Meet the HDC Board of Directors

Working together to make HDC a true expression of collective experience and knowledge.

Dr. Omesh Syal, MD, CCFP
Chair of the HDC Board of Directors

Dr. Omesh Syal grew up in Dawson Creek, BC and completed both medical school and family residency at UBC. He began practice in Prince George allowing him to stay close to the north.

Dr. Syal has seen the importance of data collection, interpretation in utilizing this to implement change at the physician level, community level and provincial level. Early in his career, he was taught the importance data collection to help run his practice more efficiently to improve patient care.

Having been elected as Vice-Chair to the Prince George Division of Family Practice, as well as a member of the Board of Directors for the Nechako medical clinic, an after-hours clinic for physicians in collaboration with northern health, he has seen firsthand how data can affect change.

Dr. Syal believes the HDC will be a huge driving force to implement change. He would like to contribute and help create change within his community and province.

Dr. Lawrence Yang, MD, CCFP
Vice-Chair of the HDC Board of Directors

Lawrence is a family doctor in Surrey.  He’s passionate about patient experiences and resource stewardship.

Lawrence is an IHI trained QI Coach and QI advisor. Lawrence is a father of two children and is excited about influencing the health system to become more sustainable for future generations.

Lawrence enjoys eating poke bowls, watching UFC matches, and training Brazilian jiujitsu.  Lawrence has a side gig selling Hotwheels cars and retro video games.

Dr. Herb Chang, MD, CCFP
Secretary Treasurer, Chair of the Finance & Audit Committee

Dr. Herb Chang completed his M.D. at UBC in 1988 and started his full-service family practice in 1993 in Coquitlam. He continues to pursue his passion for mentorship as a Clinical Assistant Professor with the UBC Medical School and preceptor for medical students and residents. After completing the Leadership and Management Development Program at SFU in 2014, Herb embraced many leadership roles, including Treasurer for the Fraser Northwest Division of Family Practice, member of the FNW Division Primary Care Network physician advisory committee, and Treasurer of the provincial Pathways Patient Referral Association.

Dr. Chang has cultivated his experience blending IT and health care as a member of the Fraser Health Authority IT committee for many years and as a member of the BC Provincial Digital Health Initiative, Portfolio 2 Leadership Team. As an avid proponent of the OSCAR EMR, he has given multiple presentations and peer support sessions throughout the province with the Practice Support Program. He was an early registrant with the Health Data Coalition and a supporter of its expansion within his Division of Family Practice.

Dr. Chang looks forward to this new engaging opportunity to join the Board of the Health Data Coalition, to help physicians and clinics understand and utilize their data to implement practice improvement in a safe, secure and confidential manner to enhance patient care.

Dr. Samuel Abraham, PhD
Public Director

Dr. Samuel Abraham received his PhD in Genetics from the University of British Columbia.  He joined Inflazyme Pharmaceuticals as a Senior Scientist in 1996, and later became Project Leader for the Transplant Program, as well as Division Leader for Cell and Molecular Biology.  He was with the BC Cancer Agency from 2000 to 2015, serving in a variety of positions, including concurrent appointments as VP Strategic Relationships beginning 2007, Executive Lead, Business and Intellectual Property Development for PHSA beginning in 2010 and Interim VP Research beginning in 2011. Dr. Abraham has served on the boards of the BC Cancer Foundation and the Centre for Drug Research and Development, and currently serves on the boards of Inspire Health, the Institute for Health Systems Transformation and Sustainability, GlycoNet and Vancouver Prostate Centre/PC-TRiADD. During his time with BCCA/PHSA Dr Abraham led the development of a strong intellectual property portfolio, driven by the mandate to improve outcomes for cancer patients in BC and beyond.

Dr. Melissa Duff, MD, CCFP, FCFP

Dr. Melissa Duff has been a family physician for over 15 years, graduating from McMaster medical school in 2005 and University of British Columbia Family Medicine residency in 2007. She has worked as a family physician in emergency, military, hospitalist, rural, urban, walk-in clinic, and community longitudinal medicine.

Dr Duff feels compelled to make a positive impact on our struggling profession.  In 2021, she was elected to the Board of Directors of the Victoria Divisions of Family Practice and became the Primary Care Network (PCN) Physician Lead for the James Bay/Fairfield/Fernwood/Oaklands neighbourhood. In 2022, she joined the Board of Directors of BC Family Doctors. Dr Duff is also a UBC clinical instructor, the BC Family Doctors representative for our district, and a Representative Assembly member at the Doctors of BC. Determined to be an effective advocate for family medicine, she is pursuing an MBA at UBC.

Dr. Karen E. Forgie, MD, CCFP, FCFP, FRRMC

Dr. Karen E. Forgie started her professional career as an outpost nurse, midwife and nursing administrator in Newfoundland and Labrador before deciding on medicine. She received her MD from Memorial University of Newfoundland and completed her Family Medicine Residency at the University of British Columbia.  The Sunshine Coast is considered home after 32 years of practicing full service longitudinal Family Medicine supplemented with locums in Canada’s north. 

Her passions are rural health care, teaching medical learners, working with physician lead and supported organizations, inspiring the provision of the best care for all peoples, and protecting patient and physician data privacy.  

Dr. Angela Jennings, MD, CCFP

Dr. Angela Jennings is a family physician who completed her medical degree and residency at the University of Toronto.  She moved to British Columbia and has been practicing longitudinal family medicine in the Richmond community since 2016.  She is co-director of Coppersmith Medical Clinic and has extensive experience with several EMR systems.  She is an active member of the Richmond Division of Family Practice.  

Dr. Jennings has initiated numerous Quality Improvement projects and has utilized HDC Discover to optimize delivery of care.  She has also assisted other physicians with their own Quality Improvement initiatives and is passionate about improving patient care and practice efficiency through the use of technology and data sharing.   

Dr. Christie Newton MD, CCFP, FCFP

Dr. Newton is an Associate Professor, and Associate Head (Education and Engagement) in the UBC Department of Family Practice, and the Associate Vice President Health (pro tem) in the Office of the Vice President, Health. She moved to BC in 2001 and started practice in the UBC Family Practice Teaching Unit on the Vancouver campus in January of 2002. Since 2005, Dr. Newton has spent most of her academic career focused on interprofessional and collaborative health education across disciplines and across the educational continuum. She has a particular interest in continuing professional development for practice improvement. Since 2010 she has served as Director of CPD for the department, on the National Committee for CPD of the CFPC and on the Doctors of BC CPD Nucleus Committee. Through her work she aims to shape the workforce of tomorrow, catalyze interdisciplinary collaboration in health research, and advocate for and assist in building capacity for positive health system change. Dr. Newton has long recognized the importance of data to drive change; feedback is essential for improvement at the individual, clinic, community, and system level.

In her role as Associate Vice President Health (pro tem) she is currently working on the development of a new interprofessional teaching clinic on campus aimed at modelling and scaling collaborative health education within team-based primary care. She looks forward to the day when team-based care is the standard in BC and teams are well supported to provide accessible care for their communities.

Dan Palfrey, MPH, BSc,
Public Director

Dan Palfrey is the Director of Industry Partnerships with the Institute of Health Economics and Board member of the Canadian Association for Population Therapeutics. Following completion of a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Alberta, Dan began his career in the pharmaceutical industry, holding progressive leadership positions in Government Relations, Product Management, and Business Unit management. He then served as a Vice President of Med Access, where he led a team of professionals to work in close collaboration with primary care and specialist physicians to support the adoption and utilization of EMR.

Throughout his career, Dan has led initiatives that apply a robust data-driven approach to improve clinical and health care resource utilization outcomes. He has provided leadership to establish the Alberta Real World Evidence Consortium, an entity focused on best practices in the generation and utilization of data from routine clinical and administrative practice to develop evidence outside of the traditional clinical trial context. He has also established a formal partnership mechanism between the Government of Alberta and research-based organizations in order to identify questions of mutual interest that can be answered by secondary use health data, and a partnership model in order to liberate, link and use anonymized health data to answer research questions. He has also recently established multi-year partnerships between Federal, Provincial and private sector organizations to develop methods and tools to generate ‘decision-grade’ real world evidence from secondary health data sources.

Dan is motivated to support the mission of the Health Data Coalition to improve various aspects of quality, and to inform policy and practice.

Dr. Robert Schertzer, MD, MEd, FRCSC

Dr. Robert Schertzer is a specialist in ophthalmology who has been in glaucoma clinical and academic practice since 1996. He has 15 years’ experience practicing in BC and is based in Vancouver. Dr. Schertzer fully embraces educational technology for continuing professional development and has helped create and foster inter-professional collaborative models of eye care. He was a pioneer in introducing Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) into ophthalmology in Canada and was trained as a physician-builder for a large enterprise-wide system in the United States.

Dr. Schertzer has worked with many EMR systems over the past 26 years and even introduced the use of computers into the medical school curriculum at Dalhousie University in the 1980s. He has been active in teaching the benefits of EMR systems to other ophthalmologists since 2005;Dr. Schertzer helped develop co-sponsored curriculum for the Canadian Ophthalmological Society Canadian Medical Association’s Practice Solutions.

While at the Giesel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College (2013–2018), he trained at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice (“TDI”) in clinical microsystems and at Epic University as a physician-builder for the enterprise-wide EMR system. Dr. Schertzer has a deep understanding of technology and appreciates the challenges we face in collaborating to store and retrieve data to improve the quality of health care.

Dr. Richard Welsh, MD, FCFP

Based in Abbotsford, Dr. Richard Welsh started the Ellwood Medical Center, a progressive innovative full-service family practice in 1991. In 2002, Dr. Welsh founded Gateway Healthcare, a 10-physician interdisciplinary clinic where he is currently a family physician and Managing Director. As Dr. Welsh was on the Fraser Health Physician steering committee for Electronic Medical Record (EMR) implementation, Gateway Healthcare became one of the first clinics in Fraser Health to use the Profile EMR.

In 2009, Dr. Welsh partnered with a fellow physician and started AccelEMR Solutions, Inc., a practice optimization company that provides consulting services to clinics and organizations across Canada, equipping them with the tools, training, and consulting services to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of care provided. AccelEMR’s main product is providing smart forms to subscribing clinics on a semiannual basis. The company has also done consulting for Vancouver Coastal, Fraser Health, and Velante in New Brunswick. Other projects have included building tools for Profile users for several PSP modules (including Chronic Pain, MSK, and End of Life) and optimizing several local clinics as part of GP4Me.

Dr. Welsh is a member of the Doctors of BC Requisition Committee, the Fraser Health Authority’s Joint ISC-FHA IM/IT Working Group, a clinical Instructor with the UBC Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Family Practice, and provides onsite primary care services at Life Recovery, a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.