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News from the Field, April 2011


The following letters from The Health Communication Unit team reflect on the organization's past and their own future plans as the organization moves from its home at the University of Toronto to the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion on April 1. 

A. Larry Hershfield

As you may know, THCU in its current location at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto concludes as of March 31. THCU will continue within the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion starting on April 1, 2011.

On behalf of the current THCU team, I would like to thank you, our clients and partners, for the wonderful opportunities, partnerships, challenges, learnings, and all the benefits of working with you since our beginning in 1993. It has truly been a pleasure and an honour.

Most of our current team will not be part of the transition. This issue of the OHPE bulletin ( will include personal messages from the THCU team members that are moving on to other opportunities. Their messages will include future contact information. THCU's contact us page ( also includes information about past and new THCU team members.I wish to thank our entire group from our beginning in 1993 to the present day for their incredible talent and dedication.

As you may know from previous announcements (visit for links to the past announcements), THCU products and services will continue.  The THCU web site will continue as is for the time being and will be carefully transitioned over time, respecting the many users and links (Google link number is 24,800!). We have also been carefully reviewing ongoing and current service requests and commitments with the OAHPP to ensure continuity of service.

Key information about the new THCU group and new email contact information, follows. More information is also available on the oahpp website at

Thank you once again.

-- Larry Hershfield, Manager THCU (1993-2011)

B. Jodi Thesenvitz

Fifteen years ago I attended a heath communication workshop lead by Larry Hershfield. I was so excited by what I learned there that I sat in the front row and took about 50 pages of notes.

Several years later I met Larry again, and I’ve been working with the THCU team ever since.

It has been an honour to work with THCU core group and extended team of partners and contractors. They have been among the most creative, intelligent people I have ever met. Many have become good friends to me. Every single one, I’ve felt lucky to work with.

As Manager, one of Larry’s best gifts was his ability to build amazing teams of people, and many of us (both contractors and clients) have benefitted enormously from that.

The THCU work environment was like nothing I’d ever encountered before or am likely to encounter again.  We had the opportunity to be creative, innovative and to truly tap into every one of our own skills and talents. I really will miss the current THCU team.

My own consulting practice will continue. As I have over the past 12 years, I will focus on applying current health promotion literature and evidence to online tools and traditional training and capacity building resources for practitioners.

I wish all the best to the new THCU team.

-- Jodi Thesenvitz

C. Patty Staring

Although, I have only been the Services Coordinator at The Health Communication Unit for nine months, it has been very enjoyable and has provided me with learning opportunities while meeting many wonderful, dedicated people.   I will miss the interactions, and am grateful for the opportunities. I have decided to pursue other endeavours in evaluations and research.

I wish all of you the very best in future endeavours!

-- Patty Staring
D. Nancy Dubois

How proud I have been to be associated with THCU for the last 13 years.  It has been an amazing ride!  My decision to leave, as the OAHPP takes over operations, is one I made with great difficulty.  I have had the chance to work with people from one end of Ontario to the other, top to bottom, and everywhere in between, many times over and each time I visit a community I learn something new that I take away and share with others.  Many of our clients I now count among my dearest friends and I look forward to crossing paths in the next phase of my professional life with not only them but all our THCU friends.    

Our THCU team has always been second to none.  We have been responsive to the field as a whole and to so many individuals no one could ever keep track.  It has been so much fun, and very rewarding, to have been part of this exemplary delivery service that has helped health promoters across Ontario, and beyond. What other organization could pull this off with a team that might see each other face-to-face twice a year!      

As the great gig with THCU comes to an end, I will be maintaining my independent consulting practice, DU B FIT.  I am not yet sure what this will bring my way but I am looking forward to finding out.  I hope to continue to provide training and consultation services as well as working on specific projects for organizations focused on improving the health of Canadians.  Here’s to crossroads!

-- Nancy Dubois

E. Robb MacDonald

As of April 1, 2011, I will no longer be one of the four consultants with THCU. I started in 2005 with THCU when my own life was going through significant changes. As I reflect on my work over the past six years, the irony of change is not lost on me. Much of the work that I have been involved with has centred on trying to effect positive social change. And now the change is centering on THCU, my colleagues and me.

Through my work with THCU, I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with many intelligent and inspiring people committed to making their communities healthier places. More often than not, as I would work through a consultation with a client to assist them with communications, evaluation or health promotion planning, I would be left with the feeling that I may have derived more from the consultation than the client did from me!

The time with my THCU colleagues has also been extremely rewarding, both professionally and personally, and I am going to truly miss the collaborations and regular connections we have had. Interestingly, even after six years in this position, I am still the rookie consultant in the group. I think this probably speaks to one of the strengths that THCU has enjoyed over the years – a loyal following, not just with clients but with consultants as well.

As THCU enters a new chapter in its existence, as a program within the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion, I am excited for both THCU and its clients. I look forward to witnessing the changes, to watching THCU grow and develop in different ways, supported by the structure and resources within the Agency.

As for me, the journey continues under MacComm, my own consulting company based in Orillia. You will also find me continuing my work with Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition as one of their consultants. Into the future, my professional mission will continue to be centred around making a difference by working with others on projects of change. And although I am sad that my time with THCU is coming to a close, I am excited about all of the changes – and opportunities – that lay ahead.

-- Robb MacDonald