspired and mentored me to help me get to where I am now. I’ve learned from them all to take opportunities for self-reflection, while challenging myself to grow personally and professional. Being a female mentor is very important because you can relate to others wanting it all and are able to break down stereotypes of being a mother and a CEO. Being able to balance work and family while gaining momentum in your career is a valuable skill to pass along to others. I love taking opportunities to mentor up and comers and seeing their growth while sharing my experiences with them.

What advice would you give to young women just starting out in their career?

I have been working with a Coach and everything we are working on leads back to ‘having a strong sense of self’. Know who you are and what your values are and ensure they align with your organizations. Also, learn to connect in a way that others can hear you. Everyone communicates differently acknowledge and accept that.


BCY WAMS Jacqueline QuandtDr. Jacqueline Quandt is Assistant Professor at UBC and Associate Director of the UBC MS Research Program

What drew you to support the Women Against MS luncheon?

I have spent more than half of my life now working to end MS. I wish our efforts weren’t needed anymore, but not quite.

What role has the MS Society played in your life?

The MS Society of Canada has funded my research and my people for more than 20 years. I remain committed to researching the cause and cure for MS. I have never been more excited about the science and the advances so many of us are working on.

Why do you think events like WAMS are important?

For me, it’s an opportunity to make research priorities in MS something that we can all appreciate and help to evolve. This is a community that through whatever connection, is working to end MS. It takes a village, and this is our chance.

In your opinion, what makes a great leader?

Integrity. It’s what keeps people (and cells, and tissues) on track. Fundamentally it’s at the heart of who we are, what we do, and the impact we will have.

How do you find work/life balance?

Still looking, but so far I love it all and really can’t complain.

If you had the opportunity to meet one successful female leader, who would you pick and why?

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany. I visited Berlin this year for ECTRIMS and saw what was left of the Berlin Wall. It was nearly 29 years ago, living in Germany, that I met the then Chancellor of Germany, Helmut Kohl, just after the reunification of Germany. I had just chipped out my own piece of the Berlin Wall. Germany faces challenges today that the entire world is facing, and it is intriguing to watch Angela Merkel as a world leader. At a time when some leaders want to build walls…

Who has someone who has been a mentor in your life? Why do you think a mentor is important for women in business?

My PhD supervisor, Dr. Dorovini-Zis. Running a research laboratory is probably more like running a business than I could ever have imagined, and it’s something we don’t get training in. However, she taught me that integrity and perseverance will get you through anything and everything. She has always helped me get through the tough stuff.

What advice would you give to young women just starting out in their career?

Recently I heard a woman in business at a networking event pass on this quote from Jim Rohn: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. Surround yourself with people you admire for the qualities you feel matter most it’s a win/win.


Louise Nagy is Director, Community & Environmental Sustainability

What drew you to support the Women Against MS luncheon?

LifeLabs has been a proud supporter of WAMS for the past three years. Through this sponsorship, I’ve learned that many of my colleagues have been impacted by MS either themselves or someone in their family. Hearing their stories and learning more about MS has really reinforced how important it is for us to advance the research and find a cure. Attending WAMS is one small way I can show my support.

BCY WAMS Louise Nagy

Why do you think events like WAMS are important?

I have to admit that I didn’t really know a lot about MS until I attended WAMS. Creating a space where women can connect and raise funds for important MS research is an incredible way to raise awareness.

Why do you think networking is important for women in business?

It’s not common anymore for anyone to stay in the same role for their entire career. I’m certainly not doing the job I went to school for. And, I wouldn’t be able to succeed in this role without an incredible network to lean on. Networking is so important to open doors to new opportunities, open your mind to new ideas and open your heart to new connections who can guide you and support you as you grow in your career.

In your opinion, what makes a great leader?

I’ve been so lucky to work for some exceptional leaders and I think what stands out about every one of them is their strong commitment to their values. Leaders driven by their core values inspire loyalty and commitment in their teams. They help them to find purpose and meaning in what they do, and they bring out the best in the people who work alongside them.

How do you find work/life balance?

I’m still working on this and sometimes I’m not very good at it but it’s definitely gotten better since my boys came along. It takes a lot of planning and scheduling to really make it work. I’m really grateful to have some flexibility in my role that has allowed me to adjust my work schedule to start really early so I can be home in the evenings with the family, work remotely on occasion and be selective in my travel schedule so I’m not on the road as much as I used to be. I am also so thankful for my amazing husband for being a great partner and so supportive in making this work for our family!

What does the word diversity mean to you?

"Diversity is a reality. Inclusion is a choice". I think Stephen Frost nailed it in this quote. Diversity is really the who - who we hire, who’s at the table, who’s being promoted and inclusion is how we welcome and embrace that diversity. I really believe we need to do more as leaders to encourage a culture where everyone gets a chance to meaningfully participate regardless of gender, ethnicity, beliefs and abilities. Inclusion can only broaden our perspectives and support better business.

If you had the opportunity to meet one successful female leader, who would you pick and why?

I saw Michelle Obama speak when she was in Vancouver earlier this year and would love to have the opportunity to actually meet her one day. She is an incredibly smart woman, loves her family and stands up for herself and what she believes in. The work she has done on healthy living and inspiring young girls to achieve has been incredible to watch. She is someone who knows how to make an impact.

Who has someone who has been a mentor in your life? Why do you think a mentor is important for women in business?

I haven’t had an official mentor in my life, but I do have a strong network of leaders men and women that I can count on for support, encouragement and most of all to ask me the hard questions.

What advice would you give to young women just starting out in their career?

Make a plan, and be ready to change it. It’s important to have goals and know what you are working towards, but be ready to seize opportunities when they present themselves. Your career path will not be linear and you likely won’t end up where you think you’ll be in 10 years. Don’t be afraid to take a risk and have fun with it!