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RHSCIR 2017 Report

Read about the trends in the traumatic spinal cord injury population

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The leadership, tenacity and spirit of Rick Hansen is in everything we do

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Rick Hansen

Rick Hansen

RHI would not exist today without the vision of its founder, Rick Hansen.

We gratefully acknowledge the thoughtful guidance and unwavering support Rick and the Rick Hansen Foundation have provided RHI since its inception. Read on to learn more about RHI's founder.

RH headshot 2 smRick Hansen is a Canadian icon who has dedicated his life to creating a world that is accessible and inclusive for all. Best known as the "Man In Motion" for undertaking an epic two-year 40,000 km journey around the world in his wheelchair. This distance was based on the circumference of Earth at the equator. Rick is also a three-time Paralympic gold medalist. Now the Founder and CEO of the Rick Hansen Foundation, an organization committed to continuing the Man in Motion World Tour vision of creating a world without barriers for people with disabilities, Rick and his team work hard to change attitudes, create accessible spaces and liberate the amazing potential of people with disabilities.

When Rick was 15, his life changed forever. Returning home from a week-long fishing trip, Rick was thrown from the back of a pick-up truck and became paralyzed from the waist down. His new reality came with a lot of challenges, but with determination, a sense of humour and a lot of heart, he found a way to keep doing the things he loved, and began to make new dreams.

In 1976, Rick enrolled at the University of British Columbia, becoming the first person with a disability to graduate with a degree in Physical Education. Between 1979 and 1984, Rick turned his focus to track and marathoning, winning nineteen wheelchair marathons, the world title three times and nine gold medals at the 1982 Pan Am Games. He won two gold medals and one silver at the 1984 Paralympic Summer Games in Stoke Mandeville, and gold, silver and bronze at the 1980 Paralympic Summer Games in Arnhem, Holland. He also competed for Canada in the 1984 Olympic Games in the 1500m wheelchair track, event as an exhibition sport, and was the first person to break the two-hour time record in a wheelchair marathon for an out-and-back course.

"If you believe in a dream and have the courage to try, anything is possible."

highRes AlbertaBCBorder originaltour smWith nothing but a vision, a trailer and a passionate team of supporters, Rick pushed his wheelchair out of Vancouver on March 21, 1985, to set out on a journey that would make history. The Man In Motion World Tour was fueled by two big dreams: to awaken the awareness of the potential of people with disabilities and raise funds to build a world without barriers for people with disabilities and support research into a cure for paralysis after spinal cord injury. Rick and his team traveled through 34 countries, wheeling through the United States, Britain and Europe, the Middle East, New Zealand, Australia, and the Far East, before returning to Vancouver on May 22, 1987. The Tour raised $26 million and became a catalyst for enormous change in the way people with disabilities were perceived.

The Rick Hansen Foundation was established in 1988, following the completion of the Tour. To date, the Foundation has generated over $342 million dollars, and has delivered programs that have raised awareness, changed attitudes and improved the quality of life for people with disabilities. The Foundation works diligently to achieve real change through collaboration, partnerships and teamwork. This includes the Rick Hansen Institute, a global collaboration network for improving the care and finding cures for SCI.

Learn more about the history of the Rick Hansen Institute.

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Rick is the recipient of many awards and honours, including the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal; the Lou Marsh Award, the Vancouver Man of the Year, Canada's Sports Hall of Fame – William Van Horne Visionary Award, Star on Canada's Walk of Fame, the Athlete of the Century award from British Columbia Wheelchair Sports, the Order of the Buffalo, the Order of British Columbia and the Companion of the Order of Canada. Most recently, Rick was the recipient of the Jack Diamond Sports Personality of the Year Award at the 24th Annual Sports Dinner.

Rick and his wife Amanda live in Steveston, B.C. and have three daughters, Rebecca, Alana, Emma.

CEO Message

CEO Message

Barrable Bill webSpinal cord injury has a massive human and economic cost.

Every year, care and treatment for Canadians with traumatic SCI costs our health care system approximately 2.7 billion. As our population ages, the number of injured, and the related care costs, will grow. Thanks to the leadership and vision of Rick Hansen, the Rick Hansen Foundation and partnerships with the federal and provincial governments and other organizations, Canada has become a world leader in SCI research and care. The Government of Canada's five-year funding agreement with the Rick Hansen Foundation in 2007 demonstrated a progressive and insightful approach to tackle the staggering costs of spinal cord injury to Canada’s health care system, and to the quality of life of affected Canadian individuals and communities. The funding led to the eventual creation of the Rick Hansen Institute, which addresses the priority needs of Canadians with spinal cord injuries through a combination of networks and infrastructure that generates greater collaboration within the care and cure communities nationally and around the world. The Rick Hansen Institute (formerly the SCI Solutions Network) was established to foster greater collaboration across the SCI community and to accelerate progress towards a cure for paralysis after SCI. Through our core program areas – Cure, Care, Commercialization and Consumer—we have created a powerful network of researchers, clinicians and service providers who are working to improve the lives of the estimated 86,000 Canadians living with a spinal cord injury.

Reality SCI sm

As this diagram illustrates, spinal cord injury has an enormous impact not only on the health and wellbeing of Canadians with SCI, but also on the Canadian healthcare system.

Going forward

With funding secured for 2013-2018, we transitioned our efforts from infrastructure building towards a greater emphasis on implementing the results of this research into clinical practice, in the centres where people with SCI are cared for across Canada and internationally.

Learn more about our Strategic Direction

While we continue to search for the cure, we will also focus our efforts on finding ways to ensure that what we know about SCI is used for maximum benefit to the individual and to the healthcare system overall. We expect to see much larger and broader results, in terms of improved and standardized care across the country, and a reduction in the level of impairment after injury. Renewed funding will allow the Institute and its network to:

> Accelerate the implementation of new knowledge into practice

Ensure that standards and best practices for the treatment and care of people with SCI are implemented nationally

Continue to enable international and national collaboration in promising clinical trials and research efforts

This funding will have a far-reaching impact—not only for Canadians and our health care system, but for people around the world, and will further solidify Canada’s reputation as an innovative, global leader in SCI research and care.

At this time of unprecedented scientific progress and transformative global communications technology, a world without paralysis after SCI is possible. In the meantime, please feel free to peruse our website for information related to the Institute’s projects and initiatives, and information on spinal cord injury research that might be of interest to you.


Bill Barrable
Chief Executive Officer



It started with a dream...

Over 25 years ago, Rick Hansen had a dream to prove the potential of people with disabilities and to make communities more accessible and inclusive. Inspired by a deep-seated belief that anything is possible, Rick's "big dream" took shape in the form of the Man In Motion World Tour. For 26 months, he and his team wheeled more than 40,000km through 34 countries, raising awareness of the potential of people with disabilities.

Following the Tour, Rick established the Rick Hansen Foundation to continue his quest for an accessible and inclusive society and a cure for spinal cord injury. Under Rick’s leadership, the Foundation functions as a social innovator, finding collaborative solutions to challenges in the community and the resources necessary to implement those solutions. To date, the Foundation has raised more than $300 million towards removing barriers and funding research for spinal cord injury.

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Celebrating the completion of the Man In Motion World Tour, 1987.


Bringing the SCI community together

Rick also nurtured a dream of true collaboration across the SCI community. In 2007, his dream began to be realized when the SCI Network was established with funding from the federal government invested through the Rick Hansen Foundation. Three initiatives evolved — the SCI Solutions Alliance, the Rick Hansen SCI Registry, and the SCI Translational Research Network, which was funded by a $30 million investment from Health Canada.

Establishing the Rick Hansen Institute

In 2008, a decision was made to combine these three entities into a single organization, to more effectively and efficiently address the priority needs and generating solutions for people with SCI. These three organizations became known as the Rick Hansen Institute.

The Rick Hansen Institute incorporated in March 2009. We received charitable status from Canada Revenue Agency in January 2010 and operate as an independent organization.

RHI exists today because of Rick’s leadership, tenacity and his unparalleled ability to achieve “the impossible.” It is his vision that continues to motivate all those working together to reduce the impact of SCI and improve the quality of health of those living with a SCI.

Learn more about Our Work





Bill Barrable, Chief Executive Officer

Barrable Bill webBill Barrable has been the Chief Executive Officer of the Rick Hansen Institute since January 2010. Bill was the Chief Executive of BC Transplant from 1994 to 2009, during which time it was honoured with the Canada Award for Excellence from the National Quality Institute. In 2001 he became the founding Chair of the Board of Directors of the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research. In 2008 he co-founded Natalus Life Science Capital (VCC) Inc., an angel fund which invests in BC Biotechnology startup companies.

At BC Transplant he led the creation of the first online digital signature organ donor registry in partnership with a BC company, Recombo Incorporated. He also championed the passage of legislation which enshrined the rights of organ donors into the Human Tissue & Gift Act of BC.

He has been a member of numerous governing boards of various kinds and holds a BA from Queen's University, and a Master of Health Science from the University of Toronto. In 2010, he received the alumni leadership award from the University of Toronto's Society of Graduates in Health Policy, Management and Evaluation. He was previously named one of Canada's Top 40 under 40.

Dr. Vanessa Noonan, MSc, PhD, PT, Director, Research & Best Practice Implementation

VanessaNoonan headshot webDr. Vanessa Noonan is a physical therapist and the focus of her research and clinical practice has been in the area of spinal cord injury. Clinically, she has practiced in both the SCI acute and rehabilitation settings. Her research examines processes and outcomes of care following SCI rehabilitation, with the goal of moving research into practice and creating standards of care.

Vanessa obtained her PhD from the UBC School of Population and Public Health in 2009. Her doctoral thesis examined measures of participation in persons with SCI that are based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) model. She later received a post-doctoral fellowship award from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research and had the opportunity to work with the NIH-sponsored project PROMIS (Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System) at the University of Washington.

As Director of Research & Best Practice Implementation, Vanessa is responsible for leading translational research and best practice implementation projects at the Rick Hansen Institute. She has been actively involved with the Rick Hansen Spinal Cord Injury Registry since it started in 2002 and co-led the development of a new community follow-up questionnaire for the Registry. In addition, she is part of the International SCI Data Set Committee, which has overseen the development of 16 data sets that are used internationally. Vanessa is also currently a co-investigator on the Access to Care and Timing project, which is examining the provision of care for persons with SCI in 12 Canadian centres, spanning seven provinces.

Dr. Pamela Berg, PhD, Director, Resource & Policy Development

PamelaBerg headshot webPamela Berg has held a number of roles at the Rick Hansen Institute (RHI) and Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF), since 2008. She has focused on Resource Development for RHI since 2010, specializing in Government Relations. Her current role emphasizes the development of partnerships with various organizations, including governments, health research foundations, universities, and private donors.

Pamela started her career in the spinal cord injury field as a Rehabilitation Counsellor at SCI-BC. At RHI and RHF, she has served as Director of Community Partnerships, Senior Manager of Provincial/Territorial Partnerships, and Manager of Government Relations.

In her first career as a chemist, Pamela held research and engineering positions in the petrochemical and laser manufacturing industries. Pamela holds a PhD in Chemical Physics from the University of Waterloo, where she was awarded the Alumni Gold Medal for academic excellence. She also holds a Social Work degree from UBC.

Penny Clarke Richardson, BA, MBA, Director, Strategic Implementation, BSCC Partnerships

PennyClarkeRichardson headshot webPenny Clarke-Richardson is an operational leader with over 25 years' experience in both private and public sectors, including healthcare education, delivery and research, and meeting management. Recent experience focusses on transformational change implementation, IT integration, and safety and quality assurance in the context of system redesign and network development. Expertise in developing goal-oriented, collaborative teams and building consensus in complex, multi-disciplinary environments.

Marianne Lowe, CPHR, Director, Human Resources

MarianneLowe headshot webMarianne Lowe leads the HR function for RHI and served as the Director of Human Resources for both the Institute and the Rick Hansen Foundation from 2013-2016. She is responsible for designing and implementing all aspects of the Institute's human resources and operational policies and procedures. Marianne holds the Chartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHRTM) designation and has a BA from the University of Alberta and a Graduate Diploma in Human Resource Development from Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia. She has over 20 years of experience in a variety of environments working in human resources, communications, hospitality and tourism and event coordination. Prior to her current position, Marianne spent several years at the Rick Hansen Foundation and worked in staff training and development at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

Daniel Hejcman, CPA, CA, Director, Finance

Daniel H biophotoDaniel Hejcman is an experienced Chief Financial Officer with more than fifteen years of finance and accounting experience, including five years of KPMG public audit experience. He worked for many large public and private organizations like WSP Global, Peter Kiewit Infrastructure, RBC Financial and Continental.

Mr. Hejcman is the financial executive that serves as the Director of Finance for the Rick Hansen Institute, where he manages their financial operations, accounting, reporting, leadership and supports the board of directors in financial oversight. He is known for his financial reporting expertise, strategic planning, team leadership and technical accounting skills. Mr. Hejcman is also the CFO and President of PEAK CPA Ltd., a CPA Public Practice specialized in CFO Executive Advisory.

Fred Rego, Director, Commercialization

Fred RegoFred Rego is the Director of Commercialization responsible for bringing market innovation that improves the lives of people with spinal cord injuries.

Fred has been a serial entrepreneur for most his career and has co-founded 10 startups including VanHack, AeroTrack, Start-IDP and AeroInfo Systems which he sold to The Boeing Company and operates under the name of Boeing Vancouver. With over 20 years of experience leading organizations, Fred is an expert in growing companies from concept to exit. He is also an investor, advisor, speaker and member of several boards. He is a frequent guest speaker about entrepreneurship and a dedicated mentor to aspiring entrepreneurs.

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Board & Committees

Our Board & Committees

RHI's Board of Directors and Program Committee Members represents the breadth and diversity of the international SCI community, each committed to helping improve the quality of life for individuals with SCI.

Board of Directors

The Board of Directors provides strategic guidance that helps RHI work towards its vision and mission.

Ian Rigby (Chair)
Emergency Physician, University of Alberta
Ben Almond (Vice Chair)
Regional Director, Canada, Jacobs
Shari Hughson (Vice Chair)
Director, Master of Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Smith School of Business, Queens University
Ross Mason (Secretary )
Executive Director and Founder, Healthcare Institute for National Renewal and Innovation
Jeff Charpentier (Treasurer)
CFO for Proactive Immune Sciences Corporation and former CFO of viDA Therapeutics Inc., Lifebank Corp., Inex Pharmaceuticals Corporation, Chromos Melcular systems Inc., and Lignol Energy Corporation
Maria Barrados
Executive in Residence at Sprott School of Business, Carleton University, Partner, Barrados Consulting, Inc.
Michael Beattie
Professor of Neurological Surgery; Co-Director, Brain and Spinal Injury Center, University of California, San Francisco
Dean Bergeron
Vice-President, Administration and Customer Relations, Group Insurance, La Capitale Financial Security
Doug Brown
Associate Professor; Executive Director, Spinal Research Institute
Kristine Cowley
Assistant Professor, Physiology & Pathophysiology, Spinal Cord Research Centre
Christine Sang 
Director, Translational Pain Research, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School
Jerome So
Investment Advisor, Certified Retirement Specialist, TD Waterhouse
Nava Swersky Sofer
Director, International Speaker, Innovation & Commercialization Expert

Cure Committee

The Cure Committee provides ongoing strategic advice in cure-related activities and recommendations on future activities regarding RHI's Cure Program

Brian Kwon (Chair) 
Associate Professor, Orthopaedics, University of British Columbia
Steven Casha
Assistant Professor, Clinical Neurosciences (Surgery), University of Calgary
Michael Fehlings
Professor, Neurosurgery, University of Toronto
James Guest
Clinical Professor, Neurological Surgery and the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis Miller School of Medicine
Susan Harkema
Rehabilitation Research Director, Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center
Wolfram Tetzlaff
Director, International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD) 
Mark Tuszynski
Professor, Neurosciences, University of California San Diego
Scott Whittemore
Scientific Director, Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center

Care Committee

The Care Committee provides ongoing strategic advice in care-related activities and recommendations on future activities regarding RHI's Care Program.

Cathy Craven (Chair)
Physiatrist, Medical Lead, Brain and Spinal Cord Rehabilitation Program, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, University Health Network
Mark Bayley
Medical Director, Brain and Spinal Cord Rehabilitation Program, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, University Health Network
Associate Professor, Division of Physiatry, University of Toronto
Lise Bélanger
Clinical Nurse Specialist, Acute Spine Program, Vancouver General Hospital
Daniel Bourbonnais
Professor, Centre de recherche interdisciplinaire en réadaptation (CRIR) du Montréal-Métropolitain, Site Institut de réadaptation Gingras-Lindsay-de-Montréal
Sean Christie
Associate Professor, Research Division of Neurosurgery, Dalhousie University
Vice Chair and Director of Research Division of Neurosurgery, Dalhousie University
Teren Clarke
Chief Executive Director, Spinal Cord Injury Alberta
Janice Eng
Associate Dean, Funding, Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, University of British Columbia
Professor, Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia
Chester Ho
Professor and Division Director, Division of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Department of Medicine, University of Alberta
Brian Kwon
Canada Research Chair in Spinal Cord Injury
Professor, Department of Orthopaedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia
Spine Surgeon, Vancouver Spine Program, Vancouver General Hospital
Eldon Loh
Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Western University
Sonja McVeigh
Associate Professor, Division of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Dalhousie University
James Milligan
Director, Research Institute for Aging, Mobility and Falls, Centre for Family Medicine Mobility Clinic
Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Family Medicine, McMaster University
Colleen M. O'Connell
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University
John Shepherd
PhD Candidate (Rehabilitation Science), University of Toronto
Blayne Welk
Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of Urology, Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, University of Western Ontario
Dalton Wolfe
Assistant Professor, School of Health Studies, Western University

Commercialization Committee

The Commercialization Committee guides the strategic direction of RHI's Commercialization Program. Its mandate is to advise RHI on how it can best leverage its strength, while ensuring alignment with the Cure, Care and Consumer Programs.

Ross Mason (Chair)
Executive Director and Founder, Healthcare Institute for National Renewal and Innovation
Elona Baum
General Counsel & VP, Business Development, California Institute of Regenerative Medicine
Jason Coonan
General Manager, Contract Asset Management UoM Commercial
Ryan Hartwell
Post Doctoral Fellow, University of British Columbia
Michael May
Chief Executive Officer, Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine
Hunter Peckham
Executive Director, Institute for Functional Restoration at Case Western Reserve University
Fred Rego
Founder & CEO ACECLA Technology
Chris Wagner
Chief Executive Officer, Contextual Genomics

Consumer Committee

The Consumer committee provides a representative voice for SCI consumers and their supporters in the Blusson Integrated Cures Partnership, as well as activities in the Consumer Program strategy.

Keiko Honda (Chair)
Consumer; Public Health Research Scientist
Peter Athanasopoulos
Consumer; Manager, Public Policy and Government Relations, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario
Mary-Jo Fetterly
Chris McBride 
Executive Director, Spinal Cord Injury BC
Ian Rigby
Consumer; Emergency Room Physician, Foothills Medical Centre
Barb Schober

Program Leadership Committee

This committee provides recommendations to the Board of Directors that aligns the development of RHI's four programs to its vision and mission. 

Katharina Kovacs Burns (Chair)
Gary Birch
Kristine Cowley 
Cathy Craven
Keiko Honda
Brian Kwon 
Ross Mason 

Canadian SCI Pressure Ulcer Strategy Working Committee

Pamela Houghton, PhD – Chair
Professor, School of Physical Therapy, University of Western Ontario
Chester Ho, MD– Chair
Associate Professor and Head, Division of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Calgary, Foothills Medical Centre
John Cobb, BScOT
Occupational Therapist II, Vancouver General Hospital Acute Spine Program
Keith Hayes, PhD
Professor, Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, University of Western Ontario
Phalgun Joshi, PhD
Managing Director of Program Operations & Support, Rick Hansen Institute
Vanessa Noonan, MSc PhD PT
Director of Research & Best Practice Implementation, Rick Hansen Institute
Heather Orsted, MSc RN BN ET
Principal, eQuadra Solutions Inc.
Shannon Sproule, BScPT
Physical Therapist, GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre
Michael Stacey, MD
Professor and Surgeon in Chief, Department of Surgery, Division of Vascular Surgery, McMaster University
Barry White, MPP
Health Economist, Rick Hansen Institute
Dalton Wolfe, PhD
Research Scientist, Lawson Health Research Institute
All committee members were asked to disclose to RHI and ONF any conflicts of interest that may potentially influence their recommendations on the Canadian SCI Pressure Ulcer Agenda.

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About Us

About Us

The Rick Hansen Institute is a Canadian-based not-for-profit organization that drives innovation in spinal cord injury research and care. We strive to improve the lives of people living with SCI in Canada and around the world.

We are committed to accelerating the translation of discoveries and best practices into improved treatments for people with spinal cord injuries.


Headquartered in Vancouver, BC, we facilitate an international network of researchers, healthcare professionals, entrepreneurs, investors, people with SCI and their supporters in order to find solutions to one of the most debilitating, costly and life-altering health conditions.

Our vision is a world without paralysis after SCI. To achieve this, we take
a multi-disciplinary, adaptable approach to maximize our impact. This enables us
to move the most promising ideas out of the laboratory, into a standard practice of
care, into the marketplace and ultimately, into the lives of people with SCI.
By working to address all of these areas simultaneously, and with national and
international partners within the SCI community and beyond, the Institute is
uniquely positioned to provide solutions for people with spinal cord injury.

We are funded by the Government of Canada through Western Economic Diversification Canada, Rick Hansen Foundation and the Governments of British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario.

Download a one pager about RHI

Peruse this section to learn more about who we are:

Our Vision and Mission

What motivates us

Message from the CEO

A message from Rick Hansen Institute's CEO, Bill Barrable

Strategic Direction

Learn about our plans for the coming years


Fueled by Rick Hansen's dream that "anything is possible"

Staff / Contact Us

Meet our senior management team and ways to contact us.

Board and Committees

Meet our board of directors and program committee members

Strategic Plan for 2016-2023

Strategic Plan

Our Strategic Plan outlines our progress made to date, our goals and objectives for fiscal years 2016-2023 and a long-term plan that will enable us to move closer to our vision of a world without paralysis after SCI. Through rigorous reporting and accountability, we will monitor our progress over the years to ensure we are on track and working towards the best possible outcomes for people with spinal cord injury.


To read our full Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2016-2023, download the PDF here.

StrategicPlanCover web


The Rick Hansen Institute is a Canadian-based not-for-profit organization that drives innovation in spinal cord injury research and care. We strive to improve the lives of people living with SCI in Canada and around the world.



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This request for proposal (RFP) is to contract for Program Evaluation services to be provided to the Rick Hansen Institute from August 1, 2019 through September 30, 2019. More >

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RHI is pleased to announce that Calgary-based emergency physician, Dr. Ian Rigby, has been elected as Chair of RHI's Board of Directors. More >

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