2024 Michelle Harkness Mentorship Award winners announced

2024 Michelle Harkness Mentorship Award winners announced

L to R: Dr. Wendy Lou, Dr. Tillie Hackett, Dr. Meaghan Jones, Dr. Theo Moraes

AllerGen Inc. is pleased to announce the winners of the 2024 Michelle Harkness Mentorship Awards (MHMA). In a special, in-person celebration of the MHMA program that took place in downtown Toronto on 28 January 2024, four exemplars of mentorship excellence were recognized with MHMA recognition awards in the program’s final round. The awardees are detailed below.

Also present at the MHMA celebration were numerous past recipients of recognition awards and mentorship development grants, as well as members of the Harkness family and of AllerGen’s Board and staff. 

Scenes from the 2024 MHMA Celebratory Dinner

The event was a heartfelt send-off to the program, which, between 2019 and 2024, through six rounds of awards, has recognized outstanding mentoring achievement by 27 individuals and supported 8 individuals with grants to enable the further development of mentorship skills. It also engaged many dozens of others in the exercise of valuing mentorship: for each award nomination, a collective of mentees—often 10 or more—channeled their appreciation for a mentor into the preparation of a nomination package, an undertaking that requires deep consideration of what constitutes true mentorship and how mentorship can transform people’s lives.

Finally, the occasion was also a powerful tribute to Michelle herself, the namesake of the award, who, between 2011 and 2017,  built AllerGen’s training program into an impactful platform for capacity building and career enhancement thanks to her passion for helping others to achieve their goals and reach their full potential.

The 2024 MHMA awardees recognized at the event are:

Dr. Wendy Lou, who was awarded the 2024 MHMA Lifetime Mentoring Achievement Award. Dr. Lou is a biostatistician who works as a professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health of the University of Toronto. Her research interests include the theory of runs and patterns in sequence data and applications of statistics to health care. Her nominees attested to the profound scope and impact of her mentoring efforts:

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Wendy inspires us with her work and infuses in us a passion for learning, critical thinking, and the discovery of our own professional and academic path. Wendy is strongly committed to building a diverse and inclusive work and learning environment based on principles of fairness, respect, dignity, and autonomy. She holds mentees to high standards and has left an invaluable mark as a mentor for many trainees over the years. Like Michelle, Wendy generously gives her time, energy and advice for the benefit of her trainees.

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Dr. Tillie Hackett, who was awarded a 2024 MHMA Mentorship Excellence Award for an academic researcher. Dr. Hackett is a Tier I Canada Research Chair in Asthma and COPD Lung Pathobiology & Therapeutics, and Professor and Vice-Chair of Research in the Department of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology & Therapeutics at the University of British Columbia. She is an internationally recognized leader in ultra-resolution biomedical imaging modalities and human in vitro models to investigate and treat the pathobiology of asthma and COPD. Dr. Hackett’s research has been formally recognized by over 35 awards. Her nominators stated:

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Dr. Hackett’s approach to mentoring goes far beyond traditional academic boundaries. She cultivates an environment where critical thinking, creativity, and independent research are not just encouraged but are the foundation of daily practice. Her ability to inspire confidence and foster a sense of belonging within her team is remarkable. A quality that is consistently echoed by Dr. Hackett’s mentees is her dedication to creating a positive learning environment where everyone feels heard. She never fails to support her trainees who collectively represent different cultural backgrounds at all levels of training.

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Dr. Meaghan Jones, who was awarded a 2024 MHMA Mentorship Excellence Award for an academic researcher. Dr. Jones is an Assistant professor in the Max Rady College of Medicine, Biochemistry and Medical Genetics at the University of Manitoba. Her research focuses on environmental exposures in the prenatal and early childhood periods, and seeks to establish when and how these become biologically embedded. Her nominators stated:

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One of the best things about Dr. Jones is the support she provides to ensure the mental wellbeing and resilience of her trainees. She strongly encourages trainees to adapt healthy work-life balances and fully acknowledges people work better when they can also have fun. Dr. Jones also makes her students feel capable and confident in their skills as scientists, supporting the development of foundational knowledge relevant to each trainee. As they progress, Dr. Jones encourages them to become more independent in exploring new ideas and techniques and helps them develop networks to support their career aspirations.

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Dr. Theo Moraes, who was awarded a 2024 MHMA Mentorship Excellence Award for an academic researcher. Dr. Moraes is Division Head of Respiratory Medicine, a staff physician, and a Senior Scientist in Translational Medicine at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). He is also the Toronto site leader for the CHILD Cohort Study. He has broad clinical experience in respiratory medicine including severe asthma, complex respiratory care, chronic lung disease of prematurity, congenital diaphragmatic hernia, tracheoesophageal fistula, and general respiratory disorders. He has a significant research portfolio that includes both bench research, cohort work and clinical studies. His nominees stated:

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Theo’s altruistic investment in us exceeds expectations for many reasons. He not only supports and motivates his mentees professionally, but he also prioritizes our mental and physical well-being. Theo constantly checks on us to ensure we are not feeling burnt out or overwhelmed with our projects. He often goes out of his way to offer support and is always happy to help in any way he can. Theo makes sure his office is a safe and comfortable space for all his mentees and staff. Anyone that comes in to meet Theo leaves his office with clarity, motivation, and drive.

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“We are delighted to recognize these very deserving award recipients. Like others in the pantheon of MHMA laureates, they have clearly changed the lives of their mentees and set an example to follow,” observes AllerGen’s President & CEO, Dr. Diana Royce.

“It is bittersweet to celebrate the end of this remarkable program,” she adds. “A lot of work and love was put into it by a very dedicated group of volunteers, and so many truly wonderful individuals were nominated and recognized over the years. It was amazing to bring so many of the people involved into the same room, to honour the value of mentorship and to honour Michelle. It was an unforgettable occasion.”

“We are tremendously thankful to AllerGen for creating the Michelle Harkness Mentorship Awards,” said Michelle’s husband, Glenn, and daughter, Kasey, in a joint statement. “These awards have not only helped keep Michelle’s memory alive, but have kept our family connected to her ‘science family,’ a network that she was so passionate about supporting. The MHMA has brought brightness to our devastating loss and has become an important symbol of Michelle’s incredible legacy.”

“Congratulations to all the 2024 winners, and to those recognized before them by the program,” adds AllerGen Board Chair Daniel Nixon. “AllerGen is proud to have memorialized Michelle, and to have promoted mentorship excellence, by honouring the efforts of these oustanding mentors over these past six years.”


From 2019 to 2024, MHMA recognition awards were bestowed annually upon Canadian allergy and immunology researchers, practitioners and advocates who were nominated by their peers and/or mentees, and whose mentorship contributions were adjudicated by mentorship practitioners. MHMA mentorship development grants supported relevant training or experiential activities undertaken by aspiring mentors in the Canadian allergy and immunology community.