Dr. Vanessa Brcic (Chair)

Dr. Vanessa Brcic is a Vancouver-based family physician, Registered Therapeutic Counselor, and community-based researcher with a special interest in health inequities. She co-founded Basics for Health Society (B4H) alongside her esteemed colleagues Sarah and Manjit.

Her clinical interests are in the interdisciplinary care of vulnerable patients and those with complex chronic conditions often neglected in the medical system.  After a serious bicycle accident in 2010, she also gained experience navigating health care and disability services as a patient. Her prior work experience includes youth work and community development.

In 2011, she published a seminal study that developed a screening tool to identify poverty in primary care settings. Since then, she has worked with groups across Canada to further the ability of health care workers to address poverty and related social needs in clinical settings. Her research and advocacy focus continues to be how to address inequities in primary care, including interventions for structural violence, trauma, and social determinants of health.

She is a Research Associate with the BC office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a Board Member with Canadian Doctors for Medicare, and has worked in collaboration with the BC Health Coalition, the Public Health Association of BC, the Poverty Reduction Coalition, and Health Providers against Poverty. He is pursuing her MSc part time at the UBC School of Population and Public Health. In her spare time, she spends as much time as possible with her young daughter, and in nature.

Sarah Kesselring (Secretary)

Sarah has been working in health research since graduating from the UBC Master of Public Health program in 2012. She has experience in project coordination and policy development and is a former volunteer with the Basics for Health Program. Sarah currently works as a Project Coordinator at Population Data BC. 

Donna Jepsen

Donna Jepsen joined the board of Basics for Health in 2015.  She has a background in Public Health and Community Health Nursing.  Donna is currently the Provincial Coordinator of the Nurse-Family Partnership Program in British Columbia, a program supporting young first-time parents who are coping with marked socioeconomic disadvantage and adversity.  Previous to this role, Donna began her career in public health in the Northern Health Authority region of BC (Prince George) as a public health nurse.  Donna worked for Northern Health for 3 ½ years.  She then moved to the Sunshine Coast for a public health nursing position with Vancouer Coastal Health in 1991.  Donna became the Program Leader for Public Health and Prevention for 14 years supporting a multidisciplinary team.  Donna has a BSN from the University of Victoria, and obtained a Masters of Science degree from the University of Alberta in 2006. 

Melissa Wan

Melissa is a UBC medical student with interests in how the social determinants of health relate to health systems and public heath,  and what we can do in order to improve population health. She brings her experience as a past volunteer with the Basics for Health Program and her quality improvement work with various communities and populations.

Paige Zhang

Paige joined the Basics for Health Society board in April 2019. She is currently a psychiatry resident doctor at the University of British Columbia. She completed her MD at the University of Toronto and is a MSc candidate there with a focus on health systems leadership and innovation. Previously, she has worked in international development and health promotions. Her current interests are in mental health, social justice, and the medical humanities. 

Sarah Huebert

Sarah Huebert joined the Basics for Health board in 2019. She is a Registered Social Worker and currently works as a Researcher at the Social Planning and Research Council of BC. Sarah has developed knowledge in qualitative research processes as well as community-based research approaches. Sarah holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of British Columbia and a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Manitoba.

Erika ono

Erika joined the board of Basics for Health in 2019. She has a background in Social Work, working in health care and social services for the past ten years, ranging from family preservation, supportive housing, trauma counselling, and paediatric and adult mental health services. Erika is currently a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia’s School of Social Work, and and Evaluation Specialist at the Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences. Both her clinical and research areas of focus include improving health and social services delivery with families to address social determinants of health.

Lisa Allyn

Lisa is a registered occupational therapist working in an acute inpatient psychiatric unit with individuals who have severe mental illness and substance use disorders in Vancouver. Prior to working in mental health, she worked as an OT in a variety of practice areas including stroke rehabilitation, acute medical units and geriatric medicine. Before completing a master’s degree in occupational therapy at UBC, Lisa was involved in family programming and fundraising at the Downtown East Side Neighbourhood House in Vancouver and worked with community programs at the UBC Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at the UBC farm site. She is interested in addressing barriers to service-access for vulnerable and marginalized populations and impacts on health management, function, and quality of life. Lisa has an interest in substance use, mental health, restorative & transformative justice, and trauma-informed models of care. She joined the Basics for Health board in 2019.

michael schwandt

Michael Schwandt is passionate about supporting good health through prevention and upstream health promotion, and is a former board member of Upstream Institute for a Healthy Society. Michael is interested in how the environments where we live, work and play affect wellbeing and equity in communities, including through clean air and water, access to healthy food, transportation options and sustainable community planning. He is trained as a Family Physician and a specialist in Public Health and Preventive Medicine, works as a Public Health Physician with the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, and is a Clinical Assistant Professor in UBC’s School of Population and Public Health. Michael’s interest in healthy public spaces extends to pastimes as an avid runner and fan of local music.


  • University of British Columbia

  • Centre for Effective Practice

  • BC College of Family Physicians

  • Health Connection Clinic (North Vancouver, BC)

  • Pain BC

  • Reach CHC (Vancouver, BC)

Past members

We extend our sincere thanks to colleagues who have completed their terms and shared their expertise and passion for SDOH:

  • Lyana Patrick (Chair)

  • Kasra Hassani (Vice-Chair)

  • Charlotte Humphries (Treasurer)

  • John Millar (Founding Board Member, Community Medicine)

  • Kyle Pearce (Founding Board Member, Treasurer, Consulting)

  • Sarah Dobson (Operations Manager)

  • Manjit Chand (Program Manager, Volunteer Lead)

  • Joel Finlay (Founding Board Member, Finance)

  • Kristen Piper (Board member; Social Work)

  • Sheri Johnson (Board member; Social Work)

  • Cindy Nguyen (Board member; Social Work)

  • Shovita Padhi (Board member; Community Medicine)

  • Richard Kramer (Connect for Health Volunteer Coordinator)

  • Asal Vahabimoghaddam (Program Assistant)

Advisory Board

  • John Millar

  • Lyana Patrick

  • Joan Hill




Manjit was the driving force behind the development and implementation of the pilot Basics for Health program and is a co-founder of Basics for Health Society.  Her background is in social work and community planning. She has been working in social and health services – locally and internationally – for over 20 years with a particular focus on volunteer management, cross-cultural communication, anti-oppression training, community development and adult education.  Jeet believes a better, more equitable world is possible and is proud to be working with Basics for Health Society towards that goal.


Sarah has a Masters degree in community health research from the Université de Montréal and has spent the last decade in research management and grant development in universities across Canada. She is also a researcher with an interest in health services, health professions education, and health inequities. Her current research focuses on understanding the role that health professionals play as advocates. This work has been published and presented nationally and internationally. She sits on the health advocacy curriculum development committee in the UBC Faculty of Medicine and has contributed to national medical education projects including the Future of Medical Education in Canada - Postgraduate Project and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada's CanMEDS 2015 initiative.T