AVA Launch Event

Thank you to everyone who attended the AVA Launch Event in-person or online!

About the Speakers

Kharah Ross

Dr. Kharah Ross is a Health Psychologist, with a specialization in psychoneuroimmunology, or the study of the connections between psychosocial states (e.g. stress, close relationship quality) and immune activity, with a focus on the context of maternal-child health. She has an increasing focus on supporting data management and program evaluation initiatives for community agencies. Dr. Ross completed post doctoral training at the University of California – Los Angeles in Psychology (2015-2018), with the Preterm Birth Initiative at the University of California – San Francisco (2016-2018), and at the Owerko Centre in the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, University of Calgary (2018-2019) as a CIHR and Alberta Innovates Postdoctoral Fellow. Dr. Ross joined the Psychology program at Athabasca University in 2019 and is currently an Associate Professor in Psychology and the Chair for the Centre for Social Sciences. She is also the Membership Executive Officer for the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) Health Psychology & Behavioural Medicine section.

Susan Graham

Dr. Susan Graham is the Director of the Owerko Centre for Neurodevelopment and Child Mental Health, Scientific Director for the Azrieli Accelerator, and a Professor in the Department of Psychology. Her research focuses on understanding language and cognitive development during the infancy and preschool years and is funded by SSHRC and NSERC. She has received awards recognizing her successful research program, including a Killam Research Excellence Award, the Killam Annual Professor Award and a Canada Research Chair. She served as the Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Cognition and Development for 5 years. She is an elected fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and the Canadian Society Canadian Society for Brain, Behavior, and Cognitive Science. Her dedication to, and strength in effective mentorship, has been recognized by receipt of the Izaak Walton Killam Award for Graduate Supervision and Mentoring. 

Nicole Letourneau

Dr. Nicole Letourneau [RN PhD FCAHS FAAN FCAN ProDir] is a professor in the Faculty of Nursing and Cumming School of Medicine (Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Community Health Sciences) at the University of Calgary. She is also the Scientific Director of the Alliance against Violence and Adversity (AVA) Health Research Training Platform and Principal Investigator of the Child Health Intervention and Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Studies program. She is also director of RESOLVE (Research and Education for Solutions to Violence) Alberta. She is currently a Research Chair in Parent and Child Mental Health. Formerly, she was the Palix/Alberta Children’s Hospital Chair in Parent-Infant Mental Health (2011-21) and Canada Research Chair in Healthy Child Development (2007-11). Letourneau has attained ~$75 million CDN in research funding and has authored of three books as well as 235+ peer reviewed papers. A regular contributor of opinion-editorials appearing in online/print media such as the HuffPost and Toronto Star, she is the most followed nurse on Twitter in the world with more than 30K followers.  

Carlene Donnelly

Carlene Donnelly [MEd BA] has more than 25 years as an executive leader and consultant in the non-profit and social services sector. She is Executive Director of CUPS, an organization providing housing, health, and education support to vulnerable Calgarian adults, families and children. She led CUPS through significant change and growth, focusing CUPS on evidence and impacts in the community, and assuring CUPS attained and retained a Top-10 spot on Canadian Impact Charities by Charity Intelligence Canada. She participates in high profile research and advocacy projects and is asked to speak internationally about her work and experience. Donnelly believes that non-profit and social sectors have much more potential to scale up positive outcomes for children and families and that by adopting a business framework and applying current brain science, they will be able to be achieve larger impact. She leads the Platform Advisory Committee, which provides ultimate oversight for the Alliance against Violence and Adversity (AVA).

Sandra Davidson

Dr. Sandra Davidson [RN PhD FAAN FCAN] was appointed as Dean of the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Calgary in August 2018 and renewed for a second term in 2022. She joined UCalgary from the University of Alberta, where she served as the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs (ADUP) in the Faculty of Nursing. She joined the University of Alberta in 2013 and assumed this administrative role in mid 2016. In her role as ADUP she oversaw the largest portfolio within the faculty, Davidson co-led the Curriculum Renewal Project that resulted in a renewed undergraduate curriculum that launched in fall 2018. She has served in a variety of positions in the United States, including Dean of Nursing and then Senior Director of Academic Affairs for Carrington College based in Phoenix, Arizona, and as the Director, Master of Healthcare Innovation Program Arizona State University.

Theresa Kawalilak

Born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Theresa has completed the Bachelor of Applied Child Studies at Mount Royal College and the Bachelor of Social Work at the University of Calgary. Theresa holds generosity and empathy through service as an important value. Her commitment and passion to contribute to the community and to the care and support of others have grown throughout her youth and adult life. Over the past 15 years, she has continued to find ways to be of service to others and to support individuals and community organizations. All life experiences she has acquired along the way have prepared her for this current chapter in her learning journey. She currently works at the Family Development Centre at CUPS, working one on one with families, meeting them where there are at, and helping them achieve their goals. She also helps facilitate the 12-week Nurturing Parenting program, Circle of Security Parenting program, and is an ATTACH facilitator. Not only do these roles provide the opportunity for Theresa to fulfill her passion for helping others grow and reach their full potential, they also foster her own learning both personally and professionally as she considers herself to be a lifelong learner.

A big thank you to our sponsors!