Awards Recipients 2024

The 2024 YWCA Women of Distinction Awards Presented by Scotiabank Recipients

YWCA Metro Vancouver is pleased to announce the recipients of its 41st annual Women of Distinction Awards presented by Scotiabank.

In the interest of fairness and transparency, nominees' biographies have been written by YWCA Metro Vancouver staff, with information retrieved from the nomination packages.

Arts, Culture & Design

Judith Pyke

Judith Pyke

Founder, Executive Producer, Director and Writer at Curious Features, Judith leads a team of 20-30 people through film productions. Leading her boutique company, Judith competes with larger counterparts to secure national broadcast commissions and international distributions, and earn prestigious awards. Judith’s commitment extends to mentoring emerging talents and has taught in several schools, and she is currently collaborating with Haida lawyer and artist, Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson to foster her skills as an emerging filmmaker. Known for addressing challenging subjects, a film she directed, "Cracking Cancer", received acclaim for its balanced and detailed portrayal of cancer research.  While at CHUM Television, Judith covered topics like Climate Change in Nunavut, the connection between HIV/AIDS, food aid and literacy, and the effect of environmental pollution on reproductive health in Aamjiwnaang First Nation.

Business & the Professions 

Sarah Hoffman

Sarah Hoffman

Sarah is President and CEO of Pacific Blue Cross (PBC), where she removes barriers to health equity. Under her leadership, PBC collaborated with BC Women's Health Foundation for a personal health plan covering fertility treatments and adoption, a first in Canada. Sarah led PBC to partner with Women's Health Research Institute to research the health experiences of midlife women, and her expertise in disability benefits is helping address challenges in equitable disability management. Sarah also led the implementation of an award-winning DEI strategy, completed an Indigenous Works audit to become an employer of choice for Indigenous Peoples and introduced transition guidelines, supporting staff in their gender identification journeys. In 2023, Sarah helped PBC introduce two innovative employee benefits: annual leave for domestic or sexual violence survivors and gender-affirming care leave.

Community Champion 

Michelle Di Tomaso

Michelle Di Tomaso

As Co-Founder of Dense Breasts Canada, Michelle’s personal journey with breast cancer led to significant changes in breast health awareness. Identifying a critical gap in breast cancer screening protocols related to breast density, her advocacy prompted significant changes with BC Cancer updating its website and implementing brochures to include breast density information. Michelle spearheaded the impactful Tell Me My Breast Density campaign, resulting in BC becoming the first province to notify women of their breast density. Michelle's dedication and leadership transformed breast cancer screening not only in BC but also catalyzed significant change across Canada. Her involvement in the BC Cancer Breast Screening Working Group, participation in critical press conferences, and co-authored research in prestigious journals have revolutionized breast health practices, benefiting women nationwide.

Connecting the Community

Raheil Moradi

Raheil Moradi

Raheil is Founder of Pay It Forward, a grassroots initiative she established amid her own financial hardship to provide meals for individuals in the Downtown Eastside. Since 2017, Raheil has grown her initiative from seven to 115 volunteers, serving over 500 meals bi-monthly. Focusing on well-balanced, home-cooked meals, her vision breaks the barrier of quality in charitable food services by providing moments of comfort. Raheil has secured sponsorships and in-kind donations from local businesses and during the pandemic, she continued serving meals and coordinated with the Door Is Open organization to support their need for perishables. Beyond Pay It Forward, Raheil has held board positions at the West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce and Impact North Shore, and leadership roles for Save a Child Foundation Canada and the Aga Khan Foundation.

Education, Training & Development 

Tamara Shenkier

Dr. Tamara Shenkier

Tamara is former Head of the UBC Medical Oncology Residents Training Program and, as the first woman to lead the program, she transformed the curriculum, emphasizing the importance of emotional support, education, and research for residents. Dr. Shenkier also introduced new evaluation models to provide trainees with ongoing feedback, communications skills development and support to increase their chances of a successful career in oncology. Tamara chaired the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada Medical Oncology subspecialty committee, where she revamped the educational program and instituted ongoing assessments to provide students with tools for success to improve the quality of graduating oncologists. Tamara also created and was President of the BC Cancer Medical Staff Engagement Society to fund activities which enhance MD wellness and address clinical inefficiencies.

Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Jessica Regan

Jessica Regan

As CEO of FoodMesh, Jessica focuses on reducing food waste by redirecting unsold items to those in need. Supporting over 2,500 food businesses, farmers and charities, Jessica’s company has saved 30 million kilograms of food from landfills and has shared 25% of its revenue with hunger-relief organizations. Jessica has founded three other businesses, including EcoTrek Tours, which designed and delivered local eco field trips for school districts in the Lower Mainland. Beyond business, she served as a Board of Director for the Gitga’at First Nation Economic Development Council, helping create economic self-determination. A commitment to empowerment led her to initiate programs supporting orphans, Indigenous entrepreneurs and a micro-loans program. She is currently collaborating with the UN to create a blockchain project in food recovery.

Environmental Sustainability 

Melissa Lem

Dr. Melissa Lem

Melissa is President of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) and Founding Director of PaRx, Canada's national nature prescription program. PaRx has mobilized over 12,500 health professionals in Canada to register and prescribe nature. Making history as the first President of colour in CAPE's nearly 30-year history, her campaign work to end fossil fuel promotion in BC schools resulted in a commitment by BC's Education Minister to review and revise provincial policy on educational resources. As an ambassador for CAPE, Melissa significantly increased its annual budget, helping to secure approximately $1.5M in funding. Her dedication to sustainability extends to her role as a climate columnist for CBC Radio's Early Edition, and Clinical Assistant Professor at UBC, where she mentors and advocates for environmental initiatives.

Health & Wellness

Vivian Eliopoulos

Vivian Eliopoulos

As President and CEO of Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), Vivian leads a team focused on providing exceptional care to 1.25M people. Grounded in the values of caring, learning and better results, she is committed to the four pillars of Indigenous Cultural Safety: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Anti-Racism and Planetary Health. Vivian prioritizes meaningful engagement with First Nations communities and established the Indigenous Health portfolio to deliver safer, equitable care. With the opening of Urgent and Primary Care Centres across VCH, Vivian has increased access to care and diagnostics, and has helped position VCH as a leader in climate change mitigation. During COVID-19, Vivian emphasized disaster preparedness and achieved widespread immunization, reaching the region’s most vulnerable clients. Vivian has led VCH to be named one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for three consecutive years. 


Chelsea Minhas

Chelsea Minhas

Chelsea is Chief Program Officer at Covenant House Vancouver, where her dedication to harm reduction led to the Covenant House Harm Reduction Pilot Program. Distributing more than 2,000 harm reduction kits and 370 naloxone kits to youth in a developmentally appropriate way, the program has significantly improved mental health outcomes and reduced harmful incidents. Chelsea's anti-human trafficking project, in collaboration with Women & Gender Equality Canada, resulted in the Lower Mainland Anti-Trafficking Table and the Youth Anti-Trafficking toolkit, praised across North America and utilized by over 50 agencies within a year. Chelsea began at Covenant House as an on-call youth worker 16 years ago and has shown unwavering commitment to uplifting and supporting youth. Chelsea also gives extensive time to Mamas for Mamas, helping address families’ essential needs.

Reconciliation in Action 

Emily Henry

kihci têpakohp iskotêw iskwêw (Emily Henry) 

nêhiýaw kêhtê (Cree Elder) Emily offers cultural safety and trauma-informed best practice sessions through the First Nations Health Authority. Here, she serves Elders through programs including Cultural Safety and Humility, Mental Health and Substance Use, Harm Reduction and Nursing Services, and she co-developed a guide to palliative care for healthcare providers providing support to Indigenous peoples. A former instructor at Vancouver Community College, Elder Emily developed a curriculum addressing Indigenous history and residential school impacts, reaching hundreds of students, and informing how substance counsellors interact with Indigenous clients. Now implemented nationwide, she created interventions for Indigenous male offenders combining behavioral therapy with a foundation of Indigenous culture to address the generational impact caused by colonization. Elder Emily also offers traditional services through ceremonies to connect Indigenous peoples to their culture.

Reconciliation in Action - Ally

Mary Gerges

Mary Gerges

As Executive Director of Reconciliation and Equity Strategies at BC Housing, Mary integrates a reconciliation lens across the organization’s functions and housing sector. She played a crucial role in shaping BC Housing’s $3.3B Community Housing Fund request for proposal process, ensuring the inclusion of reconciliation and equity criteria. Previously, Mary contributed to the development of Indigenous strategies that amplified Indigenous voices and needs within academia. Contributing to economic inclusion efforts, she developed Indigenous talent strategies for Vancity Credit Union and funding development for Indigenous Tourism BC. Committed to truth and reconciliation, Mary coordinated engagements for Federal government staff leading up to the 2013 Truth and Reconciliation Commission National event in Vancouver. Mary also advocates as a Board member of Orange Shirt Society, where she is dedicated to amplifying survivor voices. 

Research, the Sciences & Technology 

Jacquelyn Cragg

Dr. Jacquelyn Cragg

Jacquelyn serves as Canada Research Chair and Assistant Professor at UBC’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and has revolutionized acute pain management for spinal cord injury patients through her research. With a background in mathematics, statistics and calculus, Dr. Cragg’s unique approach to inquiry led to her discovering a class of pain medications that alleviates immediate complications and improves muscle strength recovery; she also redefined how cardiovascular risk is understood in spinal cord injury patients. In addictions epidemiology, Dr. Cragg has shed light on the escalating methamphetamine trends in Canada, drawing much needed attention to the crisis. As a L’Oréal-UNESCO Ambassador for Women in Science, she actively champions women and girls in science and Jacquelyn leads the Fostering Science program, mentoring foster care youth in science fair projects.

Young Woman of Distinction 

Stephanie Quon

Stephanie Quon

Stephanie is Founder and Executive Director of The Sprouts Initiative. Under her leadership, Sprouts has acquired over $50,000 in grant funding, engaged 300 individuals in volunteer roles and donated over 12,000 meals to local shelters. Reaching out to local non-profit organizations, Stephanie works with them to explore the accessibility challenges they face and helps apply for federal accessible technology grants – she has received over $1.32M in funding over 87 projects in three years. At UBC, Stephanie volunteered with the AMS to lead the opening of a sensory room mainly for disabled, autistic and neurodiverse individuals to self-regulate. While completing her undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, Stephanie volunteers with UBC Women in Engineering and worked with the Faculty of Applied Science to create video content, encouraging underrepresented populations to pursue engineering.

Outstanding Workplace


Vancouver Community College

Vancouver Community College (VCC) is a leader in post-secondary experiential landscape. VCC has prioritized inclusivity through maternity, parental and adoption leave options, alongside clinical counseling benefits, allowing employees to fully embrace family life and other priorities. Listening to employee feedback, the company implemented a Mental Health & Well-Being Framework and partnered with the Canadian Mental Health Association's Not Myself Today Employee Mental Health Initiative, with 40 ambassadors aiding in awareness. VCC promotes gender equity, with 85% of the board and 61% of managers being women. VCC’s Learning 4 Life program focuses on EDI awareness by offering workshops like Gender Based Analysis and Anti-Racism Response Training. VCC also implemented infrastructure like breastfeeding rooms, prayer spaces and on-site daycare that complements flexible hybrid work policies, promoting a healthy work-life balance.


The YWCA Women of Distinction Awards honour individuals and organizations whose outstanding activities and achievements contribute to the wellbeing and future of our community. This signature fundraising event is about bringing our diverse community together to empower one another.

This year, we are proud to celebrate 41 years of advancing gender equity and rallying behind women and gender-diverse people who are beacons of progress. 

Award recipients were announced at the Women of Distinction Awards Gala at the Westin Bayshore, Vancouver on May 13, 2024. 

The 2024 Awards are presented by Scotiabank. Our sponsors this year are BC Housing, BCAA, CKNW, Clio, CN Transportation Service, Global TV, iA Financial Group, Imagine That Events, Dr. Kim van der Woerd and Dr. Ron Roesch, Lawson Lundell LLP, MDA Space, Miss604, Natures Path, Pacific Blue Cross, SAP Canada, SayLove Projects, Scotiabank, Seaspan Shipyards, Teck Resources Limited.   

Nominations for the 2025 Awards are now open.