Dr. James Shapiro
James Shapiro was born in Leeds, England, son of a family doctor. He studied medicine in Newcastle and trained in surgery in Bristol. He developed a longstanding interest in islet transplantation as a medical student. He joined the faculty at the University of Alberta (U of A) in 1998 where he now holds the Canada Research Chair in Transplantation Surgery and Regenerative Medicine. He directs the living donor liver transplant and the islet transplant programs in Edmonton. He was the lead investigator on the famous “Edmonton Protocol” islet cell transplant treatment for diabetes.
He is the Project 1 lead for the Canadian National Transplant Research Program (CNTRP), a national initiative designed to increase organ and tissue donation in Canada and enhance the lives of Canadians for whom transplantation offers a ‘second chance’ at health. James is actively researching ex vivo organ transplant repair. This year his team began the first human trials with embryonic stem cell-derived insulin producing cells transplanted in an immunoisolation device.
James is the recipient of a Hunterian Medal from the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the gold medal in surgery, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.
Melanie Hibbard, Executive Director
Melanie is the Executive Director with DRIFCan, but her involvement with the organization and the diabetes community does not stop there. After both of her sons were diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, Melanie saw the impact of the disease on her boys first-hand and became involved with volunteering with the diabetes community. She has participated in many community initiatives, including a kids’ walk program aimed at raising awareness for T1D in schools and various other fundraisers. Her involvement within diabetes organizations has ranged from board member, chair of outreach to mentorship for newly diagnosed families and community walks.
After many years in the banking industry, Melanie made the transition to put her efforts fully into the diabetes community. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends. Some of her favourite things to do are skiing, camping, and taking road trips.
Rob Otway, Chair
Rob is a civil engineer and a 34-year veteran of the construction industry who recently just retired from his position as Vice President and District Manager for Northern Alberta at PCL Construction. Rob was drawn to DRIFCan’s work by Executive Director Melanie Hibbard’s story and out of a sense of frustration over many charities’ limited progress towards actual cures to major diseases like diabetes. DRIFCans drive to fund this cure based research was a catalyst for him to get involved.
Some of Rob’s personal interests include the theatre, skiing, sailing, and golfing.
Daryl Burd, Vice Chair
Daryl is an Investment Advisor at TD Wealth. He has a TD1 son who was diagnosed about 20 years ago. When their son was first diagnosed, Daryl and his wife thought that there would be a biological or a technological cure in place by the time their son was 25. His son is now 25 and while there is no cure, there has been a significant amount of progress made. Daryl is thrilled with the work that Dr. Shapiro is doing towards finding a cure. DRIFCan is a piece of this cure and Daryl is proud to be working with them.
Along with his wife Ann and their 170-pound dog, they live on an idyllic acreage north of Devon.
Kathleen Gibson, Secretary
Kathleen is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and a former support worker with the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Indigenous Services Canada, where she provided diabetes-related support and counsel to First Nations communities for 15 years. A former environmental scientist, Kathleen changed her career focus following her own T1D diagnosis at age 27. Since then she has benefitted from three islet cell transplants over the course of four years under the Edmonton Protocol.
As a former executive member of the Professional Section of Diabetes Canada’s Edmonton chapter, Kathleen also serves as a patient immersion experience mentor to first-year University of Alberta medical students. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, cycling, paper crafts, balcony gardening, folk music festivals, and quality time with family and friends.
Natasha Wensley, Board Member
Natasha is an elementary school teacher and coach whose life was changed by a T1D diagnosis 20 years ago. A longtime volunteer with diabetes-related causes, she has helped set up social media networks for adults with diabetes and has counselled newly diagnosed families. She has also helped organize fundraising events for diabetes involving her own students.
As a DRIFCan board member she continues to advocate for the diabetes community while championing the quest to find a cure.
David Blue, Treasurer
I am a third generation public accountant My grandfather and father preceded me. We all have the Name “ Neil” in our name I was in public practice for over 30 years My company was called Blue Ink Accounting Corporation I am a Type two diabetic, however I prefer the words that I have Sugar Management Issues
Sarah Simoes, Board Member
Sarah is a Senior IT Security Analyst at Aritzia LP. She is a born problem solver with experience in risk management, strategy and marketing. She first became acquainted with DRIFCan as a board intern with the foundation through the University of Alberta Board Internship Program. She was impressed by the passion and drive of the team to find a cure for diabetes—a disease familiar to her through some friends and distant family members.
A BCom graduate from the U of A with a major in strategic management and organization, Sarah brings her passion for event planning and design to the DRIFCan board. When not at work, she enjoys travelling, spin classes, and spending time with friends and family.
Rick Tiedemann, Board Member
Rick will tell you that while he has been enthusiastically engaged in the corporate world for 40 years, he has only truly worked for the Tiedemann Corporation. The partnering with various organizations was, and is vital, as it is through these partnerships that the Tiedemann Corporation and its shareholders (Rick, his wife, their 3 kids and their spouses and their 5 grandkids) are able to thrive in a manner that they enjoy.
Rick spent over 30 yrs working in the multi-national pharmaceutical industry as a senior leader and executive within a wide variety of therapeutic areas. These therapeutic areas included, infectious disease, orthopedics, women’s health, diabetes, neurosciences (which included mental health, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis), dermatology and allergy and immunology. His leadership responsibilities included partnering with colleagues to develop high performing business development teams, government relations and market access, compensation, personality profiling education and corporate strategy.
Rick’s professional passions have always included a combination of health and business interests. In 2012 Rick chose to follow his “Why” and opened a Copeman Healthcare center in Edmonton and he was a Senior Director with a focus on Corporate Health. In January of 2021 he left to start his own company, (Calm Water Lifestyles), and now works with Leaders to optimize their health and performance. His 40 years in the corporate marinade have helped to fuel his current passion which is to create a new narrative around Leadership Wellbeing and to get leaders to think about Leadership Health as a vital risk mitigation strategy within their businesses. He speaks extensively with various leadership forums (CEO, YPO, EO etc), Executive teams and other leadership groups to help them to appreciate how they can become Corporate Athletes and create the absolute healthiest and highest performing version of themselves. A key ingredient in the Corporate Athlete recipe is sleep, and this allows Rick to share his extensive experience in the neuroscience world as he creates enthusiasm for sleep being the Ultimate High Performance Drug.
His personal passions include waterskiing, making log beds and antler chandeliers, aquatic ecosystem stewardship, building homes and spending as much time as possible building memories with friends and family. /p>