NO ONE IS AN ISLAND: Improving access and removing barriers to psychosocial oncology

Keynote Speakers

Carmen G. Loiselle

R.N., Ph.D.

Dr. Carmen G. Loiselle holds a Ph.D. degree in Psychology and Nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is Professor in the Department of Oncology and the Ingram School of Nursing at McGill University and Co-Director (academic) of the Segal Cancer Centre in Montreal, Quebec. She is the recipient of the Christine and Herschel Victor/Hope & Cope Research Chair in psychosocial oncology. For over 12 years, Dr. Loiselle led a CIHR Strategic Training Initiative in Health Research called PORT (Psychosocial Oncology Research Training) which linked accomplished researchers from 6 Canadian universities. Dr. Loiselle has received research funding from CIHR, FRQ-S, SSHRC, and CPAC and has published more than 160 scientific papers and reports. Dr. Loiselle is an Elected Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS). Her program of research focuses on how to best support individuals affected by cancer through the use of person-centred approaches including digital health platforms.

Striving to increase access to psychosocial oncology support: Are we really person-centred?

Current approaches in cancer supportive care call for enhanced access, quality, and performance through the implementation of person-centred care – defined as a respectful and personalized approach that considers individuals as unique with distinct needs, preferences, and contexts. Complementarily, cancer survivor mentors who support patients and become integral members of the treatment team, often referred to as patients as partners, are increasingly embedded in the flow of cancer support resources. As such, comprehensive person-centred care involves anticipating, responding to, and integrating critical sources of support as the illness experience unfolds. However, recent accounts suggest that significant gaps still exist in support modalities across the cancer trajectory and that, too often, patients are exposed to institution-centric rather than person-centred services. In this presentation, I will review the evidence that individuals with cancer hold distinct needs and preferences. Furthermore, I will highlight how supportive modalities and access to these modalities still cater to the “average” patient rather than individuals with unique needs, preferences, and contexts. Last, some recommendations are put forward that may enhance person-centred care and its fuller integration into psychosocial intervention delivery. 

Jennifer Shea


Assistant Professor

Dr. Jennifer Shea is an Assistant Professor of Aboriginal Health in the Division of Community Health and Humanities, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University (MUN). She has been working with Indigenous communities as a community-based researcher in both Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador since 2006. Jennifer completed a Ph.D. in sociology, specializing in Aboriginal Health at the University of Saskatchewan. In the division, she teaches courses on Northern, remote and rural health, social justice, social determinants of health and research methodology. Before working at MUN, she worked within the provincial health care system for eight years, including the Cancer Care Program NL. Her research is community-based and driven by the community’s needs. Her approach is ‘with’ and ‘for’ the community, and they are partners from start to finish. She specializes in participatory methods such as photovoice. Her interests include the study of chronic health conditions (cancer, TB and mental wellness) from a strength-based perspective celebrating resilience and community-identified solutions.

Kathy Michelin


Kathy Michelin is a beneficiary of the Nunatsiavut Government and is currently working the Government as a Policy Analyst on a Canadian Partnership Against Cancer funded project. Prior to working with the Nunatsiavut Government, Kathy worked as a Senior Analyst with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Labrador Affairs division for 11 years. Kathy graduated from Mount Saint Vincent University with a Bachelors of Science degree. Kathy has a keen interest in research and analysis with a focus on policy and program development at the community level.

Providing culturally safe care for Indigenous patients – Moving forward together

The concept of cultural safety emerged in New Zealand in the 1990s. It expands upon previous terms of awareness, competence, and sensitivity. Ensuring culturally safe care encompasses understanding, trust-building, shared decision making, acknowledgment and an understanding of power imbalances and self-reflection from the provider. For First Nations, Inuit and Metis (FNIM), a cancer diagnosis has obvious health implications but also social, financial, and interpersonal challenges. Often Individuals residing in rural and remote communities must leave their homes and familiar surroundings to seek health services in unfamiliar territory. For FNIM patients, language barriers, and a misunderstanding of cultural practices and beliefs can make communication difficult. An awareness and understanding of the colonial history of Canada and associated intergenerational trauma are important considerations within the context of healthcare. We will provide an overview of what cultural safety looks like in the context of psychosocial oncology and reflect on best/promising practices occurring in Canada. We will share our personal experience with the initiative Courage, Compassion, and Connection: A Journey to Healing (funded by CPAC). The Nunatsiavut Government leads the initiative, in collaboration with the NunatuKavut Community Council, Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation, and the Mushuau Innu First Nation and Memorial University. We employ innovative and culturally appropriate methods to collect data on the experiences of patients and family members from all Indigenous groups. The work of this project will embed an Indigenous focus across many areas, and continue efforts in care delivery that is culturally responsive and respectful. Improvements in the coordination of care during the pre-diagnosis journey and enhancements to information sharing and preparedness at transition points in care will advance the seamless patient care priority area. The inclusion of primary care providers in all aspects of work will be instrumental to success in this area and to ensure there are sustainable gains and changes made to improve patient experiences and care.

Tristan Bilash


Tristan is a Clinical Oncology Social Worker at Allan Blair Cancer Centre in Regina, SK. He is also a transgender man and advanced ovarian cancer survivor. Never to be pigeonholed, Tristan is also a writer, motivational speaker, singer/songwriter, retired goaltender, aspiring podcaster and dad to two incorrigible Pomeranians. Tristan has become a sought after speaker, helping audiences experience respectful conversations about providing healthcare services to transgender patients of all ages. He has presented to Saskatchewan Cancer Agency colleagues across the province of Saskatchewan as well as several departments of the Saskatchewan Health Authority. Tristan is also passionate about the importance of discussing sexual health concerns with patients. He co-found the Beyond Pillow Talk Journal Club for interdisciplinary oncology professionals to hone their comfort and skills discussing sexual health with patients. Tristan is especially excited to be a part of helping the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency develop a sexual health clinic. He also co-facilitates ABCC’s Androgen Deprivation Therapy class. With the support of his Cancer Agency, Tristan is pursuing his Masters of Social Work at the University of Regina beginning in Fall 2020. He will dedicate his thesis to focusing on experiences of transgender cancer patients and improving access to trans-knowledgeable oncology providers.

Spare Parts: My Life as a Transgender Man with Ovarian Cancer

Tristan’s journey provides him a unique perspective on the cancer experience as well as the mental and physical healthcare systems in our country. With his infectious sense of humour and humility, Tristan will share his observations and insights while providing an overview of available research. Tristan will provide conference participants with strategies to apply to their daily practices that will improve access and remove barriers for transgender patients across Canada.