EDI Committee

Committee Members

Kaija Sander

Kaija Sander (Co-Chair)

I am a research associate in the Cognitive Neuroscience Unit and was previously a PhD student there. Having been at the Neuro for several years, I am naturally very invested in making it a fair and safe place for all. In addition, as a woman of colour living in western, predominantly white countries, I have always felt the effects of lack of representation and am well aware of issues of discrimination and lack of opportunity that are still very much present in our society. I would be very glad for any opportunity to play a small part to try and change that and am therefore very excited to join this committee!

Siva Moonsamy (Co-Chair)

I join the Neuro EDI committee because I believe in its mission and vision. I am honored to be a member of the MUHC community for the past 30 years and the last 12 years as the nurse manager of the intensive care unit at the Neuro. Unlike in my native country, here in North America, I am seen as a person that belongs to what is called the visible minority group or ethnic group. I never heard of these group categories before I came to Canada. These group categories did not stop me from realizing my personal life and professional life dreams. I feel privilege because the MUHC and the Neuro have always accompanied me in my career paths and successes. I am very curious to know if every member of the Neuro community would say the same about their career path. Does everyone believe s/he is being treated equal? Does everyone’s voices being heard?  I want to be an example for the visible minority at the Neuro. I join the Neuro EDI committee because I want the committee to succeed in its mission and vision.

Gabriel Blanco

My name is Gabriel and I am a PhD student in Neuroscience at the McGill University. My research focuses on understanding the biological mechanisms behind language impairments in children with Autism. As a second-generation immigrant, I have been privileged with my many opportunities in this country and I strongly believe that all trainees, healthcare providers and patients, regardless of their background, should have equal access to opportunities and a platform to for their voices to be heard. Inclusivity is key, and I am really looking forward to learning and contributing to the Neuro’s EDI projects.



Maeva Gacoin

I am a postdoctoral researcher in cognitive neuroscience, studying neurodevelopment in the context of social behavior linked to autism spectrum disorders, using MRI. I am proud to conduct this research at the Neuro, whose excellence is also based on multidisciplinarity and diversity. Therefore, I strongly believe that our institution can only benefit from the values of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion committee, to increase the awareness of our community and learn from it.


Alfie De La Cerna

My name is Alfie and I am currently one of the Assistant Head Nurses of the Neuro ICU. I have been a nurse since 2009 and have been at the MNH since. I am someone who is open to new things and I have learned to enjoy the small things in life. There are great moments in everything in the world if you open your eyes and mind to it. Humans are beings that are very complex and our differences make us special. And, although we come from different backgrounds, I have learned that we all want to belong somewhere. I believe that a simple smile or nod or "hello" can make a difference in someone's day. I would like to somehow make a difference in the world in any way possible, no matter how small. I would like to be part of a bridge between the Hospital and the Institute. I enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. From a Filipino decent, I would like to represent those who look like me and those who may not think they have a voice.

Heidi McBride

I am a full professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery working as a mitochondrial cell biologist with interests in Parkinson's disease, cancer and other rare diseases. I began my career at McGill as an undergrad in 1986, completed my Ph.D in 1996, did a 4 year postdoc in Heidelberg, and started my own lab at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in 2000. I was recruited to the Neuro in 2011. Throughout my ~30 year career as a scientist I was not inclined to complain about discriminatory behavior towards women (or anyone). Instead I just focused on my science with a "well, that's just how it is" attitude. But now, as a senior scientist who has been watching this for decades, I find myself disheartened that so little has changed over the last 20 years. I cannot stand silent as I become actively aware of EDI issues, as I see so many examples of sexual harrasment and discrimination continuing throughout academia, and as I realize how the power of white privilege continues to drive, knowingly or not, this unacceptable lack of minorities in our scientific world. I joined the EDI committee at the Neuro to listen, learn and use my voice to execute change. We must hear and document the concerns and needs of all members of the Neuro family. We will push for concrete steps to move the dial on these issues. The process of scientific discovery and the translation of our research towards improving patient care requires collaboration, trust and a true spirit of equality. I look forward to this journey.

Annabel Seyller

In my capacities of Chief of Staff of The Neuro and Chief Executive Officer of the Tanenbaum Open Science Institute hosted here, it was natural for me to become a member of the EDI Committee with my fellow colleagues. In the same vein that The Neuro took a pioneer position in the field of Open Science to transform current practices, I feel our institution can have a pivotal role in Equity Diversity and Inclusion. I will deploy countless efforts with this group to make this a reality.

Tianyu Zhang

Tianyu Zhang

I am a senior neurology resident based at the MNI. I grew up in China and have lived and worked in Montreal for the past decade. As residents we work at the confluence of medical education, patient care, clinical interactions, and academic research. An intersectional approach is of practical necessity for better healthcare outcomes and equality. I am excited to learn from the committee’s collective experiences and different viewpoints and look forward to integrating / implementing what I learn into our residency training program.

Dr Jeffrey Hall

Dr Jeffrey Hall 

I grew up in rural Ontario. I completed my Neurosurgical Residency and a Fellowship in the Surgery of Epilepsy at the MNI and came on staff as Assistant Professor in 2004. In 2016, I took a sabbatical to enroll in the Palliative Care Fellowship at McGill. In 2018 I became an Associated Professor and Director of our newly formed program in Neurosupportive and Palliative care at the MNI. Having spent nearly 25 years at the Neuro, I am proud of our long-standing history of international educational outreach. I have had the pleasure to interact with learners from many countries and cultures across the globe. Equity, the value of diversity and neurodivergence, together with the strive towards inclusivity, is not only the means of achieving an excellent learning environment but is key to building pleasant and productive relationships with all those working hard to support the mission of The Neuro. This conviction is what I hope to contribute to the EDI committee.

Nathan Spreng

I am the director of the Laboratory of Brain and Cognition and an associate professor at McGill University in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery. I am involved in promoting equity, diversity and inclusion because I believe that the Neuro should reflect the community it serves. Women and members of underrepresented groups not only belong in science, but their inclusion is essential for the success of the scientific endeavour.

Dipannita Purkayastha

I am a Clinical Research Coordinator for the ALS team at the Clinical Research Unit at the MNI. I believe that equity, diversity and inclusion is important when serving a diverse population. I’m excited to participate in helping, participating and contributing anyway I can to this committee. I’m also very excited to learn tons from being part of this committee.



The Neuro’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee was created in August of 2021, with the mandate and responsibility of guiding Neuro leadership on the development of a Neuro EDI Action Plan, as well as building a more equitable, respectful, and compassionate culture at the Neuro. To identify the needs, concerns, and believed areas of improvement for the Neuro community, the EDI Committee administered a climate survey. In collaboration with Falisha Karpati, Inclusion Consultant, this survey was distributed to all Neuro community members in January 2022, and results were received in March of 2022. Survey results were presented to the Neuro community in June of 2022. You can find a link to this presentation under the “EDI Committee” section.

In May of 2022, the EDI Committee urged the Neuro Executive Teams to hire a dedicated EDI Officer who would lead EDI advancements and implementations at The Neuro. In January of 2023, Charlotte Biché was hired to fill this role, with the mandate of working collaboratively with The Neuro’s executive teams and the EDI Committee to implement The Neuro’s core programming on all aspects related to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

To learn more about the experiences of Neuro members and provide opportunities for community recommendations, five focus groups were conducted in January of 2023. Each focus group was a dedicated space for members of an identity group or role group to facilitate safety for participants to share. Sessions were held for LGBTQIA2S+ Neuro members, hospital personnel, women and gender minorities, trainees, and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Neuro members. Both survey and focus group data provided us with a great portrait of strengths, spaces for improvement, and recommendations.

Survey and Focus Groups results, conversations with Neuro community members, McGill and MUHC Action Plans have all informed the Neuro’s 5-Year EDI Action Plan. The EDI Committee’s next goal is to execute the Neuro’s 5-Year EDI Action Plan, which was approved by the Neuro Executive Teams in November 2023.

For updates from the EDI Committee, please check our webpages, or feel free to reach out at edi.neuro [at] mcgill.ca or to Charlotte at charlotte.biche [at] mcgill.ca

If you have a suggestion for the EDI committee, please send them to us through our anonymous suggestion form.


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The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) is a bilingual academic healthcare institution. We are a McGill research and teaching institute; delivering high-quality patient care, as part of the Neuroscience Mission of the McGill University Health Centre. We are proud to be a Killam Institution, supported by the Killam Trusts.



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