Meet the Team

HealtheSteps® was created to fill a gap in primary care, providing adults at-risk for a chronic disease with tools and supportive coaching to collaboratively develop pathways to leading a healthier lifestyle.

The program, led by Dr. Robert Petrella, is run by the Lifestyle Research Team at the University of British Columbia and Western University. The team consists of members with a range of backgrounds including epidemiology, biostatistics, public health, family medicine, eLearning design, nutrition, fitness and wellness, and exercise physiology. Meet the team below!

“Despite some evidence from controlled research studies supporting the impact of adopting a healthy lifestyle, there was very little research overall and very few programs available for patients and their physicians to apply the research. This gap led to my own research to develop simple, evidence-based tools and skills for family doctors, their health-care teams and patients to implement lifestyle change that was effective and long lasting.”

– Dr. Robert Petrella

Dr. Robert Petrella, MD, PhD, Principal Investigator and Project Lead, Professor & Head (Chair) Department of Family Practice UBC, Professor Emeritus at Western University

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Claire Styffe, MPH, Project Coordinator

Background: Public Health, Community Engagement, Health Geography

Interests: Swimming at the beach, reading, and spending lots of time with friends and family!

Why HealtheSteps? I’m really excited about getting to collaborate with a network of diverse individuals to co-develop a program that works and is focused on practical and accessible changes. 

Melissa Majoni MSc, Research Manager

Background: Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Project Management

Interests: Spending time outdoors, traveling, skiing, & hiking.

Why HealtheSteps? I am passionate about health promotion and chronic disease prevention.

Wendy Blunt MPH, PhD(c), Graduate Research Assistant 

Background: Public Health, Health Promotion, Qualitative Research Methodologies

Interests: Being Active! Playing hockey, soccer, biking and running.

Why HealtheSteps? I like that the program meets participants where they are at and promotes small incremental changes to lifestyle.

Paul Aspinall, BSc, Research Assistant

Background: Physiology

Interests: Road cycling, ice hockey, camping, and fly-fishing

Why HealtheSteps? HealtheSteps helps people achieve their holistic healthy living aspirations through incremental changes and attainable goal setting, without the constraints and unrealistic expectations of traditional diet or exercise programs.​

Zain Hirji, Research Assistant

Background: Kinesiology

Interests: I enjoy participating in snow and water sports such as skiing and kayaking. I also enjoy playing the guitar and drums as well as listening to music.

Why HealtheSteps? This program is a great way to apply the information I am currently learning in my Kinesiology degree in an engaging way.

Dr. Brendan Riggin, PhD, Project Coordinator

Background: Sport Management

Interests: Hockey, golf, fishing, and teaching!

Why HealtheSteps? HealtheSteps allows me to combine two of my passions – coaching and health – and I love helping our participants to achieve their personal goals.

Dr. Dawn Gill, PhD, Research Manager

Background: Health Sciences; Epidemiology & Biostatistics

Interests: All things health & wellness – I especially enjoy outdoor activities (hiking, skiing, biking, stand up paddle boarding), yoga, & baking healthy treats!

Why HealtheSteps? HealtheSteps is a free, evidence-based program that is open to anyone who wants to get healthy & improve their lifestyle – and it is accessible to individuals at all stages of their health journey. What could be better than that? ?

Brooke Bliss, BScFN, Communications Lead

Background: Nutrition and Dietetics, Yoga Instructor RYT500

Interests: I love the outdoors, spending time with my pup, yoga, running, hiking, weightlifting… any type of physical activity… count me in! I also enjoy improvising in the kitchen and creating my own healthy recipes. 

Why HealtheSteps? I love to work with people who are looking to improve their lifestyle & make long-term sustainable changes to better their health from the inside out. It’s amazing to be a part of someone’s journey to living a healthier lifestyle through nutrition, physical activity, mindfulness, nature, and so much more!

Adam Gavarkovs, PhD(c), ScM, AM, eLearning Coordinator

Background: Implementation Science, Technology-Enabled Learning, Instructional Design, Health Promotion

Interests: Golfing (poorly), Comic Books, Hockey (Go Sabres!), Running

Why HealtheSteps? Because it is a highly scalable program that can be personalized to each participant’s strengths and interests.

Nicholas Latimer, Research Assistant

Background: Health Psychology

Interests: Outdoor trips & adventures, catching up with friends, cooking & music!

Why HealtheSteps? To learn and grow as a coach, and to teach simple tools that can improve someone’s health and life trajectory. Knowing the importance of making habit-level healthy changes for the downstream effects on overall well-being, joining the HealtheSteps team allows me to think deeply about how researchers can better support their community in making it happen.