Core Staff

John Atkinson

Executive Director

John joined OPHA in March 2022 as the Executive Director. John has a Master of Social Work degree and has led health promotion program and policy initiatives in a number of settings including university health services, public health, community health, and two health non-profits prior to joining OPHA. John has also led a number of community development, health promotion and child development initiatives overseas. Beginning his career as a smoking cessation counsellor in 1998 and a health educator at Region of Waterloo Public Health, John has been a leader and strong advocate within the public and community health sectors for nearly 25 years. In 2006, John was presented with the provincial Smoke-free Champion Award and a nominee for the Heather Crowe award in 2015 for his work in tobacco control. As a result of John’s extensive work regarding youth health, John was awarded the Order of Niagara. Before joining OPHA, John worked at the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) for 10 years, where he served as the Vice-President of Cancer Prevention leading all prevention initiatives across a number of areas including tobacco control, healthy eating, physical activity, alcohol, and ultraviolet radiation. He also developed strategic partnerships and strategies aimed to reduce health inequities and increase access to supportive environments and services among diverse communities. John is a committed advocate and leader within the public, community and health promotion sectors and is excited to work in collaboration with the public and community health communities to strengthen and grow their impact.

Melanie Sanderson

Director of Programs and Services

Melanie serves as a Director of Programs and Services and joined OPHA in January 2017; she has led several major projects including Keeping Kids Healthy through Collective Impact and the Make It Better Campaign on health and climate change. She holds a MPH degree from the University of Waterloo specializing in socio-behavioural science and has a background in health promotion and kinesiology (BSc Hons). Melanie holds a project management certificate from the Project Management Institute and is a certified project management professional (PMP). Melanie enjoys leading projects and initiatives that can through collaboration promote health for all in Ontario and beyond.

Sandra Maxwell

Senior Policy and Program Strategist

Sandy started working with OPHA’s Nutrition Connections (NC) centre as a consultant on various projects last year from updating resources such as Healthy Eating for a Healthy Baby, Feeding Your Baby to supporting the transitioning of NC’s Healthy Eating Manual to a Toolkit. Sandy also worked with NC to update the 2020 Student Nutrition Program Nutrition Guidelines for the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. Sandy officially joined the NC team in December 2020. She is contributing to NC’s next action plan, the content strategy for our new subscription service, developing our channel training service, growing our relationship with the Ellyn Satter Institute and more. Sandy earned her BASc from the University of Guelph and completed an internship at Toronto Western Hospital. She has worked as a registered dietitian in a variety of practice settings over the past 31 years, including as a public health dietitian for over two decades. She has contributed to a variety of initiatives, including: co-creating and managing You’re the Chef (2005 – 2019), representing Ontario Dietitians in Public Health on the Ontario Ministry of Education’s Healthy Schools Working Table (2010 – 2018), leading the development of (2014 – 2018), consulting on the nutrition and food literacy aspects of the Niagara Healthy Kids Community Challenge and integrating Ellyn Satter’s Feeding Dynamics into programming at Niagara Region Public Health among others. She has extensive experience developing and delivering nutrition education programs and services, primarily aimed at parents/caregivers and community stakeholders who work with young children and their parents.

Sarah Pedder

Policy and Project Specialist

Sarah has over eight years of experience in non-profit community-based programs, stakeholder engagement, capacity building, and advocacy primarily in mental health promotion. During her past tenure at the Canadian Mental Health Association Halton Region Branch, Sarah collaborated with internal and external stakeholders to provide evidence-informed interventions to support behaviour change and health. She most recently worked as a Crisis Intervention Worker to promote mental health, crisis intervention and suicide prevention in collaboration with Halton Regional Police. In past roles, Sarah has also initiated, developed, and implemented a quality improvement project that focused on health equity at the point of service, by improving sociodemographic data collection rates for 11 programs through the development and delivery of capacity building workshops for clinicians. Having also served as Chair of the Ontario Public health Association Health Equity Workgroup, Sarah has championed the implementation of health equity lens at a provincial level. As an experienced facilitator, Sarah has presented, developed, and implemented professional development workshops and trainings to promote skill development in participants and increase knowledge on mental health. In Sarah’s academic background, she brings a Master of Public Health from Brock University, a Geriatric Certificate, a Bachelor of Arts, and a Bachelor of Public Health with a minor in Economics.

Marissa Lustri

Policy and Program Officer

Marissa is a Registered Dietitian and Policy and Program Officer for Nutrition Connections. Her primary responsibilities include developing and implementing NC’s communications, coordinating the annual Forum, and supporting program and project development. She is also the key liaison for NC subscription’s services “Connected Insider” and coordinates fulfillment services for NC resources. Marissa completed a BASc in Nutrition and Food from Ryerson University and then went on to complete her Master of Public Health at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. She came to work at Nutrition Connections as an intern in January 2020 and stayed on as an employee starting in April 2020.

A core group of staff members comprises the Secretariat who, under the guidance of an Executive Director, provides administrative services to the Board of Directors, association members and workgroup volunteers, and responds to queries from the public.