About our team

We strongly believe in doing research with the communities who are affected.

Our research program focuses on the management of chronic diseases, patient-reported outcome measures, shared decision making, as well as the synthesis and application of evidence-based knowledge in clinical practice.

Dr. Karine Toupin April

Dr. Karine Toupin April is the principal investigator and her career journey was inspired through personal experiences with chronic disease as a child. She trained as an occupational therapist and continued with a Master’s degree in rehabilitation and a PhD in public health and epidemiology. She met patient partners early in her training through the Canadian Arthritis Network instilling an inclusive and collaborative way of doing research. Our team is made of research staff, a patient and family advisory committee, collaborators, and partners.

Patient and Family Advisory Committee

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Laurie Proulx

Laurie Proulx works with the team as a Knowledge Broker. She has worked with Dr. Toupin April since she was a trainee and supports patient engagement and knowledge translation activities. Laurie was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis when she was 14 and works extensively with research teams in rheumatology, as well as with national health care organizations. She is 2nd Vice-President with the Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance, the largest volunteer patient organization in Canada.

Natasha Trehan

Natasha Trehan is a university student studying Biomedical Science in the French Immersion Stream at the University of Ottawa. She was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis at the age of 13. As a teenager, she felt alone and was unable to find resources to connect with other people with similar lived experiences. She founded the Take a Pain Check Podcast in March 2021 to ensure that young patients feel supported every step of the way. In October 2021, she founded Take a Pain Check Foundation – an organization by youth and for youth with lived experiences. During the pandemic, she decided to dedicate her summer to getting involved with research so she could truly learn about her own invisible disability and help others. Currently, she is in the COVID-END team with the McMaster University Health Forum and a Co-investigator for the Youth Engagement in Research Project at CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research. She is also a trained patient researcher through the PaCER Training Program through the University of Calgary Continuing Education. As a patient acquiring research experience, Natasha’s aim is to create a platform for youth and young adults living with rheumatic diseases, to raise awareness, and make a meaningful impact on the community. She is very excited to be part of the Advisory Committee at the Choice Research Lab and is extremely grateful to be part of the team.

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Emily Sirotich

Emily Sirotich completed a PhD in Health Research Methodology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. She is currently a medical student at Yale University. Ms. Sirotich is passionate about data collection and patient/community engagement in all aspects of research. Her research interests include guideline development, rare diseases, and rheumatological disorders. Ms. Sirotich is also a Steering Committee member of the COVID-19 Global Rheumatology Alliance and formerly a Board Member of the Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance.

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Alexandra Sirois

Alex Sirois first developed JIA at the age 7. It took 3 years, and a referral to Sick Kids in Toronto, before she was properly diagnosed. Living with JIA has shaped how she views health care, as she gains a fuller understanding of the enormous gaps that her and others with inflammatory arthritis (IA) face, the stigma of living with IA, and the limited information on how to live a full, meaningful life. This drives Alex to help change the face of arthritis and improve the quality of life of individuals with IA. Alex has seen firsthand that the more she gives to the arthritis community, the easier it was to accept and embrace who she is and thrive. She holds a Bachelor of Physical Education from Laurentian University, and a Master of Science from McGill University. Alex works full-time in Public Health, part-time as a research assistant and is an active patient partner in research. She enjoys exercising, cooking, and traveling (food touring).

Naomi Abrahams

Naomi Abrahams is a PhD candidate and student-researcher in the School of Social Work at the University of Ottawa, Canada. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Child, Youth and Family Studies (2019) from the University of Guelph as well as a Master of Social Work (2021) from the University of Ottawa. Her research interests include children’s rights, domestic violence and knowledge-based injustices. Being a patient partner enables her to utilize her knowledge and experience, as both a researcher and respondent, to participate in research promotion that values lived experience.

Research staff

Andrea Boyd, research assistant


We have worked with many trainees over the years and are thankful for their important contributions. If you are interested in working with our team, please contact us directly at: ktoupina@uottawa.ca

Current students:

  • Mohammad Alqudimat, PhD student, University of Toronto
  • Annecy Houston, research assistant, BSc student, University of Ottawa

Former students:

  • Fjolla Berbatovci, Honours student, University of Ottawa
  • Deema Couchman, Medical student, University of Ottawa
  • Simon Décary, Postdoctoral fellow, Université Laval
  • Timothy Kwok, Medical student, University of Ottawa
  • Eunjung Na, PhD student, University of Ottawa
  • Marco Ragusa, Medical student, University of Ottawa
  • Hannah Sachs, Summer student, University of Ottawa
  • Aditi Sivakumar, Medical student, Dalhousie University
  • Christine Smith, Masters student, University of Ottawa
  • Hui Zheng, PhD student, University of Ottawa


We work with a team of clinicians, rehabilitation professionals, researchers, statisticians, and others who support our research goals. We are a collaborative team and keen to work with others who are too. Feel free to contact Dr. Karine Toupin April directly if you wish to enquire about future collaborations.

Ciarán M. Duffy, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), CHEO Research Institute and University of Ottawa
Adam M. Huber, IWK Health Centre and Dalhousie University
Esi M. Morgan, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
Janice S. Cohen, CHEO and University of Ottawa
Isabelle Gaboury, Université de Sherbrooke
Linda C. Li, University of British Columbia
Tania El Hindi, Statistics Canada
Elizabeth Stringer, IWK Health Centre and Dalhousie University
Sabrina Cavallo, Université de Montréal
Michele Gibbon, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute and University of Ottawa
Paul R. Fortin, Université Laval
William Brinkman, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
Cathy Walker, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario
Mark Connelly, Children’s Mercy Kansas City
Jennifer E. Weiss, Hackensack Meridian Health, Hackensack University Medical Center
Sabrina Gmuca, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania
Simon Décary, Université de Sherbrooke
Peter Tugwell, University of Ottawa, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and Bruyère Research Institute
Jennifer Stinson, Hospital for Sick Children and University of Toronto


We work extensively with various organizations to carry out our research including research organizations, health charities and patient groups. A current list of partners are noted below:

Take a Pain Check Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to the mission and vision of supporting youth and young adults with rheumatic diseases through social media, initiatives, advocacy, and raising awareness.

Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance

The Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance is a grass-roots, patient-driven and managed organization that supports people with rheumatic diseases across Canada.

Cassie + Friends is the only charity in Canada dedicated 100% to the pediatric rheumatic disease community. Rooted in our four pillars, we champion research, information, connection and support for pediatric rheumatic diseases.

CARRA or the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance has a mission is to conduct collaborative research to prevent, treat, and cure pediatric rheumatic diseases. We envision a world free of limitations from pediatric rheumatic diseases.

Pediatric Rheumatology Care and Outcomes Improvement Network (PR-COIN) or PR-COIN is a collaborative community where patients, parents, clinicians, and researchers work together to improve the health and care of children and youth with rheumatic conditions.

Canadian Alliance of Pediatric Rheumatology Investigators (CAPRI)