About Us
Who We Are

Heart Valve Voice Canada is a non-profit patient advocacy organization that works to improve the health and quality of life of people living with heart valve disease. Our mission is to educate and advocate for early detection and diagnosis, along with innovations in treatments, so that Canadians with heart valve disease get the best possible care over the entire patient journey. We have an advocacy network that includes patients and their support systems, a multi-disciplinary group of health care professionals, and other cardiac and patient advocacy and service organizations.

Aims & Objectives

Heart Valve Voice Canada aims to educate and advocate for early detection and diagnosis, along with innovations in treatments, so that Canadians with heart valve disease get the best possible care over the entire patient journey.

Our core objectives are:

1. Raising awareness of the symptoms and severity of heart valve disease in Canada in order to save lives and improve quality of life.

2. Improving the recognition and diagnosis of heart valve disease by educating all those involved with heart valve disease patients on the symptoms and severity of heart valve disease.

3. Working to ensure there is a clear and effective treatment pathway between primary care and specialists to ensure optimal treatment of the disease.

4. Effectively campaigning for the early detection and optimal treatment of heart valve disease across Canada.

5. Providing credible, independent, and practical advice to patients, health care professionals, and policy-makers about heart valve disease.

6. Representing Canada’s heart valve disease patients to ensure they receive the right treatment at the right time, improving the quality of life and overall outcomes for each individual.

Board of Directors

Our Board of Directors is comprised of patients and health care professionals who are committed to guiding Heart Valve Voice Canada, including:

Len Crispino

Len Crispino is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a heart valve patient. His journey with heart disease began in high school when he was first diagnosed. This experience ignited his passion for creating meaningful change for others facing similar health challenges.
His instrumental contributions include founding the Ontario Economic Summit and Hang Tough, an initiative in support of the University Health Network (UHN). Hang Tough aims to address the unintended consequences of medical treatments and create a new integrated model of care for patients. Hang Tough has raised $1.2 million dollars to date.
Len has held senior leadership roles in the Business, Entrepreneurship, Public Service, and Not-for-Profit sectors. He holds an ICD.D designation - a designation given to individuals who demonstrate extensive knowledge of board governance. He also has 15 years of experience serving on various boards, including as the co-chair of the William Osler Health Centre Foundation, and chair, of Niagara College.

Dr. Janine Eckstein 

As an interventional cardiologist at the University of Saskatchewan, Dr. Janine Eckstein brings valuable medical insight to our board. Through her daily practice, she understands the impact of heart valve disease on patients and their families. She also successfully championed better access to valve disease treatments in Saskatchewan. Dr. Eckstein's persistent advocacy led to the introduction of two minimally invasive treatments for valve patients at the Royal University Hospital (RUH); the Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) program and the Transcatheter Mitral Valve Repair (TMVr) program. On January 12th, 2023, Dr. Eckstein and Dr. Buchko performed the first minimally invasive mitral valve repair in Saskatchewan on an 83-year-old heart valve patient from Saskatoon.
Beyond her clinical work, Dr. Eckstein has published numerous articles and taught students, physicians, and allied health specialties. Dr. Eckstein also serves as a Saskatchewan Heart and Stroke Foundation board member, Treasurer for the Canadian Association of Interventional Cardiology (CAIC) and Chair of the Awareness and Education Committee of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society Heart Valve Disease Working Group.

Dr. Jessica Forcillo

Dr. Forcillo is a cardiac surgeon who works at the University of Montreal Hospital Centre (CHUM), focusing on valvular heart surgery and aortic surgery. She is the first formerly trained cardiac surgeon in Canada in surgery and percutaneous valve procedures having completed a two-year fellowship with Emory University Hospitals in the U.S., which is one of the highest volume centres in transcatheter valve therapies. Research is also a big part of Dr Forcillo's career. She received her Master’s in Biomedical Sciences and Master’s in Public Health. She is part of a research team at Cape Town (South Africa) that works with the African Union to increase cardiac surgery programs and access to heart valve therapies in Africa. She also has a special interest in women's cardiovascular health as she is one of the co-founders of the Cardio-F clinic at the Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM). Dr. Forcillo is eager to participate in the development of new technologies, especially heart valve therapies, in order to offer what is best for her patients.

Hugh MacPhie

As a person with lived experience with mitral valve disease Hugh brings the important patient perspective to the Board of Directors.
Hugh is a business strategist, public speaker and author who has advised some of Canada’s most successful leaders and organizations from some of Canada’s largest companies to high-tech start-ups. His expertise in strategic leadership and facilitation will be an asset as we grow and work to improve the health and quality of life of people living with heart valve disease.
Hugh also brings valuable professional experience to the board through his work with non-profit and healthcare organizations, including the Ontario Ministry of Health, hospitals across Canada, Health Canada, and numerous associations including the Ontario Hospital Association, Home Care Ontario, Ontario Caregivers Organization, Ontario Pharmacists Association, and the Ontario Long-Term Care Association.
Hugh lives in Toronto with his wife Michelle, teenage sons and two cats.

Lorraine Montoya

Up until 2018, Lorraine Montoya served as Program Coordinator and Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) for the Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) Program at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. During her tenure in this role, Lorraine worked with multiple stakeholders to ensure TAVI patients and their family members were supported and engaged through each stage of their care trajectory. Lorraine holds a B.Sc. in Nursing from the University of Victoria and a Master of Adult Education from St. Francis Xavier University. Throughout her career, Lorraine has worked in nursing roles across Canada and internationally and has received multiple awards for her work in both nursing education and practice. Currently, Lorraine works as a Corporate Coordinator of Professional Practice at the Ottawa Hospital.

Christian Nielsen

Known for his drive, forward-thinking mindset, and problem-solving abilities, Christian Nielsen has spent over 15 years as a management consultant, helping businesses improve their operations through people and technology. He is also a graduate of the University of Southern Denmark and has a Master of Science in Management of Innovation and Business Development from Copenhagen Business School.
Having personally battled heart valve disease, Christian understands the challenges faced by individuals impacted by this condition. After his diagnosis, Christian’s surgeon recommended Heart Valve Voice UK. This pivotal moment in his life sparked a deep appreciation for the work done by Heart Valve Voice, inspiring Christian to connect with Heart Valve Voice Canada upon his move to Canada to contribute in any way he could. To date, Christian has actively supported Heart Valve Voice by sharing his story, contributing to awareness campaigns, and even assisting with the upcoming website refresh.  
His expertise as a management consultant and his dedication to leveraging technology for the betterment of businesses will be instrumental in driving our digital initiatives forward.
Christian currently resides in Vancouver with his wife and two children.

Dr. Charles Peniston

Dr. Peniston is a senior cardiovascular surgeon at Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ontario where he has been in practice since 2004. Prior to that, he was a staff surgeon and Assistant Professor of Surgery at the Toronto General Hospital and the University of Toronto. Dr. Peniston works with adults in need of heart surgery or Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) procedures. He has served as the Division Head and Medical Director of Cardiac Surgery and Co-leader of the Structural Heart Division of Southlake Regional Health Centre. He is also a former Residency Programme Director of Cardiac Surgery at the University of Toronto and examiner for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Dr. Peniston is an active member of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, American College of Surgeons, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society. In addition, he has served as the Section Head of Cardiac Surgery for the Ontario Medical Association. Outside of his regular clinical duties, he has also provided care to citizens of Ghana on multiple occasions as part of the Ghana Rural Integrated Development mission.

Dr. Philippe Pibarot

Dr. Pibarot obtained a doctorate in veterinary medicine (DVM) in 1987 at the University Claude Bernard in Lyon, France and a PhD degree in biomedical sciences from the University of Montreal in April 1995. He is a full-time professor with the Department of Medicine of Laval University and holds the Canada Research Chair (Level I) in Valvular Heart Disease (VHD), is the head of Cardiology Research, and the Director of the Echocardiography Core Laboratory at the Québec Heart & Lung Institute. The objective of Dr. Pibarot’s research program is to develop and validate novel patient-oriented approaches to improve the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of VHD.
He is currently the principal investigator of several multicenter studies and trials funded by Canadian Institute of Health Research and has published more than 650 articles and presented at over 900 invited conferences throughout the course of his career. He is the Associate Editor for structural heart pieces with EuroIntervention and Imaging Section Editor for the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Dr. Pibarot has received various awards for his work in the field of cardiology.

Dr. Rima Styra

Dr. Rima Styra is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and works in the Medical Psychiatry Program at the University Health Network, Toronto General Hospital.  She is a graduate of the University of Toronto Medical School, and has a Masters of Education degree from OISE.  She has a staff appointment in the Psychiatry, Health and Disease Program, and a secondary cross appointment in the UHN Cardiac Surgery Department, as well as member of the Toronto General Research Institute.  Her research is focused on the interface between mental health issues and cardiac disease and in quality of life in minimally invasive cardiac procedures. Dr. Styra is presently involved both in the clinical care of cardiac patients as well as research in the area of quality of life.

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