Our Board of Directors makes a significant contribution to the Institute. Their dedication ensures that we continue to adhere to strict governance and guidelines for nonprofits operating in Canada.
Their passion for Praxis’ vision — a world without paralysis after spinal cord injury — translates into improvements in the lives of Canadians with SCI.
Dr. Ian Rigby (Chair) Emergency Physician, Foothills Medical Center
Dr. Ian Rigby is an emergency physician practicing in Calgary. His academic interests lie in medical education and he has previously been the emergency medicine residency program director at the University of Calgary. Before this, he developed the department’s interdisciplinary simulation program and co-developed the procedural skills program in undergraduate medicine.
Ben Almond (Vice Chair) CEO, EDPM Canada, SNC-Lavalin
BenAlmond joins SNC-Lavalin from Jacobs where he was the Regional Managing Director. Ben is a highly accomplished, results-oriented professional with a demonstrated background of effective, proactive leadership. Empowering and enabling teams to succeed, he drives accountability on commitment. Ben fosters excellence within interpersonal relations through liaison with executive teams and promotes and achieves high standards through strategic planning initiatives. He has overcome professional and personal challenges, including a life-changing accident in 2005 while proving himself as an inspirational leader with a strategic vision. Ben, holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from the University of Manitoba, was the recipient of Canada’s Top 40 under 40 Award.
Shari Hughson (Vice Chair) COO of Wayfound Mental Health Group
Shari Hughson has led a unique and unconventional life. She has been a serial entrepreneur, intrapreneur, social innovator and extreme adventurer. She started her first business at the age of 25 and won CIBC Entrepreneur of the Year before the age of 30. Shari has been a founding member in four more companies, two great learning opportunities (aka failures) and two ongoing scaling tech and data-driven health businesses. Shari created a social innovation program in mental well-being that won a National Honour from the First Nations Health Authority of Canada. She is currently the Chief Operating Officer of Wayfound Mental Health Group.
Shari is a travel and adventure fanatic and has pushed her limits in the extreme adventure of living off the land with only the bare survival essentials for seven years. Sustainable healthy living for people and the planet are her passions.
Jeff Charpentier (Treasurer) CFO for Proactive Immune Sciences Corporation
Jeff Charpentier is a senior financial executive with a successful record of leadership, management and business accomplishments in all areas of financial management gained in a variety of businesses, primarily in high growth technology sectors. Experience in working with entrepreneurial-oriented companies at various stages of product development through to commercialization. Significant business and international financial experience in accounting, financial reporting, planning and analysis, fundraising, corporate partnering & licensing, mergers & acquisitions, strategic planning, turnarounds, restructuring, treasury, investor and banking relations, SOX and internal controls, tax, audit, risk management, project management and controllership.
A results-oriented, hands-on manager with strong financial analysis skills, business acumen and team-building experience; self-motivated and demonstrated ability as a strong communicator and team player as well as a change agent.
Richdeep Gill (Secretary) Minimally Invasive Upper Gastrointestinal & Bariatric Surgeon Assistant Professor of Surgery, University of Calgary, Peter Lougheed Hospital
Dr. Richdeep (Richi) Gill is a Gastrointestinal & Bariatric Surgeon practicing in Calgary. Clinically he focuses on medical and surgical management of obesity. His research interests are in the management of obesity-related comorbidities with both medical and surgical treatment. He is currently the assistant program director for the Calgary general surgery residency program.
Jeremy Abitbol Vice-President, Client Wealth Management, Gluskin Sheff + Associates Inc.
As part of the Client Wealth Management team, Jeremy Abitbol focuses on client relationship management, portfolio and risk management, and business development of private and institutional clients. Prior to joining Gluskin Sheff in 2015, Jeremy was an Analyst at CI Financial and prior thereto, was part of the Client and Advisor Services group at CI Investments.
Michael Beattie Professor of Neurological Surgery, Co-Director, Brain and Spinal Injury Center, University of California, San Francisco
Dr. Beattie received his Ph.D. from Ohio State University in 1977, where he stayed on to become the founding chair of the Department of Neuroscience in 1999. He and his wife and colleague, Jacqueline Bresnahan, joined the University of California, San Francisco in 2006. He is currently Co-Director and Director of Research for the Brain and Spinal Injury Center (BASIC) in the Weill Institute for Neurosciences and Department of Neurological Surgery at UCSF.
His interests are in the cell biology of CNS injury and repair, and preclinical and clinical neurotrauma research. He has authored more than 140 peer-reviewed publications and has served on multiple editorial and NIH and other review panels. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) and the Praxis Spinal Cord Institute, and a member of the NIH CNNT study section. He and Dr. Bresnahan are the recipients of the 2012 Reeve-Irvine Research medal for excellence in spinal cord injury research.
Kristine Cowley Assistant Professor, Physiology & Pathophysiology Director, Spinal Cord Research Center, University of Manitoba
Dr. Kristine Cowley is the Director of the Spinal Cord Research Centre (SCRC) and an Assistant Professor of Physiology & Pathophysiology at the University of Manitoba. She is very knowledgeable on the history of the SCRC and has played an integral role in its direction both research and operation-wise. Dr. Cowley spearheaded the development and implementation of the unique Human Spinal Cord Injury Research Centre for Health, Balance and Motor Control laboratory located at the Spinal Cord Research Centre in the Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology at the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba.
The Honourable Chantal Petitclerc Paralympic Gold Medalist
The Honourable Chantal Petitclerc is not only an internationally renowned athlete but also a compassionate person. When she was 13 years old, she lost the use of her legs in an accident. While Petitclerc was developing her skills as a wheelchair athlete, she pursued her studies, first in social sciences at the CEGEP de Sainte-Foy and then in history at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. She overcame adversity and many obstacles to become a proven leader in the sports world. Her gold medals in the Paralympic Games, Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games, the various awards and accolades she has received, and her appointment as Team Canada’s Chef de Mission for the Rio Paralympic Games are all markers of her success.
Her many achievements and her personal journey have also made her an in-demand public speaker, recognized across Canada. She is a spokesperson for Défi Sportif AlterGo and is an ambassador for the international organization Right to Play. A tireless advocate for the contributions people with disabilities have made to our society, she plays a definitive role in building a more inclusive society. Her example inspires people to overcome their obstacles and achieve their full potential.
Through her experiences, Petitclerc has also learned a lot about the particular characteristics of various communities, as well as how decisions are made at the national level. As someone who has functional limitations herself, she has a good understanding of the needs of various minority communities and would like to ensure their voices are heard. She is a Companion of the Order of Canada and a Knight of the Order of Quebec. She received the Lou Marsh Trophy for Canadian Athlete of the Year and was inducted into the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame. She has also received four honorary doctorates. In addition, Petitclerc sits on various committees and boards of directors, where she provides her dynamic and unique perspective.
Christine Sang Director, Translational Pain Research, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School
Christine N. Sang, MD, MPH is Director, Translational Pain Research (TPR), Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Associate Professor of Anaesthesia, Harvard Medical School. She is a pediatric and adult anesthesiologist and acute post-operative/post-traumatic and chronic pain specialist. As director of TPR, she provides innovative clinical trial strategies for chronic pain indications on behalf of biopharmaceutical companies, NIH, and various foundations. Dr. Sang has served on numerous boards and committees for her institution, leading medical societies, government agencies (including Advisory Committees for the USFDA and the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee), patient advocacy groups, and the editorial boards of several journals including as co-editor of special issues and books. She consults widely with industry in various capacities.
Nava Swersky Sofer Innovation & Commercialization Expert Co-Chair, Directors Leading Change
Nava Swersky Sofer is a frequently-invited speaker in leading international forums on innovation, entrepreneurship, venture capital and technology transfer, with over 25 years of international experience living and working in three continents. She is a member of the Board of Directors of IMI Systems – Israel Military Industries, the Board of Governors of the Ruppin Academic Centre and a mentor at the IBM Alfa Zone accelerator (Israel) and the Nanjing Microsoft Incubator (China). Most recently she was the founding Managing Director of IDC Beyond, IDC Herzliya’s presidential program to create innovative ventures that apply exponential technologies to solve 21st-century global challenges. She is often quoted on Israeli innovation models, including in the best-selling book “Start-Up Nation”.
In addition, she is President & Chairperson of the Toronto-based International Commercialization Alliance, Founder of NanoIsrael, the international nanotechnology conference & exhibition, an adviser to the Israeli government on innovation and international R&D collaborations and an adviser to the United Nations’ World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on innovation. She is the Israeli delegate to OECD’s Business & Industry Advisory Council (BIAC) nanotechnology committee and development/innovation network and a board member of Rome-based INSME, the International Network of Small & Medium-Sized Enterprises and the Brussels-based Knowledge Economy Network. Ms. Swersky Sofer holds a law degree from Tel Aviv University, an MBA from IMD International in Lausanne, Switzerland and diplomas from the Sorbonne (Paris), the Goethe Institute (Munich) and the Instituto Trentino (Italy). She is a member of the Israel Bar Association, the youngest ever to have been admitted, and a retired Captain in the Israel Defence Forces.