2023 Michelle Harkness Mentorship Award winners announced

2023 Michelle Harkness Mentorship Award winners announced

L to R: Dr. Paul O’Byrne, Dr. Anne Ellis, Natalie Rodriguez, April O’Connell

AllerGen Inc. is pleased to announce the winners of the 2023 Michelle Harkness Mentorship Awards (MHMA). Three exemplars of mentorship excellence are being recognized with MHMA recognition awards, and one mentor-in-development is being supported by an MHMA mentorship development grant.

In terms of recognition awards, the 2023 MHMA Lifetime Mentoring Achievement Award is awarded to Dr. Paul O’Byrne. Dr. O’Byrne is a respirologist, the Dean and Vice President-elect of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Dean of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, and Distinguished university professor at McMaster University. He is also Director of AllerGen’s Clinical Investigator Collaborative (CIC), a member of the Executive Committee of the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), and Associate Editor of Chest, Thorax and International Archives of Allergy and Immunology. His nominees attested to the profound scope and impact of his mentoring efforts:

Dr. O’Byrne has been mentoring trainees since 1988. Over the past 30 years he has directly supervised 21 graduate students and 55 post-doctoral fellows. In his professional conduct, scientific knowledge, excellence in research, and true collaborative spirit, Dr. O’Byrne provides a model of leadership. Dr. O’Byrne also models collegiality and mutual respect in all his endeavors. Superior mentoring, training and advising by Dr. O’Byrne have directly led to the success of his mentees, many of whom are now in leadership positions in academia and industry.


The 2023 MHMA Mentorship Excellence Award for an academic researcher is awarded to Dr. Anne Ellis. Dr. Ellis is Chair of the Division of Allergy & Immunology, Chair of the Women in Medicine Committee, and Professor in the Department of Medicine with a cross-appointment to the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences at Queen’s University, where she holds the James H. Day Chair in Allergic Diseases and Allergy Research. She also directs the Environmental Exposure Unit and Allergy Research Unit at the Kingston Health Sciences Centre and is Vice President of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology Research Interests. She is also a former AllerGen trainee and was the inaugural president of the AllerGen Students & New Professionals Network (ASNPN) from 2007 to 2009. Her nominators stated:

“Dr. Ellis exemplifies the altruistic investment in trainees that Michelle Harkness was famous for… Dr. Ellis ‘knows the way, shows the way, and goes the way’ and consistently exceeds her trainee’s expectations of a mentor. She wholeheartedly supports her mentees and their personal development and well-being. Dr. Ellis leads by example and is a powerful advocate for her career, family, and patients. Dr. Ellis regularly shows uncommon generosity in time and attention and offers incredible support, especially concerning career development, and especially towards women in research and medicine.”


The 2023 MHMA Mentorship Excellence Award for a researcher-in-training, research support staff, practitioner or advocate goes to Natalie Rodriguez. Natalie is the Director of Operations for the THRiVE Discovery Lab at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba (CHRIM) and the University of Manitoba. She is a Canadian Certified Inclusion Professional, a Certified Associate Coach, and an Emotional Intelligence (EQ-i.2.0 and EQ 360) Practitioner. Her nominators stated:

“Natalie is incredibly generous with her time and expertise and consistently goes above and beyond one’s expectations of a mentor. She demonstrates great sensitivity to her mentee’s well-being, and goes to extraordiarly lengths to support her colleagues – especially in times of need, or when they face a dilemma or challenging decision. She has a unique skillset that is both extremely valuable and extremely rare in an academic team. She has mentored trainees, staff, colleagues and collaborators in a concerted and sustained manner since joining our team.”


April O’Connell is the recipient of the 2023 MHMA Mentorship Development Grant. April is now a volunteer mentor with the Canadian Association of Research Administrators and the Human Resources Professionals Association, having previously served as AllerGen’s Research Program Manager from 2011 to 2022.

The MHMA Mentorship Development Grant does not recognize past mentoring achievements but rather supports activities by which applicants seek to strengthen their mentoring skills. The 2023 grant will facilitate April’s’ participation in a Coaching and Mentoring program at the Schulich School of Business at York University.

My mentoring journey has been inspired by Michelle… When I work with my mentees on their professional development goals, I use my experiences from
AllerGen to try to guide them and illustrate for them how sincere appreciation and gratitude, understanding, empathy and caring for and about each other is fundamental to organizational success. I intend to integrate what I will learn [from this certificate program] with my current mentees…


“We are delighted to recognize these very deserving award recipients, and to support the worthy efforts of this year’s grant recipient,” observes AllerGen’s President & CEO, Dr. Diana Royce.

“It is particularly meaningful that all but one of this years’ awardees worked closely with and were directly inspired by Michelle Harkness. And the single exception, Natalie Rodriguez, was nominated by a mentee of Michelle’s and an MHMA laureate: Dr. Meghan Azad. A former AllerGen trainee, Dr. Azad is now on faulty at the University of Manitoba and is Deputy Director of AllerGen’s CHILD Cohort Study. Michelle would be so pleased to see her own mentoring efforts resonate forward in this way.”

“Congratulations to all of this year’s winners,” adds AllerGen Board Chair Daniel Nixon. “AllerGen is proud to promote mentorship excellence by honouring their efforts.”

MHMA recognition awards are bestowed annually upon Canadian allergy and immunology researchers, practitioners and advocates who are nominated by their peers and/or mentees, and whose mentorship contributions are adjudicated by mentorship practitioners. MHMA mentorship development grants support relevant training or experiential activities undertaken by aspiring mentors in the Canadian allergy and immunology community.