Meet some of our extraordinary YWCA Women of Distinction nominees

McMaster is proud to be associated with so many nominees for this year’s YWCA Women of Distinction awards.  

Trailblazing students and inspiring staff, faculty and community members: McMaster is proud to be associated with so many nominees for this year’s YWCA Hamilton Women of Distinction awards.

Here are the extraordinary women in our community who have been recognized this year. The awards will be announced March 3.

Lifetime Achievement

Laurel Trainor, Professor and Director of the McMaster Institute of Music and the Mind: Trainor’s pioneering and ground-breaking research demonstrates the importance of music for children’s development, mental health, and for sustaining vibrant and thriving communities. Click here to learn more about Trainor and MIMM

Susan Denburg, Professor, executive vice-dean and associate vice-president (Academic), Faculty of Health Sciences: Denburg has led a prolific and impactful career as a visionary leader, passionate and inspirational community volunteer and sought-after mentor and role model. Her extensive community efforts have addressed challenges of innovative and compassionate care for older adults.

Kelly Lazure-Valconi, educator: Lazure-Valconi is responsible for Employee Assistance Services at the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board, supporting all staff in every role. She also serves as primary liaison with the community service sector related to adult services and is the lead facilitator of the board’s Leadership Program, offering tools for aspiring leaders.

Young Trailblazer

Lianna Genovese, fourth-year student; CEO/Founder, ImaginAble Solutions; national James Dyson Award winner: Genovese invented Guided Hands, an assistive device that enables people with limited hand mobility to write, paint, draw and access technology. She is a proud woman in engineering, a solo female founder, engineering ambassador and volunteer public speaker for women in STEM and entrepreneurship.

Sarah Gonder, president, McMaster MSE Society: Gonder has a passion for materials innovation, decarbonization, and improving equity in engineering. Raagavi Ramenthiran, fourth-year student; winner, Alan G. Newcombe Prize in Peace: Through extracurricular endeavours targeting health, social, and opportunity inequalities, Ramenthiran has advocated for optimized learning experiences for her peers, leveraged her voice to represent underprivileged students around the world, and launched a variety of youth-driven community volunteer initiatives.

Salsa Sarhan, president, McMaster Social Sciences Society; community advocate: Sarhan is creating impact in the areas of diversity, inclusion, and fostering a welcoming atmosphere for her peers and working at and supporting local small businesses.

Zainab Khodr, McMaster graduate: Khodr is a community service worker at Mishka Social Services where she  has supported the development of a new case management program that supports immigrants, refugees and people living in poverty using culturally accessible approaches.

Abi Kirubarajan, first-year resident, Obstetrics and Gynaecology: Kirubarajan frequently advocates for vulnerable populations, including BIPOC, LGTBQ+, and incarcerated patients.

Hargun Kaur, Associate Vice-President, McMaster Student Union: Kaur is a leader, advocate and innovator who is passionate about creating more resilient and equitable communities. She represents young caregivers on CIHR’s National Older Adult Advisory Council, and creates accessible education for youth using cannabis.

Shania Bhopa, PhD student, 2021 FHS valedictorian; founder, Canadian Courage Project: Bhopa is also a wellness blogger, children’s book author, and the host of the Global Health Collective Podcast. Her research focuses on supporting newly immigrated families with children to access healthy active living programs.

Research | Science | Technology | Trades

Karen Mossman, Professor, virologist and McMaster’s vice-president (Research): Mossman’s research focus is understanding interactions between viruses and their hosts, in healthy and cancer cells, with the goal of developing novel therapy approaches for emerging viral infections and cancer.

Zobia Jawed, Assistant professor, Faculty of Engineering: An expert in water and wastewater systems, climate change, environmental sustainability, and decision-support tools, Jawed is passionate about youth and women’s empowerment by providing them with opportunities in the field of STEM.

Susan Kilburn, McMaster graduate, Chief Operating Officer at LightPoint Financial Technology: Kilburn’s roles have spanned many industries, with a focus on process optimization, business/IT alignment and large-scale business transformation.

Navita Dyal, McMaster graduate, founder of Walking Analyzing Device; 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.

Carina Andreatta, McMaster graduate, program manager, Project Management Office and Analytics, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton: Andreatta has a passion for creating meaningful and valuable ways for  patients to take better control over their health using digital tools and technology.

Health | Recreation

Dawn Bowdish, Professor, Canada Research Chair in Aging & Immunity, and Executive Director, Firestone Institute of Respiratory Health: Bowdish, who is committed to protecting older adults and helping them stay safe, 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.

Sarah Adjekum, social worker, community organizer, advocate and leader: Adjekum has led projects through the Hamilton Community and McMaster Womanists, Transforming Stories Driving Change, New Generation Youth Centre, the Good Shepherd Centres, and other Hamilton initiatives.

Veronica Sola, community builder: Sola has a passion for helping Hispanic seniors and has helped the Fraternity Hispanic Association create a space for seniors’ recreation.

Community Leadership

Vanessa Watts, Assistant professor and Paul R. MacPherson Chair in Indigenous Studies: Watts is a champion of Indigenous culture, history, and ways of knowing, and an advocate for women, particularly Indigenous women, collaborating with others to end violence against women.

Sarah Jama, McMaster graduate, co-founder and executive director of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario: Jama is a community organizer from Hamilton with Cerebral Palsy who does work around 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.

Anabelle Ragsag, a student at McMaster’s School of Social Work: Ragsag believes in community care, shared responsibility, and holding power accountable as paths forward. These are shaped by her childhood experience in southern Philippines, which has seen armed conflicts and global economic exploitation.

Education | Training | Development

Rosa da Silva, Associate Professor and McMaster Distinguished Teaching and Learning Fellow: da Silva has earned numerous awards (McMaster Student Union, McMaster President, and Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities) for her dedication to post-secondary education and her innovative interdisciplinary curriculum design that enhances student learning and engagement. She is authentic, collaborative, generous with her time and supportive to students and colleagues alike.

Renata Hall, PhD student, co-creator of Learning in Colour digital platform, community advocate: Hall lives all things social justice. She loves building community connections, challenging the status quo, and amplifying the voices of the margins, and is experienced in racialized peer support, counseling, and teaching.

Business Leadership | Entrepreneurship | Innovation

Brooke Eady, McMaster graduate and President, Broadcast Services International Inc.: Eady is known for her dedication, ambition and strong leadership skills and her commitment to elevating, hiring and supporting women in business.

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