McMaster faculty, students and grads take home Women of Distinction awards 

Headshots of two smiling women.

Health Sciences executive vice-dean Susan Denburg, left, was recognized with the Lifetime Achievement award, and IBioMed engineering student and entrepreneur Lianna Genovese received the Young Trailblazer award at this week's YWCA Hamilton Women of Distinction awards gala.

From Young Trailblazer to Lifetime Achievement, every extraordinary women recognized this week with YWCA of Hamilton Women of Distinction awards has a McMaster connection — and so does at least one from Halton. McMaster is proud to be a part of the following women’s outstanding accomplishments and contributions.

Susan Denburg | Lifetime Achievement award

Susan Denburg is the executive vice-dean and associate vice-president, academic in the Faculty of Health Sciences; a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, and is a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences.

Denburg created a clinician-educator stream for professional advancement, offering mentorship to aspiring leaders who have gone on to hold key local, provincial and national positions. Her vision for faculty development led to the creation of influential new support programs, including the Academic Leadership Program, which is paving the way for future leaders.

She collaborated with Indigenous and non-Indigenous colleagues to develop a facilitated admissions process for Indigenous applicants to the MD program and to establish the Indigenous Students Health Sciences office.

Denburg spearheaded the creation of innovative professional programs, such as the Physician Assistant program. She also oversaw the launch of distributed medical education at McMaster, culminating in the establishment of two educational campuses in Niagara and Waterloo.

She also led the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative, supported the launch of McMaster Institute for Research on Aging and the affiliated Labarge Centre for Mobility in Aging, and helped to promote aging as a priority at the university.

Lianna Genovese | Young Trailblazer

Lianna Genovese is the CEO and founder of ImaginAble Solutions; the inventor of an assistive device called Guided Hands, and a final-year student in the biomedical and mechanical engineering program at McMaster.

Guided Hands, which empowers people with limited hand mobility to write, paint, draw and use touch-screen devices, earned Genovese the prestigious Canadian James Dyson Award for innovative design.

Genovese is also a mentor and an industry partner for McMaster co-op programs, and one of the most successful students in the Faculty of Engineering’s fledgling iBioMed (Integrated Biomedical Engineering and Health Sciences) program.

Being a young, female student entrepreneur means having to work three times as hard for credibility, Genovese says. It means having people patronize you and sometimes refuse to take you seriously. It means juggling midterms and business meetings and multiple conflicting deadlines.

“What keeps me and my team going are the smiles on customer’s faces and their reactions when they use Guided Hands.”

Laurel Trainor: Art | Culture | Design

Neuroscientist Laurel Trainor is the founding director of the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind, a hub of cutting-edge research on all aspects of live musical performances — from its therapeutic potential to an audience’s emotional reaction to music.

Trainor  works with scientists and clinicians on using music to promote wellness, incluing better outcomes in children with developmental disorders. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Trainor is also a symphony flautist.

Dawn Bowdish: Health | Recreation

A professor and the Canada Research Chair in Aging & Immunity, Bowdish is also the executive director of the Firestone Institute of Respiratory Health. Not only is she known for her commitment to protecting older adults and helping them stay safe, she leads pivotal studies that are uncovering how the aging immune system and the microbiota interact to prevent infections and give older adults more years of healthy, independent living.

Renata Hall: Education | Training | Development

Social Work PhD student and community advocate Renata Hall is the co-creator of the Learning in Colour digital platform, developed to create safe and inclusive classroom spaces, informed by the perspectives and experiences of Black, Indigenous and racialized students.

Hall is known for building community connections, challenging the status quo, and amplifying the voices of the margins, and is experienced in racialized peer support, counseling, and teaching.

Sarah Jama: Community Leadership

A McMaster graduate, Sarah Jama is the co-founder and executive director of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario; and a community organizer from Hamilton with Cerebral Palsy.

Jama also works on combating anti-Black racism, policing, and housing insecurity. Through DJNO, she tackles systemic ableism by building up capacity in disabled organizers to challenge structures locally, provincially, and nationally.

Jama will be teaching Intro to Disability Justice as a McMaster intersession course this spring.

Zobia Jawed: Research | Science | Technology | Trades

An assistant professor in the Faculty of Engineering, Jawed is an expert in water and wastewater systems, climate change, environmental sustainability, and decision-support tools. She is also passionate about youth and women’s empowerment by providing them with opportunities in STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Navita Dyal: Research | Science | Technology | Trades (Halton)

Navita Dyal is a McMaster graduate, the founder of Walking Analyzing Device and a product manager at Google’s wearable health devices division. At 17, Dyal founded a non-profit organization, GLITR, which provides access to healthcare to vulnerable populations both locally and abroad. As an undergraduate at McMaster, she founded her first startup, Era Diabetes, to help kids self-manage their type 1 diabetes.

Kristine Leadbetter-Gold: Business | Entrepreneurship | Innovation

A McMaster graduate, Leadbetter-Gold is the founder of the Women’s Network and business development manager, Gowling WLG Hamilton. She is passionate about connecting people to things that matter, lifelong learning, and supporting the advancement of women.

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