John Gajasan
John Gajasan, a registered nurse in the Medical Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Toronto General Hospital, is the winner of the 2018 UHN Living Our Values Award for Compassion. (Photo: UHN)

Holding the hand of an anxious patient and explaining, in a calm voice, how a breathing tube will be removed. Buying lunch for a fellow nurse who forgot her wallet. Making colleagues feel supported.

These are just some of the ways John Gajasan, a registered nurse in the Medical Surgical Intensive Care Unit (MSICU) at Toronto General Hospital, displays the value of compassion on a daily basis.

"He shows kindness to families through emotional support and by offering them a cup of coffee from downstairs when he goes on break," one of John's fellow MSICU nurses wrote in nominating him for a 2018 UHN Living Our Values Award.

"He is always cordial to other staff by offering a smile and helping hand."

John, a graduate of nursing at Ryerson University who joined UHN in 2014, is one of the first five winners of the inaugural awards, which are designed to recognize clinical and non-clinical members of TeamUHN who through daily actions live the organization's values of: safety, compassion, teamwork, integrity and stewardship.

"The Living our Values Award was introduced to UHN to remind us of the importance of living our values each and every day," says Emma Pavlov, EVP HR and Organizational Development.

"We were pleased that so many were moved to nominate their colleagues for this inaugural year. Certainly, the final choices were difficult to make.

"This year's recipients are exemplary, and their efforts inspire us all."

The awards will be presented on Jan. 23 at a reception hosted by Dr. Kevin Smith, UHN President & CEO.

In addition to John being recognized for the Value of Compassion, the other winners of the awards are:

Brenda Perkins-Meingast, Director, Practice-Based Education with Collaborative Academic Practice & Caring Safely Education Lead; Award for Value of Safety

Brenda Perkins-Meingast 

She is "extremely passionate" about safety, one nominator says of Brenda, who began in healthcare as a registered nurse, has a proven track record of more than 25 years of innovation and leadership across the continuum of care, and was a key member of the teams who developed Caring Safely at UHN.

"No matter which meeting or project she's working on, safety is always top of mind," says one of Brenda's colleagues. "When incidents are discussed, she is always thinking about both the patient and the staff involved."

Brenda, according to her colleagues, embodies a "just culture" and recognizes that it is more about individual behavior than the outcome.

"She believes we have to treat people fairly when they make mistakes and focus on how to fix the system rather than individual blame," one nominator wrote.

Other nominators describe Brenda's "effective and strong leadership" across a vast and complex portfolio at UHN, including developing internal educational opportunities for health professions, tremendous support for those on her team and being a great motivator and mentor.

"Brenda not only personifies UHN values but also truly puts the needs of patients as a foundation to all her work," one of her nominators wrote.

Dr. Leanne Casaubon, Director, Transient Ischemic Attack and Minor Stroke (TAMS) Unit, Toronto Western Hospital; Award for Value of Teamwork

Leanne Casaubon  

"She has developed a team that functions as equals, with respect for the skills and knowledge brought by each."

That's how one nominator summed up the work of Dr. Casaubon in building an outstanding team of interprofessional groups focused on the needs of stroke patients at Toronto Western (TW) and beyond.

TW already had a reputation for clinical excellence and leadership in the delivery of acute stroke care even before securing in 2017 Stroke Distinction from Accreditation Canada, a designation granted to hospitals demonstrating a commitment to innovation, high-quality service and positive patient outcomes. Dr. Casaubon was the physician lead in the process, which lasted about 18 months.

"Through her innate ability to pull teams together, work collaboratively with all partners – both internal and external – and inspire others to go above and beyond, Dr. Casaubon was successful," wrote another nominator. "In every interaction, she is respectful and fosters an environment of trust and openness."

Beyond her key role in helping secure Stroke Distinction, colleagues also praised Dr. Casaubon for her "dedication and commitment" in building the TAMS team.

"She tirelessly gives of herself for the betterment of our patients and our teams," a nominator wrote.

Heather Gordon, Social Worker, Red Blood Cell Clinic, Toronto General Hospital; Award for Value of Integrity

Heather Gordon  

Always supports patients and colleagues, including helping de-escalate tense situations. Honest, trustworthy and always seeking out correct information when unsure. A great mentor.

These are just some of the descriptions colleagues have about Heather, who joined UHN in 2010.

"Heather is a true leader and a visionary," one nominator wrote. "She is passionate about her work and she lives our values on a daily basis."

One colleague applauded Heather for ensuring patients' voices were heard in the Red Blood Cell Disorders Forum, an annual event between 2012 and 2017, which she played a key role in developing. Another called Heather "innovative and very structured" in how she manages the workload of her practice, including creating numerous tools and tip sheets to standardize work, which she is willing to share with anyone who is interested.

"Heather is always ready and willing to teach and include others in her work," wrote one nominator.

"She's great at navigating local resources and pointing patients to the right resource at the right time," added another. "She focuses on things that help patients succeed and become more self-reliant."

Vijiananthan Sivanandan, Technologist, Renal Engineering, Hemodialysis Unit, Toronto General Hospital; Award for Value of Stewardship

Vijiananthan Sivanandan  

Viji, as he's known to his colleagues, has over his 20 years at UHN earned a reputation as someone with "an exceptional commitment to our values," according to one of his nominators.

Another colleague cited an example of Viji's quick thinking and ingenuity in putting the needs of patients first. There was a high number of patients requiring dialysis at Toronto Western Hospital but a shortage of machines. So, he hastily arranged transport of the equipment and staff from Toronto General to TW and then went over himself to calibrate the machines for use so treatment wouldn't be delayed.

"He is always willing to roll up his sleeves and provide support to the team," one nominator wrote.

Another example of Viji's "genuine dedication to our patients," one colleague wrote, is how, in his own quiet way, he does his work to a high standard. His habit of always going "above and beyond what is expected of him," the colleague added, includes lowering the anxiety level of patients doing their dialysis at home by ensuring they keep stocked on their supplies so they don't miss treatments.

"His calm demeanour and ability to follow through with projects under stress gives the entire team confidence that our patients are being cared for at the highest standard," a nominator wrote.​

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