Our Canadian Team cont'd.

Meseret Desta has worked for more than 10 years on Maternal, Neonatal, Child Health Care and HIV/AIDS prevention programs. In Ethiopia alone she has contributed to projects at a number of organizations, including the Maternal Child Health Integrated Program at Jhpiego, an affiliate of John Hopkins University.

With her Ethiopian background, she was a key support to our 2014 SMTTP course. In Edmonton she produces a biweekly MNCH newsletter. "I consider myself very privileged to be a part of this unique and special project, where, as a midwife, I use my skills and knowledge to support Ethiopian midwives in sharing information and research findings."


Heather McLellan is an Associate Professor teaching in the Advanced Studies in Critical Care - Emergency Nursing program at Mount Royal University.  She has been a nurse for almost 35 years with the majority of her time spent in emergency and critical care helicopter transport in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Texas.

As former chair of the Midwifery program at MRU, Heather has supported the SMTTP program from the beginning, travelling to Ethiopia twice and planning return trips for the next cohort of students. She is excited by the opportunity to work with her Ethiopian and Canadian colleagues to improve maternal and perinatal outcomes through this educational initiative.


Deepa Upadhyaya is an assistant professor in the midwifery program at Mount Royal University, and a member of a low-volume midwifery practice at Birth Partnership in Calgary. She has practiced midwifery and nursing in many places around the world including the U.S., Ireland and Scotland. In 2003-2004 she volunteered in Afghanistan as a midwife with Médecins sans Frontières.

Dedicated to providing healthcare in low-resource countries, Deepa has been heavily involved in Mount Royal’s leadership in monitoring, refining and teaching our SMTTP course in Ethiopia. She is very excited to be part of the project.


Ashton James, a graduate of the University of Alberta, has been with the project since September 2016 as our project assistant. She has three years' experience working in community engagement, fund development, coordination and social services in Edmonton's non-profit sector, as well as two years' experience supporting sustainable agriculture initiatives directed at improving maternal and child nutrition with rural farmers, youth and women's groups in southwestern Uganda through partnerships with the Kigezi Heathcare Foundation and Go Organic Africa
Ashton James, a graduate of the University of Alberta, joined the team in September 2016 as project assistant and has been serving as the project manager since September 2017.  She has three years experience working in community engagement, fund development, coordination and social services in Edmonton with non-profit organizations including Ceiba Association, Elizabeth Fry Society of Edmonton and United Way of the Alberta Capital Region. She also has two years' experience supporting sustainable agriculture initiatives to support maternal and child nutrition in southwestern Uganda through partnerships with the Kigezi Heathcare Foundation and Go Organic Africa.

Ashton James, a graduate of the University of Alberta, has been with the project since September 2016 as our project assistant. She has three years' experience working in community engagement, fund development, coordination and social services in Edmonton's non-profit sector, as well as two years' experience supporting sustainable agriculture initiatives directed at improving maternal and child nutrition with rural farmers, youth and women's groups in southwestern Uganda through partnerships with the Kigezi Heathcare Foundation and Go Organic Africa
THughsonTeena Hughson, a graduate of the University of Alberta, joined the team in November 2017 as project assistant after taking time away from her professional pursuits to focus on her family.  She has several years of experience working in the not-for-profit sector on providing social services, supports and referrals with the University of Alberta Campus Food Bank and Sturgeon Community Resource Program along with two years of experience working in community services for the Town of Redwater. She's also worked here on campus in student services and for Health Promotion and Worklife Services.  

Thomas 'Tommy T' Gobena is a bassist and music producer living in Washington D.C. He is currently the UNICEF Ambassador to Ethiopia. He plays bass in the multicultural gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello.

Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Thomas has lived in the US since 1987. Thomas was recruited to work with musicians and lyricists in Ethiopia to produce an educational song for the project.  The song entitled, "If You Have Heart", shares the story of a grief stricken father who's lost his wife and newborn child to birth complications that could easily have been managed by a skilled birth attendant.   The song is hoped to encourage more Ethiopian women to deliver in health facilities.



Dr. Michael Frishkopf is Professor of Music, Director of the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology and Adjunct Professor of Medicine at the University of Alberta. His research focuses on the music and sounds of West Africa and the Arab world, as well as global human development through musical participatory action research.  

Michael has played an active role in the Project's association with Thomas Gobena, UNICEF Ambassador to Ethiopia.  Thomas is producing an educational song in Ethiopia to encourage pregnant women to deliver in a health facility. Michael is the executive producer of this song.


David Evans served as our communications lead until his passing on January 18, 2018.  He chronicle the project in various ways - including collaborating with former Project Manager Janet Summerhayes on this website. He also wrote news reports and produced the project's annual SMTTP graduation bulletin.

David was the Edmonton Journal's former opinion pages editor. After leaving the paper, he continued to write and consult on a freelance basis. He earned his a B.A. in history from the University of Toronto and Masters from the University of Sussex in the U.K. He said that, fortunately, for the project's students, his only role in teaching had been playing the role of a delivering mother in a Helping Babies Breathe course.