Full Health Talks Speakers’ Biographies

jorri-websiteJorri Gosse

Student, Yorkson Creek Middle School
Jorri is the winner of our Health Talks Student Contest. She is a Grade 6 student at Yorkson Creek Middle School and is looking forward to a career in health care as a nurse. She is an avid skier and enjoys spending time with her family. She has been known to stand up for others that may not have the strength to do so themselves. She has most recently been interested in advocating for those with chronic pain due to her experiences with family members with chronic pain. Read Jorri’s winning essay about chronic pain.


barbara-websiteBarbara Alink

Chief Executive Officer, Alinker Inventions
Barbara is a Dutch designer, project manager, architect, mentor and inventor of the Alinker. She is currently the CEO of the Alinker Inventions – a company committed to building an inclusive community.

The Alinker itself is a ‘walking-bike’ for everybody who wants to stay active, regardless of mobility challenges. It challenges assumptions about people with disabilities. The Alinker is a non-motorized walking-bike without pedals. Traditional mobility aids are a technical solution for a body with a problem, the focus is on the problem, they are not designed to how you want to live your life, regardless of possible physical challenges. It is designed to be so cool that it overcomes the discomfort that other people feel with disabilities. It changes lives!

Before Barbara invented the Alinker she spent roughly 20 years in senior management positions, managing multi-million dollar international reconstruction projects, reconstructing hundreds of rural schools in Afghanistan and Aceh, Indonesia. She gained a deeper appreciation of the power of community during 10 years working in various countries experiencing struggle and change. With that experience of the power and importance of community, the vision to build an inclusive community developed.


colin-websiteColin Easton

Creator, The Stranger Project
Colin is the creator of The Stranger Project – est. 2014. After being diagnosed with clinical depression, Colin decided to do what he could to break his pattern of isolation. Wandering Vancouver, he met one stranger a day and explored that person’s story. Then he blogged about each encounter.

“It was about connection,” says Colin. “I wanted to see what would happen, if I attempted to connect with strangers, instead of walking past them. To open my mind, and my heart. To listen, free from any judgement.”

What started as a personal social experiment has led Colin on a life-changing journey, that continues still.


devin-websiteDevin Harris

Chief of Medical Staff, Kelowna General Hospital
Devin has been an emergency physician for 15 years, and has experience in research, health care leadership, and teaching. He is also an Assistant Professor in UBC’s Department of Emergency Medicine, the Associate Director of Research for Interior Health, the Stroke/TIA Clinical Lead at the BC Patient Safety and Quality Council, and Medical Advisor at Stroke Services BC.


kasim-websiteKasim Al-Mashat

Registered Psychologist, Meditation and Yoga Teacher
Kasim is a Registered Psychologist working in private practice to promote positive change, well-being, and mindful living. He is also a Hatha Yoga, Laughter Yoga, and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher.

He is passionate about sharing his personal and professional experiences in mindfulness. Kasim completed an intensive six-month meditation retreat in a forest meditation centre in Southeast Asia, and in “noble silence”. His mindfulness experiences inspired him to present a TEDx, titled “How mindfulness meditation redefines pain, happiness & satisfaction.”

Kasim offers counseling, supervision, MBSR programs, drop-in classes, retreats, trainings, workshops, and public talks. Learn more on his website.


ray-websiteRay Markham

Rural General Practitioner
Ray has worked in rural family practice for over 20 years. He has had a remarkably diverse and productive medical career that has taken him across the globe. Born in Zimbabwe and trained in South Africa, Ray first immigrated to Canada in 1992, where he practiced for three years in rural Newfoundland. In 1995, he began a seven-year career in General Practice with the British Army in the UK completing his General Practice Vocational Training and his Membership into the Royal College of General Practitioners. During that time, he was awarded the Sydney Herbert Medal and Prize for achievement in post-graduate medical officer training, and the Queen Mother Prize for GP vocational training.

In 2002, Ray returned to Canada and settled with his family in Valemount, BC, where he currently practices rural generalist family medicine. He led the local transition to an electronic medical record system, and helped establish the Northern Interior Rural Division of Family Practice as one of its founding directors. He continues to be heavily involved in several community health outreach and educational initiatives and sits on a number of regional and provincial committees. In 2009, Dr. Markham was awarded the Order of British Columbia for “steadfastly, unwaveringly, and intentionally serving the community of Valemount, despite the many challenges faced by rural medical caregivers.”

Ray was appointed as Medical Director for UBC Rural Continuing Professional Development in June of 2013, and Executive Director of the Rural Coordination Centre of BC in Jan 2016. He intends to practice rural family medicine in Valemount for the rest of his career. He is passionate about BC rural medicine although his commitment to isolated or underserved populations transcends borders – taking him from Kenya to Haiti and even to Antarctica. He regularly leads multidisciplinary volunteer teams from Canada to Zimbabwe through UBC Global Health aiming at bi-directional capacity building.


syexwaliya-websiteSyexwáliya / Ann Whonnock

Council Co-Chair, Councillor, Skwxwu7mesh Uxwumixw (Squamish Nation) Council
Syexwáliya / Ann Whonnock is a Member of the Skwxwu7mesh Uxwumixw (Squamish Nation). She is a Proud Chesha (Mom) of Syexwálten (Max Whonnock) and Syexwáliya men / Sakunakus (Josephine Whonnock) and proud ta-ah (Grandmother) of Kirsten, Jordan Whonnock (Max’s children) and Syexwálten/Shin null sutt (Gavin Baker, Josephine’s son).

Syexwáliya served as an elected member of the Skwxwu7mesh Uxwumixw Chiefs and Council for four terms from 1989 to 2005 and was re-elected for another four-year term in 2009 and again in 2013. During 2005 to 2009 she attended Capilano University and completed a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in June 2013.

Syexwáliya since October 2014 has been one of the Skwxwu7mesh Uxwumixw Council Co-chairs. As part of her Council duties, she is an active contributor in many initiatives, such as Squamish Nation Project Negotiation & Development projects, Service Agreement Negotiations, Health issues and Finance. As Co-chair she also works with the Executive Operating Officer of Service Delivery to assist Nation members to resolve concerns and issues.

As taught by her late grandparents, she supports families and shares cultural teachings and protocols. Her passion is to see that Squamish culture, language and ceremonies continue to be the cornerstone of the Nation for future generations. Her passion is to see her culture carried on by future generations and her snichim (language) to be used, not only by herself, but for all the families and future generations in their daily lives and ceremonies. Let’s not let our Culture and Snichim die out!


valerie-pagdin-2-websiteValerie Pagdin

Occupational Therapist, St. John Hospital
Valerie Pagdin is a wife of a wonderful man, the mother of two fascinating young teens, a farmer and gardener, and most recently, a really mean chicken who falls passionately in love in a community musical production called “Chickens”.

She has been an Occupational Therapist since 1997 and was proud to be the founder of the OT Department at St. John Hospital in Vanderhoof in 2001. She is a singer who started and led a vocal ensemble called The Apple Chors from 2005 to 2016. Valerie has always loved working with people with significant health issues, and was recently struck by an intense love for hospice care; she became the Hospice Care Coordinator for the Vanderhoof Hospice Society in 2015.

Valerie is all about relationships, and enjoys spending quality time with people talking about real issues rather than making small talk; she has been known to go away with a friend and talk for an entire weekend over a single issue! Valerie feels a wonderful connection with the vastness and love of the Spirit, and seeks to engage others in finding social justice for all.