Building Strong Families 2020

The Building Strong Families Conference is a one-day learning forum for healthcare and social support practitioners in perinatal mental and physical health. It’s an opportunity to hear the latest developments from sought-after experts. Keynote sessions subjects include Resilience and Self-regulation, Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs), pediatric neuro-development, the NICU experience and how interventions can affect mental health outcomes. Breakout sessions will cover common winter illnesses and RSV, provincial pathways to maternal mental health support, supporting parents with vulnerable children and parenting through the pandemic. Each is an interactive opportunity for both parents and practitioners to gain further valuable insight and equip attendees with actionable strategies and tools to help families thrive.

To Register click HERE

View the Program Agenda

Conference Date & Time
Date: Tuesday November 17, 2020
Time: 9:30 am to 4:30 pm

Conference Location
Online (comfort of your own place)

Schedule of Events

9:30 am: Log in Time (If you log in a bit early, you'll be in the Waiting Room.)

9:45 to 10:00 am: Opening Remarks

10:00 to 11:00 am: Morning Keynote: Dr. Stuart Shanker
Topic: Building Resilience in Parents and Children: The Self-Reg View

11:15 am to 12:15 pm: Dr. Daisy Singla 
Topic: Improving Access to Talk Therapies for Perinatal Populations 

12:15 to 12:45 pm: Interactive Lunch & Twitter Chat 
Understanding RSV & Common Winter Illnesses

1:00 to 2:00 pm: Afternoon Keynote: Dr. Cindy-Lee Dennis
Topic: The Importance of Examining The Whole Family in Perinatal Mental Health, Including Fathers

2:15 to 3:15 pm: Breakout Sessions

Topic: Supporting the Mental Health of Newcomer Moms in Postpartum Period
Speaker: Amy Lo

Topic: Writing Your Fairy Tale: The Power of Redefinition
Speaker: Lesley Donaldson

Topic: Optimizing Care of the Infant With NAS
Speaker: Mindy Fuzesy

Topic: Indigenous Perinatal Health: Respecting the Ceremony of Birth
Speaker: Carol Couchie

Topic: Windows of Opportunity for Feeding Success
Speaker: Maxine Scringer-Wilkes

3:30 to 4:30 pm: Closing Session: Panel moderated by André Picard

Topic: The State of PMADs in Canada: Help for moms and referral pathway for new moms in each province

Panel Speaker: Catriona Hippman
Panel Speaker: Hiltrud Dawson
Panel Speaker: Dr. Gina Wong
Panel Speaker: Claire Kerr-Zlobin


Dr. Stuart Shanker (Morning Keynote)

Dr. Stuart Shanker (D.Phil) is a Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Psychology, the CEO of The MEHRIT Centre, Ltd., and founder and Scientific Director of Self-Reg Global Inc. One of his many books, “Calm, Alert and Learning: Classroom Strategies for Self-Regulation (2012)”, is a top-selling educational publication in Canada., Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage With Life (2016),has garnered enthusiastic reviews and media attention throughout North America and has also been published in the UK, the US, Poland, Germany, South Korea, China, The Netherlands, and The Czech Republic. His latest books are Self-Reg Schools: A Handbook for Educators (2019) and Reframed: Self-Reg for a Just Society (2020)

Over the past decade, Dr. Shanker has served as an advisor on early child development to government organizations across Canada and the United States, and in countries around the world. During this period, he became increasingly interested in the impact of excessive stress on child development and behaviour.  Dr. Shanker’s five-step Self-Reg model, The Shanker Method®, is a powerful process for understanding and managing stress in children, youth and adults.

In 2012 Dr. Shanker founded The MEHRIT Centre as a Self-Reg learning and information centre. Dr. Shanker commits considerable time to bringing the research and science of Self-Reg to parents, early childhood educators, teachers, educational leaders, health practitioners and communities through presentations, master classes, online courses, webinars, publications, social media and blogs.

Dr. Cindy-Lee Dennis (Afternoon Keynote)

Dr. Cindy-Lee Dennis is a Professor in the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing and the Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. She holds the Women’s Health Research Chair at Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael’s Hospital. She is currently the principal investigator of seven large, multi-site studies and is a co-investigator on twenty-four other research projects concerning maternal, paternal, and infant health outcomes with a focus on perinatal mental health and breastfeeding. She holds over $23 million in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) as a principal investigator and has over 200 peer-review publications. She is the lead author of eight Cochrane systematic reviews and has provided over 165 invited presentations. She developed the Breastfeeding Self-Efficacy Scale, the most widely used breastfeeding measure in the world that has been translated into over 20 different languages. Dr. Dennis has worked with the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services, the Provincial Council for Maternal and Child Health, and Public Health Ontario to influence policy and improve the care provided to women and their families across the perinatal period.

Dr. Daisy Radha Singla (Morning Speaker)

Dr. Daisy Radha Singla is a clinical psychologist, clinician scientist and professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and Sinai Health System. Over the past decade, she has worked with global health leaders across South Asia and Eastern Africa to reduce the burden of maternal depression and improve child outcomes. As the recent (and youngest) winner of an award funded by Patient Centered Outcome Research Institute (PCORI), she has launched SUMMIT ( — the largest psychotherapy trial for perinatal depression and anxiety to date. Ultimately, Dr. Singla aspires to scale up evidence-based psychological treatments to enrich the lives of women and their families worldwide. 

Amy Lo (Breakout Speaker)

Amy Lo is a Counsellor and Psychotherapist of Community Family Services of Ontario with areas of specialty in culturally sensitive psychotherapy, parenting, and psychoeducation. Amy, through different therapeutic modalities such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, works collaboratively with individuals that struggle with mental health issues, helping them to overcome challenges and strive for their goals. Amy recognizes the importance of an individual's mental health to a family system, which is why she is committed to advocate and walk together with individuals in distress as well as their families in order to support them through difficult situations and life transitions.

Lesley Donaldson (Breakout Speaker)

Lesley Donaldson-Reid writes books and saves lives. As a fantasy author, she creates worlds for people to escape into, but her personal story turned into a nightmare when her high-risk pregnancy resulted in a her son's premature birth three months early. The experience irrevocably changed her life trajectory. Lesley turned her pain into purpose with her moving memoir, Growing A Rainbow: The Journey of a Two Pound Hero. Unable to contain her long-time passion for telling stories, she became a nationally and internationally published author of fiction and non-fiction. Lesley is also an emergency nurse, mother to a mischievous child with a medical laundry list of challenges, and an often companionable wife. She blogs at and is "old school" on social at

Mindy Fuzesy (Breakout Speaker)

Mindy Fuzesy is a registered nurse with over 37 years’ experience caring for sick infants and promoting positive parenting in the neonatal intensive care unit. During that time, she has functioned as bedside nurse, nurse manager, neonatal/maternal flight nurse, and NICU specialist.

Mindy has spent a great deal of her career focusing on the care of infants experiencing neonatal abstinence syndrome. She brought the Eat/Sleep/Console model of care into her facility and was instrumental in the development of an incentivized parenting program for NICU families struggling with substance use disorder. Mindy started the Community Drug Task Force/Alliance in northwest Montana and was co-recipient of the Community Innovation Award from the Montana Board of Crime Control for her work. She has been invited to speak to diverse audiences on this topic including clinical staff, national conferences, law enforcement, and government groups.

She is an expert content reviewer for AWHONN’s Neonatal Orientation and Education Program, is certified in both Neonatal Intensive Care and Inpatient Obstetrics and has a Neonatal Developmental Care Specialist designation.

Carol Couchie (Breakout Speaker)

Carol Couchie is an Nishnawbe kwe and a member of Nipissing First Nation. She has practiced Midwifery in several parts of Canada both Urban Rural and Remote. She now lives in her home community after co founding KTigaaning Midwives with her daughter Rachel Couchie Dennis. She is a mother of two beautiful women a grandmother and cultural knowledge keeper.

Maxine Scringer-Wilkes (Breakout Speaker)

Maxine (RN, BN, MN, IBCLC) graduated with a nursing degree followed later on by her Master of Nursing in 2017 both from the University of Calgary. Maxine was a public health nurse in Calgary for 13 years, where providing face to face contacts with new families soon after discharge is a standard of care. Most families named feeding challenges as their biggest concern. In turn, Maxine developed a passion about lactation support and attained the International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant designation, in order to help families, reach their feeding goals.

In 2016, Maxine made the transition from public health to acute care where she currently works in all areas of a large Children’s hospital to support dyads with a myriad of lactation concerns. These areas include, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Emergency, Pediatric intensive care unit, inpatient units, and outpatient clinics including respiratory, cardiac, eating, feeding and swallowing clinic. Maxine orients new staff as well as provides lactation education classes and talks. Maxine is passionate about sharing knowledge with aspiring LCs and is a mentor to many. Maxine participates on numerous committees to update lactation and feeding policies and procedures and documents. Furthermore, she volunteers on provincial and national breastfeeding committees.

André Picard (Panel Moderator)

André Picard is the health columnist at The Globe and Mail and the author of six books.

Catriona Hippman (Panel Speaker)

Catriona Hippman is a Research Fellow with the Reproductive and Infant Psychiatry programs at BC Children's Hospital. She completed her PhD in 2020 in the UBC Interdisciplinary Studies program, co-supervised by Dr. Jehannine Austin and Dr. Lynda Balneaves. She is also trained clinically as a genetic counsellor, certified since 2009, and is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the UBC Department of Psychiatry.

Hiltrud Dawson (Panel Speaker)

BTech (neonatal nursing), RN, IBCLC. Hiltrud is a nurse and former midwife with a passion for maternal and child health. Hiltrud has worked with Best Start by Health Nexus since 2005 bringing her skills, expertise, and enthusiasm to further maternal and child health in Ontario. Hiltrud’s initial focus at Health Nexus was a public campaign to bring awareness of perinatal mood disorders (PMADs) to the public in Ontario. Life with a New Baby supported destigmatizing of PMADs and gave expectant and new families resources to help them through their pregnancy and postpartum journey. Since then Hiltrud has continued to work on issues and develop resources related to PMADs and mental health during the childbearing years in general. She has worked with many key stakeholders in this field in Ontario and beyond. Most recently, with her colleagues at Health Nexus, she released a new online course on supporting parents, when parents experience mental health challenges.

Dr. Gina Wong (Panel Speaker)

Dr. Gina Wong is a Registered Psychologist, Professor, and Program Chair in the Graduate Centre for Applied Psychology in the Faculty of Health Disciplines at Athabasca University. She specializes in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and has published widely, including Moms Gone Mad (Wong, 2012) and Infanticide and Filicide: Foundations in Maternal Mental Health Forensics published by the American Psychiatric Association (Wong & Parnham, 2020). Dr. Wong is a maternal mental health expert witness and has been involved in a maternal filicide case in Canada. She also has a program of research dedicated to maternal mental illness. She directs Maternal Mental Health Progress in Canada and the Centre for Perinatal Psychology and Forensics International.

Claire Zlobin (Panel Speaker)

Twelve years ago, Claire Zlobin was a new mom facing social isolation, anxiety, and loneliness - all signs of postpartum depression. Following months of suffering, doctors diagnosed her symptoms as perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD). When a search for a postpartum support system came up short, she built her own. Claire founded Life With A Baby in 2008. Life With A Baby is now North America’s largest parent peer-support network, with no signs of slowing. As CEO, Claire leads a dedicated team of moms like her. She has emerged as a pivotal advocate to broker change in the recognition, treatment, and stigma of maternal mental health.

To Register for the online event, click HERE

View the Program Agenda

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