Meet Wellspring’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Roundtable
In our current five-year strategic plan, Wellspring introduced a comprehensive Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) imperative to guide our intention for all individuals seeking cancer support (regardless of race, socioeconomic factors, religion, ethnicity, ability, gender, sexual orientation), to experience Wellspring as welcoming and inclusive; in accord with our vision to ensure no one has to face cancer alone.
As part of this plan, we assembled a D&I Advisory Roundtable to inform and advise Wellspring’s senior leadership team, and to provide accountability measures in moving our D&I imperative forward.
The D&I Roundtable is comprised of individuals who are committed to creating a Wellspring where everyone belongs. These are dedicated individuals who have: lived cancer experience; knowledge or experience with marginalization and racism; and/or, have encountered barriers to accessing community-based supportive care or the health care system.
Meet our Diversity and Includion Advisory Roundtable
Amtul Siddiqui has been a passionate and dedicated advocate for diversity and inclusion for the better part of her life. Born in small town Idaho in the 1970s to Muslim parents who had immigrated from Pakistan, Amtul grew up harbouring a deep longing to fit in. Fortunately, she was gifted with a forward-thinking father whose philosophy was to embrace and explore the richness of diversity… diversity of people, their backgrounds, and their varied ways of thinking. It was her father’s influence that helped shape Amtul’s tenacity, and sparked her lifelong interest in finding ways to promote inclusion, social connection, and unmitigated belonging.
Amtul’s commitment to Wellspring’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Roundtable stems from her own experiences with feeling marginalized, and also from her family’s experience of having limited resources available when her mother was diagnosed with cancer at age 51. Having suffered the loss of her mother soon after diagnosis, Amtul made it her mission to someday lend her support to a cancer organization, and provide a voice to those who face barriers when accessing community resources.
While serving in various professional senior fundraising roles in organizations including Calgary Health Foundation and Canadian Red Cross, Amtul has always remained faithful to her belief that volunteering is the backbone of communities. To that end, she has consistently offered her time and commitment to causes she believes in, including CIBC Run For The Cure and the Calgary Police Commission. In her current role as Executive Director of the Bethany Care Foundation, Amtul helps create communities of care, and supports the transformation of Albertans aging well.
Benny Rana was among the first to join Wellspring’s D&I Advisory Roundtable, and she has continued to serve on this committee with unbridled commitment, conviction and compassion. A tenacious student of life and learning, Benny achieved her first master’s degree in public health in 2020 and is currently on track to finish a second master’s degree in Kinesiology, with a focus on physical activity for cancer and equity, diversity, and inclusion. Benny will culminate her studies with a thesis on inclusive and accessible cancer care resources, with special interest in the LGBTQ community and exercise resources.
Benny first noticed a gap in Alberta’s health resources designed to meet the needs of minority groups when her grandfather was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2016. As a caregiver, Benny experienced a notable disparity in services available, not just for her family of South Asian descent, but for most minority populations. Her perception was further evidenced when she volunteered for the Canadian Cancer Society as a Community Ambassador and noted that supportive cancer care resources are tailored to and accessible to the majority populations, but not easily accessible for racialized and marginalized populations.
As a UCalgary Kinesiology graduate student immersed in research on exercise oncology, Benny also serves Wellspring Alberta as a program leader, providing exercise and education to people living with and beyond cancer. A zealous leader, and an impassioned advocate for underserved minority populations, Benny aspires to help create to a world where everyone has access to supportive cancer care resources and services they deserve, and we share the understanding that we all belong.
Emily Liu understands how difficult it can be to immigrate to a new country and experience isolation as result of language and cultural barriers. She knows too well how stressful it is when a close family member is diagnosed with cancer, and is faced with a plethora of challenges when accessing a foreign healthcare system.
These circumstances and others are what sparks Emily’s desire to serve on the Wellspring D&I Advisory Roundtable. She strives to apply her passion and perspectives to guide Wellspring in offering support for recent immigrants. She especially aims to underscore the importance of extensive training for staff and volunteers, so they are adequately prepared to support people experiencing barriers, especially those amplified during the stress of a cancer diagnosis and treatment.
As a student, pursuing her BSc in Pharmacology at the University of Alberta, Emily is drawn to cancer-related studies, conducting research that examines the development of lymphedema after breast cancer treatment in the Oncology department at U of A.
She also looks forward to leveraging her experience at Stollery Children’s Hospital and MusicBox Children’s Charity, where music was applied as a tool to overcome economic marginalization, and to cultivate joy and confidence among children.
Nina Saini is presently the Executive Director of an Alberta provincial anti-hate crimes organization, and previously, she was the Executive Director of an ethno-specific counselling agency. Nina’s 13 years of professional experience in the non-profit sector provide her with an intersectional lens of the nuances faced by marginalized communities and the barriers to these individuals accessing equitable supports.
Nina’s entrepreneurial drive and experience in the private sector, combined with her education in psychology, and currently pursuit of an M.A. in global leadership, provides a dynamic and unique skillset to the Wellspring D&I roundtable.
Nina finds the Wellspring D&I roundtable a valuable experience as she recognizes that often racialized communities and their families are underrepresented in the area of cancer support services. Also, she acknowledges the need for various health services to build capacity and cultural humility in developing effective programming to engage marginalized people who are living with cancer. Having lost her father to cancer in 2012, Nina feels it is important to contribute to the social progress toward health equity and kind-care for those who can benefit from resources and support.
Pascal Mean has an instinctive approach to equity, diversity, and inclusion, acquired through years of experience working as a dentist and oral surgeon in Switzerland. As a doctor, Pascal says he took an oath to see all his patients as human beings, with no significance applied to medical conditions, origins, gender, skin colour, religion, or sexual orientation. Working in a medical practice that catered largely to immigrants of all backgrounds, Pascal found it effortless to remain focussed on oral and general health, while ensuring equal access, equitable fees, and excellent services for anyone who walked through the doors of his clinic.
A few decades later, after experiencing cancer twice, the second time impeding his motor skills and causing him to lose his ability to work, Pascal and his wife, along with one of their three kids, emigrated to Canada: his wife’s native country. Living in Calgary, Pascal came to view the diversity and inclusion paradigm from a more personal perspective. Specifically, as a mainly French-speaking Swiss immigrant, he experienced challenges with the language deficiencies in Alberta and the implications it can create in the medical field as well as other situation where communication is key.
At Wellspring, Pascal enjoyed access to cancer support programs and services but took note of the lacking multilingual services, which was the impetus for his interest in Wellspring’s D&I Advisory Roundtable. Currently living beyond cancer, and happy to be a member of the Wellspring D&I Committee, as well as a front desk volunteer, Pascal hopes to apply his first-hand experience with language barriers and cancer-related limitations, to help shape a path forward that is more inclusive to meet the diverse needs of all those who seek Wellspring’s support.
Sanam Zomorodi brings a dynamic and empirical perspective to the Wellspring D&I Advisory Roundtable. As a young professional engineer working and living in Calgary, Sanam is accustomed to the nuances of dissimilarity, both as an Iranian immigrant, and as a young adult cancer survivor. However, when reflecting on her life, Sanam points to her diagnosis of cancer as the primary life experience that invoked a sense of exclusion and marginalization.
Sanam’s family immigrated to Alberta in 1998 when Sanam was nine years old. An established couple with three young daughters, the Zomorodi family left their home country to escape a regime that dictates extreme repression and discrimination against women.
Completing high school in Red Deer, Sanam took pride in being the first immigrant to deliver the valedictorian speech to her graduating class. She later moved to Calgary to study chemical engineering and then went on to Dalhousie University in Halifax to earn a master’s degree in resource and environmental management. With admission secured to law school, Sanam had her sights set on becoming an environmental lawyer, when, at age 27 she was diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
For Sanam, now five years beyond diagnosis and in remission, her interest in the Wellspring D&I Advisory Roundtable stems from her deep-rooted desire to be a voice for cancer patients who are hospitalized in acute care, and unable to access community-based support and resources, including Wellspring. Read more about Sanam’s story and her commitment to help support others facing cancer.
Suma Mathew has spent a lifetime building pathways, honing leadership skills, mastering complex career roles and building high performance teams. During her career, she has held Board and Task Force positions and volunteered in her community, and all the while nurturing her family with love and guidance to help them achieve their full potential. From her earliest experiences, Suma chose to pursue a unique and challenging path for herself.
Suma’s life in Canada began at age eight, when she and her family left India and settled in Ottawa. Along with learning a new language, Suma endured social challenges, overcame cultural barriers, and graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering. After graduation, she moved to Calgary, got married, had two sons, and forged a robust 35-year career in the energy sector. Her career highlights include technical roles, management positions, commercial negotiations and forming high performance teams with major energy companies and industry organizations.
Now in retirement, Suma draws on her authentic experiences of reaching for belonging and brings to Wellspring’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Roundtable her desire to help shape decisions and remove obstacles that prevent marginalized individuals and their families from accessing the resources and supports they need. Suma’s passion is drawn from her empathic nature, and her experiences with friends and family living with cancer. She is excited to be part of a diverse team that thinks strategically, raises consciousness, and implements the change needed to help individuals and groups to persevere in difficult circumstances.
Zack Marshall (he/him)
As a cancer survivor, a former caregiver who lost his partner to cancer in 2019, and a social worker engaged in supporting queer and trans communities, Zack Marshall brings a broad spectrum of experiential perspectives to the Wellspring D&I Advisory Roundtable. Zack is further invested in Wellspring as a front desk volunteer, where he applies his compassion and lived cancer experience to those who come through the doors at Wellspring’s Carma House.
Zack immigrated to Canada with his family from Ireland and spent most of his youth in eastern and Atlantic Canada. He obtained his MSW from Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, and has been a registered social worker in that province since 2003. In 2012, while studying to obtain his PhD in Community Health at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Zack was diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately, surgery was successful, and he is now well past pivotal cancer milestones, but over a decade later, Zack still recalls the barriers and limitations he faced in accessing health and cancer support services as a trans person.
Today, in addition to being an Associate Professor at UCalgary’s Department of Community Health Sciences at the Cumming School of Medicine, Zack is engaged in research projects centering individuals and communities who experience marginalization and other forms of oppression, including 2SLGBTQ+ people. His hope in joining Wellspring, is that by lending his voice, and leveraging his experience and passion, he can help build community and ensure Wellspring’s services and programs are thoughtfully designed to serve all those who seek cancer support.