About the Team
The Compass team are a group of highly trained individuals here to provide support and education on mental health and substance use care.
Darla graduated from the University of Victoria with a Masters’ Degree in Counselling Psychology. She has over 23 years of experience across health care and education settings, providing counselling and psychotherapy to children, youth and families. At the core of her work, is a passion for supporting individuals in accessing and developing their internal resources and resiliency, while expanding their learning and building capacity throughout the lifespan. With the varied experience of a generalist, a clinical focus on depression, anxiety, and trauma, alongside an appreciation for the benefits of supportive consultation for practitioners, she joined the Compass Team. Outside of work, Darla enjoys global and local travel adventures, and staying active in mind and body.
Dr. Erin Smith
Dr. Erin Smith is a psychiatrist with the Compass program at BCCH and also works at BCWH at Reproductive Mental Health and the Oak Tree Clinic. She completed her general adult psychiatry residency at UPMC Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic and also completed an addiction psychiatry fellowship at the same institution. Prior to working for Compass, Dr. Smith worked at the Provincial Youth Concurrent Disorders clinic at BCCH. She is passionate about working with people during their pregnancies and in the postpartum period as well as transitional age youth and adults with concurrent disorders and their families. Dr. Smith is also a motivational interviewing (MI) trainer and a member of the internationally regarded organization Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT). She is a published author in the field of MI as well as the field of addictions and is passionate about teaching motivational interviewing and also lectures on a variety of different topics for medical trainees through her role as a clinical instructor at UBC. Dr. Smith is proud to be part of the collaborative and multidisciplinary team at Compass.
Hali McLennan (she/her)
Hali obtained her Masters of Social Work from the University of British Columbia. She has Cree and Métis ancestry through both of her grandmothers and mixed European settler ancestry through both grandfathers. Hali is passionate about mental health care, but has a particular passion for the mental health of Indigenous youth, families and communities. Hali’s previous work and practicum experiences include working in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in community mental health, working in youth full-time attendance addictions treatment, working in Indigenous family preservation, and working in research, and policy development for a delegated Aboriginal agency. Hali also has some experience in academic research and on initiatives to decolonize and indigenize the health profession education programs at the University of British Columbia. When not at work Hali can be found taking recreational dance classes or flexing her creative muscles through digital illustration, painting, and beadwork.
Helen is a Registered Psychiatric Nurse who has been working with children with mental health concerns and their caregivers for 17 years. Prior to working in Compass, Helen was the Nurse Clinician in ADHD Provincial Program for many years. Helen recently completed a Masters of Education at Simon Fraser University and has an interest in teaching Mindfulness and contemplative practices to healthcare professionals.Originally from Yorkshire, England, Helen makes a great Yorkshire Pudding. She always has a creative project on the go and loves spending time with her husband and their French Bulldog, Dave.
Dr. Jennifer Russel
Dr. Jennifer Russel's family is initially from Scotland, and her grandmother moved to Montreal, where her Mother was born. She grew up in Toronto and moved to Vancouver in 2010. She identifies as a white settler. She is a mom to two boys, a wife, sister, daughter and friend. She uses she/her pronouns. She is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and social worker, who has primarily worked in urban areas. She is passionate about equity in health care, and is working towards improving our ability to care for our provinces' children and youth. She was the clinical Director of the Compass program from its start in September 2018 until the fall of 2021, and now works as a member of the team, and as the Associate Head of Mental Health at BCCH & Women’s hospital.
Jennifer is a registered psychiatric nurse with over 23 years of clinical experience gathered from a variety of settings. Her area of expertise is in youth concurrent disorders. She has been working as a Nurse Clinician at BC Children's hospital since 2006. Jennifer has extensive training in therapeutic modalities and has provided both individual and group treatment. She also has experience in teaching. Outside of work, Jennifer enjoys time with her dog Jelly and exercising in nature. She is also a mother of two lively children and a wife to a husband that provides her with daily doses of laughter. Learn more about Jennifer in the Compass Corner.
Kate was born in Hong Kong and moved to North Vancouver when she was young and grew up with the North Shore Mountains and trails at her back door. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Bachelor of Psychiatric Nursing from Kwantlen Polytechnic University. She focused her career at BC Children’s Hospital and has worked in the various mental health programs offered at the Healthy Minds Centre since 2009. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her young son and family, travelling, watching movies and shows, reading and discovering new and exciting places to eat at.
Dr. Katharine Thomson
Dr. Katharine Thomson is a clinical and research psychologist with the Compass Program at BCCH. Prior to joining our team, Dr. Thomson was an attending psychologist in consultation and liaison at Boston Children’s Hospital and an instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She has special interests in trauma-informed care, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, eating disorders, somatization, LGBTQ+ healthcare, and health equity. In addition to her role in the Compass Program, Dr. Thomson has a private practice where she works with children, adolescents, and young adults. Outside of work, she can be found exploring beaches with her spouse, their two young children, and their dog, or taking on a new home improvement project.
Liezel started her career as Registered Psychiatric Nurse at BC Children’s Hospital in the Healthy Minds building primarily working in in-patient psychiatry, namely: Child and Youth Psychiatric Emergency (CAPE), Adolescent Unit, Child Psychiatry and Eating Disorder unit. Liezel also casually works in CAPSU (Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Stabilization Unit) and APU (Adolescent Psychiatry) in Fraser Health. In her off time, she likes playing and spending quality time with her daughters, her nieces, her nephews and their dog Lemon.
Meredith de Freitas
Meredith is a Program Manager with the Health Literacy Team at BC Children's Hospital. She works alongside the Compass Program to support the implementation and growth of the program's Education Strategy. Meredith has a BA in Medical Anthropology from McGill University and a Master's in Public Health from Simon Fraser University. She has worked over ten years in the field of public health and is passionate about health promotion, health equity, and mental health literacy.
Dr. Priya Watson
Dr. Priya Watson is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist with the Compass Program at BCCH. In addition to her clinical work, which has focused on mood and anxiety disorders, Dr. Watson has published articles, books, and online courses on the subjects of trauma, culture, psychotherapy, and continuing professional development. She has a particular interest in developmental trauma, and collaborating with front-line care providers to provide trauma-informed care to children, youth and their families.
Dr. Robin Friedlander
Robin Friedlander is a Clinical Professor and Director of the Neurodevelopmental Disorders Program in the Dept. of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia (UBC). He is past head of the Neuropsychiatry clinic and currently leads the SIB clinic at BC Children’s Hospital. Dr Friedlander trained in medicine and psychiatry in South Africa. Since moving to Vancouver, BC in 1993, clinical, academic and teaching pursuits have been in the field of Developmental Psychiatry.
Shawna spent her youth growing up in Winnipeg Manitoba. She moved out to beautiful BC at the age of 17 years, and started getting her education in order. She loves going to live shows, playing video games and reading. She has now lived longer in BC than she did in Manitoba. She is a cat mom to two wonderful kitties. She comes from an adopted mother and a father who was 2nd generation immigrant from settler ancestry, Ireland and Odessa on his father’s side and UK on his Mother’s side. She has her Bachelor of Science is Psychiatric Nursing and is considering a Master’s in Counseling. Shawna has been nursing for 25 years in various areas like addictions, subacute psychiatry, and the last 18 years at BCCH in various roles in inpatient and emergency psychiatry.
Sonja has a Bachelor’s in Child and Youth Care and a Master’s Degree in Human Security. Currently Director of the Outpatient Psychiatry Department at BC Children’s Hospital, Sonja previously worked within a variety of roles supporting vulnerable populations with challenges related to mental health and substance use, including supporting children, youth and families, individuals living in conflict zones, individuals struggling with homelessness in the Downtown Eastside, and adults with mental health issues involved with the criminal justice system. She has worked with Ministry of Health and Ministry of Children and Family Development around Provincial initiatives to improve responses and supports for families affected by mental health and substance use issues with an emphasis on whole family supports, recognizing the intergenerational nature of these concerns. Outside of work, Sonja can be found horseback riding and jumping or curled up with a good book.
Dr. Susan Baer
Susan Baer is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist who has worked at BC Children’s Hospital since 2004. She completed her medical training and psychiatry residency at UBC. She has particular interests in anxiety and neurodevelopmental disorders. Her favorite part about working on Compass is collaborating with community providers across the province as well as working with the multidisciplinary Compass team. Outside of work, she loves all outdoor activities, particularly backcountry adventures!