Meet Board Candidate Katherine Hay

Name: Katherine Hay
Title: President & CEO
Organization: Kids Help Phone
Region: Ontario based – national role

How long have you been a member of Digital Health Canada?
March 2021. Was the recipient of Women in Digital Health Award in 2019.

Why do you want to join the Digital Health Canada Board of Directors at this point in your career?
The health care system is clearly not sustainable in its present form and to continue to invest multi-billion dollars into the current health system “as is” is shortsighted and likely doomed. I believe strongly that the health care system will be radically shifted – and sustainable – with digital health strategies at every juncture of the system. Digital health systems will amplify and enable all health systems to evolve to meet the needs of an ever changing landscape and the people across Canada. I proudly lead as the President & CEO one of the pioneering virtual care organizations in Canada – Kids Help Phone, the only 24/7 national bilingual e-mental health solution for youth in the country, connecting with more than 4.6M young people in 2020. Because of our innovation mindset, we were able to scale and launch new technologies to meet extraordinary demand during COVID-19 (a 137% increase in demand year over year), including in underserved communities and marginalized populations. I am experienced, I am committed to the digital healthcare mission for Canada, and I believe in the work that Digital Health Canada is doing. I also was a proud recipient of a Women in Digital Health Leadership award in 2019. I want to make a difference in the landscape of health in Canada – through digital health – and I would be an active, strategic and hardworking Board Director for Digital Health Canada.

How does your experience align with the Digital Health Canada strategic plan and mandate?
My extensive experience as a digital health leader specializing in the youth mental health space is deeply aligned with the strategic plan and mandate of Digital Health Canada – specifically Digital Health Canada’s focus on incubating knowledge and advocating for the integration of digital technology across the healthcare system. When I came on board as President and CEO of Kids Help Phone in 2017, the organization was struggling to grow, innovate and keep up with demand for its services from youth across Canada. Passionate about evolving and deepening the critical, life-saving role of Kids Help Phone in Canada’s mental health landscape – not only in recognition of our status as the only 24/7, nationally available e-mental health solution for youth in Canada, but having also personally experienced the impact of Kids Help Phone through members of my own family – I joined the team determined to implement an innovation agenda that would see Kids Help Phone extend its reach and impact through the power of data and technology. In 2018, Kids Help Phone’s board and executive team made one of the most progressive and critical decisions in the organization’s history: instead of thinking of ourselves as a youth mental health charity that uses technology, we re-framed to think of ourselves as a technology-based charity with a focus on youth mental health. This nuance has allowed Kids Help Phone to achieve exponential growth and impact through significant investments in our technology platforms over the past several years. With more access points now available than ever before – including phone, live chat, text, Facebook Messenger, web-based resources and, most recently, an AI-enabled chatbot – we were positioned to meet the sudden, unprecedented demand for our services that accompanied the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our new strategic direction as a technology-driven charity has built capacity, resilience and unwavering impact right into the very core of our service model, setting us up to meet any challenge that may come our way. It also allowed us to confidently identify an ambitious goal to reach four million young people by 2025 – a goal that we surpassed by over 500,000 in 2020. As we move forward into 2021 and beyond, I am more committed than ever to ensuring Kids Help Phone can reach as many young people as possible through the power and possibilities of technology and digital health. I am also committed to sharing our learnings, collaborating and working together with the broader digital health community to build the capacity of Canada’s healthcare sector to deliver healthcare where, when and how Canadians need it most.

What unique skills, perspectives and contributions would you bring to the Digital Health Canada Board?
In addition to my experience and leadership in the digital health space and unique focus on applying digital health to the youth mental health landscape, I will bring extensive non-profit executive and governance experience and insights to support the work, strategy and mission of Digital Health Canada. As President and CEO of Kids Help Phone, I am responsible for developing and overseeing the organization’s short- and long-term strategic direction; recruiting and managing our national board of directors; ensuring fiduciary oversight and solid governance; driving the innovation agenda, including through partnership oversight of key philanthropic and government investments; leading the organization’s wellness strategy for staff to ensure the strength and resilience of our people; and directly managing a high-performing executive team. As an ex officio board member with Kids Help Phone, I have leadership accountability for the strategic direction, recruitment and management of an engaged, diverse board of directors – many of whom are executive leaders and hold one or more corporate directorships. I work on the board as a strategist, an advisor and as the chief executive voice for strategic planning, fiduciary oversight and solid governance. Transparency, trust, accountability and collaboration are key drivers to my success. During my time as an ex officio board member at Credit Valley Hospital Foundation, I played a critical role in overseeing the strategic merger of Credit Valley Hospital Foundation with Trillium Health Sciences Foundation, including the design of the new entity’s governance structure. The complexity of this work included acumen and relationship management with both hospital boards as well. In reality, it was a merger that required four boards of directors to have a strong collective vision for the future and enable it, and I was a strong leader in this important merger. All of these experiences will enable me to contribute meaningfully to the governance activities of Digital Health Canada’s board of directors while supporting the organization’s future strategic direction and growth.

Do you or have or have you ever had any direct patient care experience (clinical)?
In my role as President and CEO of Kids Help Phone, I provide leadership oversight to our growing team of professional counsellors in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, as well as our team of crisis responder volunteers answering the texts of young people across Canada. I am deeply familiar with the nature of their interactions with young people, the intensive training required and how technology supports and enables the provision of compassionate, responsive mental healthcare.

What segments within the Digital Health Canada community do you feel you will best represent?
Executives/CIOs; Telehealth; Clinicians; Leaders; National eHealth Organizations; Digital Health Entrepreneurs

With which Digital Health Canada committees, task groups or activities have you volunteered in past five years? Describe your most significant contributions to Digital Health Canada’s mission.
As a new member of Digital Health Canada, I have not yet had an opportunity to participate on committees, task groups or activities. I look forward to engaging with any and all opportunities available to advance the mission and vision of Digital Health Canada over the coming months and years.

What other board appointments or relevant leadership experiences have you had in the past five years?

  • Ex-officio board member of Kids Help Phone (2017 to present)
  • Ex-officio board member of Women’s College Hospital Foundation (2015 to 2017)
  • Member, Ontario Premier’s Office on Mental Health and Addiction (2018 to present)
  • Member, National Council of Foundation Executives for the Conference Board of Canada (2017)
  • Board member, Imagine Canada (2016-2019)
  • Children’s First Canada Council of Champions (2019 to present)
  • National Youth Serving Agencies (2019 to present)
  • Chair, Toronto Academic Health Science Network Foundation CEO Roundtable (2020-present)
  • Committee member, BlackNorth Initiative – Canadian Council of Business Leaders Against Anti-Black Systemic Racism (2020 to present)
  • Directors’ Education Program through the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD.D)

Please tell us why you feel Digital Health Canada members should vote for you.
As a digital health leader focused on breaking down barriers to mental health support for youth, I believe I will bring invaluable perspectives and insights to the work of Digital Health Canada as the organization advances the role of technology in healthcare delivery. With the third highest suicide rate in the industrialized world, and a mental health crisis that has been exacerbated by the impacts of COVID-19, the need for technology-enabled mental healthcare has never been more critical. This holds true for all forms of healthcare, as we increasingly recognize the profound inequities preventing the most vulnerable members of our society from accessing the care they need, when and how they need it most. I am deeply passionate about the potential of technology to transform the healthcare system and change lives, and I look forward to advocating for the expansion of digital health as a member of Digital Health Canada’s board of directors. I also look forward to applying my extensive governance and non-profit leadership experience in this role in order to strengthen the mission, vision and strategic direction of this critical organization.

Do you currently hold the Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems – Canada (CPHIMS-CA) credential?

What is your educational background? Please list all degrees and designations.
I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Waterloo.

Please include a brief biography including highlights of experience and expertise in health informatics/digital health. 
As President and CEO of Kids Help Phone, Katherine (Kathy) Hay drives the strategic direction, innovation imperative and culture of Canada’s only national, 24/7 bilingual e-mental health service for young people. In 2020, Kids Help Phone’s team of counsellors and crisis responders made over 4.5 million connections with youth in every province and territory – with an ever-growing mandate to always be there for youth when, where and how they need mental health support by leveraging the power and potential of technology. Driven to reduce barriers and find new solutions, partnerships and innovations to save lives, Kathy has led Kids Help Phone into a new era of technology-empowered impact that has expanded the organization’s reach through new partnerships, new services and a growing team of professional counsellors and volunteer crisis responders. Prior to joining Kids Help Phone, Kathy was President and CEO of Women’s College Hospital Foundation where she advanced the health of women across Canada and achieved record levels of support. Her success in this role led to her being named one of Canada’s Top 25 Women of Influence in 2017. She was also the CEO of Credit Valley Hospital Foundation and has also held senior roles at the University of Toronto, the University of Guelph, and the Art Gallery of Ontario. In 2019, Kathy was named as one of Canada’s top Women Leaders in Digital Health by Digital Health Canada.

Meet the other candidates for election here.