Our Leadership Team

The NB SPOR PIHCI Network is a member of the larger pan-Canadian SPOR Network.

The Tripartite leadership in New Brunswick includes Dr. Sarah Gander and Ms. Joan Kingston, as the clinical leads, Dr. Heidi Liston and Ms. Noortje Kunnen from the Government of New Brunswick Department of Health as policymaker leads, and Dr. Shelley Doucet and Dr. Rima Azar as the scientific leads. Retired scientific lead, Dr. Baukje Miedema, is still active in the network. The NB SPOR PIHCI currently has approximately 130 stakeholders and is growing, representing a diverse group of organizations and individuals. The stakeholders are actively encouraged to engage in various aspects of research, from inception to knowledge translation. The leadership committees meet regularly to discuss ongoing issues, and all the stakeholders get together regularly to discuss many aspects related to primary health care (e.g., research, integrated healthcare models, etc.). Additionally, the NB SPOR PIHCI has strong connections with other all the SPOR Networks in Atlantic Canada and across Canada.

Scientific Leads


Dr. Shelley Doucet

Dr. Shelley Doucet,

Dr. Shelley Doucet, PhD Nursing, is the Jarislowsky Chair in Interprofessional Patient Centred Care and an Associate Professor in the Department of Nursing & Health Sciences at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John and the Scientific Co-Director of NaviCare/SoinsNavi NB. Dr. Doucet is also an Adjunct Professor with Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick and is recognized as an emerging leader in interprofessional education and practice within Canada. Dr. Doucet’s experiences teaching interprofessional student teams in classroom and clinical settings, as well as her clinical experiences as a Registered Nurse in mental health nursing and emergency medicine, have led her to establish interprofessional health education and practice initiatives and to explore their outcomes. Dr. Doucet’s current research is based in primary health care settings, with a focus on children with complex health conditions and their families. In partnership with Dr. Rima Azar, she was awarded $750,000 from the New Brunswick Children’s Foundation to identify children with complex health care needs and to develop an innovative integrated service delivery model using a patient navigator to meet the needs of this population across the full continuum of care. She was awarded a CIHR PIHCI Quick Strike Operating Grant to expand the scope of the research that was funded by the New Brunswick Children’s Foundation. Shelley is also a mother of two, an active community volunteer, and an avid runner.



Dr. Rima Azar

Dr. Rima Azar

Dr. Rima Azar is an Associate Professor at Mount Allison University where she joined the Psychology Department in 2008, earned tenure in 2011, and is the founder/director of the Psychobiology of Stress & Health Lab (PSHL). Dr. Azar is also the Co-Director of NaviCare/SoinsNavi, which is a navigation centre for children/youth with complex care needs and their families in New Brunswick. Dr. Azar held a CIHR New Investigator in Developmental Psychoneuroimmunology award from 2011-2016. She is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Psychology in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Community Services at the Université de Moncton, an Adjunct Professor at Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick, and an Honorary Research Associate in the Interdisciplinary PhD Program at the University of New Brunswick (UNB). In addition, she is a scientific lead in the tripartite leadership of the NB-SPOR-PIHCI (New Brunswick Strategy for Patient Oriented Research - Primary and Integrated Health Care Innovations) Network; a provincial network including over 100 stakeholders under the leadership of two researchers, two clinicians, and two policy makers. Since September 2013, she has served as a CIHR Advisory Board Member for the Institute of Human Development, Child, and Youth Health (IHDCYH). She is grateful to the New Brunswick Children’s Foundation (NBCF) $750K grant, which funded the implementation of NaviCare/SoinsNavi (the NB navigation centre for children and youth with complex care needs) with Dr. Shelley Doucet from UNB Saint John. They launched this centre in New Brunswick on January 10, 2017. Taking a biopsychosocial approach to health, Dr. Azar’s work focuses on the biobehavioural mechanisms linking stress and health from a developmental perspective. She has a particular interest in: (1) maternal and paternal coping strategies when caring for children with chronic or complex health conditions; (2) patient/family navigation and peer-to-peer support for families of children/youth with complex care needs; & (3) biological (i.e. inflammatory and endocrine) mechanisms linking maternal prenatal depression and anxiety to birth weight, to postnatal stress response, and health. Dr. Azar’s projects are funded by several federal as well as provincial agencies, such as CIHR, the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation (NBHRF), NBCF (a charity organization), and the Royal Society of Canada (RSC). She is thrilled to be involved in provincial and Pan-Canadian research networks aimed to better serve children/youth such as the $25 million-funded SPOR-CHILD BRIGHT. Over her career, she has worked with newborns, children, adolescents, and their families - both as a stress researcher and as a developmental clinician. She is a proud aunt and, in a recent second life, she and her husband have been involved in the foster care system in NB, as foster parents. 


Policy Makers

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Dr. Heidi Liston

Dr. Heidi Liston

Dr. Heidi Liston is the Executive Director of Primary Health Care Services with the Government of New Brunswick Department of Health. Dr. Liston has over 20 years of pharmacy and health care related experience.  She is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Primary Health Care Strategic Framework and Primary Health Care Branch which comprises the following units: Chronic Disease Prevention and Management, Emergency Health Services, Home Care, and Aging Population Services.  Heidi has strategic oversight of the implementation and on-going monitoring of a network of primary health care provisions including, Community Health Centres, Health Service Centres, Collaborative Practices, as well as other innovative service-delivery models. Previous departmental responsibilities included roles in supporting evidence-based, cost-effective drug prescribing policies and practices and the Prescription Monitoring Program. Heidi’s prior experience involved roles in psychiatric pharmacy practice, continuing medical education program development and delivery, pharmaceutical industry, and clinical pharmacokinetic research. 

Heidi also has a keen interest in strategies to manage change at both the policy and practice level that produce optimal outcomes for patients.  Heidi received a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy from Dalhousie University and a Doctor of Pharmacy from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).  She also completed a Psychiatric Pharmacy Residency and Psychopharmacology Research Fellowship through the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, at MUSC, in Charleston, SC.

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Noortje Kunnen

Ms. Noortje Kunnen

Noortje Kunnen is the Director of Community Health and Chronic Disease Prevention and Management with the Government of New Brunswick Department of Health. She has a bachelor degree of Nursing and a Master of Science degree in Health Economics, Policy & Law from the Erasmus University in Rotterdam (The Netherlands). 

Noortje started her career in health care as a registered nurse for Public Health (youth health) followed by senior nursing positions in Extra-Mural Care/ Home Care.  She then moved on as a senior advisor for nursing homes, and as a senior advisor for an organization that promotes innovation and collaboration between primary care professionals.

In 2010 she moved from the Netherlands to New Brunswick. She has held various positions in the New Brunswick health care system with the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Health planning and Policy and Primary Health Care. In her current role she is responsible for strategic alignment of community-based health care services as well as initiatives regarding chronic disease prevention and management within the primary health care setting. 

Her favorite place is outside and she loves to trail run, ski and travel. 



Ms. Joan Kingston

Ms. Joan Kingston

Ms. Joan Kingston, RN, BN, obtained a Bachelor of Nursing from the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in 1978. Her career has included experience in the fields of nursing, health care and human resource management, post-secondary education, and as a Member of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council and within central government with responsibilities in directing overall government affairs as part of the senior management team with responsibilities in strategic planning, priority setting, and directing government. Joan has demonstrated leadership skills and a deep knowledge of the machinery of government and the Canadian health care system. Other areas of expertise include policy development and implementation, clinical nursing practice, clinical and classroom education, health care and health human resource management, communications, and relationship building. Her current role is co-manager of the Fredericton Downtown Community Health Centre (FDCHC), a unique partnership between UNB and Horizon Health Network creating a teaching facility that delivers an integrated program where primary health care services, teaching, and research are combined. Joan was instrumental in the conception and establishment of the FDCHC.


Dr. Sarah Gander

Dr. Sarah Gander

Dr. Gander is a General Pediatrician and has a practice in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. She is the Clinical Department Head of Pediatrics, faculty at both Dalhousie and Memorial University and co-founded the New Brunswick Social Pediatrics Research Program. Her research interests include the social determinants of health, neonatal abstinence syndrome and Hepatitis C.