How is an OHA conference like driving a red convertible?

OHA OnstagePeople are doing amazing things across the province!

It was thrilling to be a part of The Ontario Hospital Association’s Conference on Social Media. Social Media Professionals and Health Experts from across Ontario gathered together to explore how we could have more positive impact through patient engagement. I was crazy about the fact that patients were being included in the process.

It was my honour to facilitate our segment, which featured  a panel of patients advocates (Natrice Rese, Deb Maskens, Kathy Kastner, Annette McKinnon, and Zal Press) collaborating with social media experts and healthcare professionals. Questions we asked the group included “What are examples of positive patient engagement?” “How can we encourage more patient engagement?” “What innovative techniques are being used to increase patient engagement with social media right now?”

All the patients agreed that one of the main ingredients they want in their interactions with health care institutions is authenticity! It was amazing to be in an environment where patients and people working in healthcare had meaningful and honest dialogue. This isn’t always an easy process. Some of the issues we talked about do not have simple solutions, but there is tremendous value in addressing what the patient experience is really like and expressing ideas across the different silos in healthcare.

Leading a group in a collaborative discussion like this can be a bit like driving a red convertible down a road you don’t know. It’s exciting, fun, and you never really know what’s around the next turn. Also, you occasionally get bugs in your teeth.*

Quite frankly, I find it quite thrilling to be with a group of over a hundred smart people who are determined to collaborate. We made some great discoveries as we went and heard some examples of how people are making a difference right now.

 All this and they gave us butter-tarts.

Big shout outs to Toronto East General, Niagara Health Centre, and Kingston General Hospital for sharing their terrific innovations with the group.

I’m going to do a blog on the specific innovations that are happening now. When we share these advances, good things happen and everybody wins. I’m looking at you Niagara Health Centre.

 * O.K. I was exaggerating about the bugs.

To learn more about what these incredible people are doing please click on the links below…

Deb Maskens CanCertainty

Zal Press Patient Commando

Kathy Kastner

Annette McKinnon @anetto

Natrice Rese @NatriceR

Also a shout out to #hcsmca . An amazing community on twitter. Check out their twitter chats on Wednesdays at 1 pm ET.

Developing a workshop for the Ontario Hospital Association. No, really.

So, The Ontario Hospital Association has hired me to develop something called “The Engaging Patients and the Community Through Social Media Workshop” for their conference on the 23rd of January. I’ve been prepping like crazy and getting some help from a friend (Thank You to the very talented Colleen Young!).

Really looking forward to it. You can bet I’ll be having more than one coffee that Friday morning.

Thank You Young Adult Cancer Canada!

Sometimes the best days start almost driving into a cornfield.

You remember that bit in the office where Michael and Dwight are in a rental car and following a GPS? They scream at each other in confusion and Michael ends up driving straight into a river? Well that almost happened to my friend Geremy and I recently on the way to a gig for Young Adult Cancer Canada. We were on our way to Cobourg to a retreat centre and were frantically looking for our destination. We were lost and the GPS wasn’t helping. We sped through the rolling farmland which would have been beautiful if we weren’t freaking out because we were late. I kept telling Geremy. “Its going to be OK, Its over the next hill , I know it!” He was less enamored of the technology. “I don’t know man, this doesn’t feel right!” The clock was not our friend as it ticked ever closer to the time we were actually supposed to be performing. Suddenly the GPS perked up and sounded particularly sure of itself as it announced “Please take a sharp left. Your destination is 10 metres away.” We looked to turn left-into a corn field. This didn’t look like any retreat centre I’d seen.  We managed not to ruin the farmer’s crop and after pleading for help from people in a van buying eggs (no really), we ended up being literally escorted right to our destination. Score one for actual human contact!

We essentially walked in and started our presentation immediately. A room full of remarkably enthusiastic people greeted us and we had an absolute blast. We opened with some Improv and laughter exercises which got everyone cookin’ and then Geremy taught everybody to make homemade ice cream. Seriously. Homemade icecream. That’s what I call a good Saturday morning, and we didn’t even drive in to a river.

Hats off to the terrific people at Yonng Adult Cancer Canada. Your courage and positive energy are inspiring.





My Friend The Jedi

jediI had just grabbed my second coffee of the morning and was propping myself up with some much needed caffeine when I heard someone calling my name. “Rob Rob! Wait!”. A friend of mine rushed into the elevator and stopped the doors mid close. She piled on slightly out of breath and immediately started cracking me up on our way down to ELLICSR in the basement of TGH. A surgery she was scheduled for had been delayed and she did a hilarious imitation of the physician who delivered the news as Christopher Walken. I was in stitches.

She was funny, smart and better than many comedians I’ve seen on TV. The kicker was she has cancer and is going through treatment.


What gives? What is going on that someone I know who is going through a huge challenge in her life is bright bubbly and downright happy? On the surface it makes no sense at all. According to conventional wisdom, she should be ringing her hands and feeling terrible about the whole thing, yet she managed to cheer me up while I was going back to work. Was this some kind of Jedi mind trick that she was playing? Perhaps. Is she some kind of super being who can transcend pain and struggle? Maybe. My friend is very resilient but I also think that her mood really speaks to how we as people tend to get on with our lives regardless of what is going on. She was able to find comfort, hope and dare I say it, even a bit of happiness in her day.  To me it was this big event and I think to her, she was just going about being herself.

I’m not saying we should all expect this of ourselves. Heck, not at all. There are times when we are sad or angry or having a tough day when it is completely natural, normal and healthy to express the fact that we feel lousy. I also think that there are times when we can sneak a little bit of happiness or even joy into the process in spite of what is going on. If we can pull it off, we’ll look like Jedi Masters. I’m sure Obi Wan would be proud.

Brett Wilson of Dragon’s Den is Kicking Cancer’s Ass.


image copy 3 (1)

So, I’ve been a fan of Brett Wilson for a while. He’s been one of the good guys on Dragon’s Den. Tons of entrepreneurial smarts, a risk taker and best of all, he’s really kind to people who come on the show. An amazing example of a someone making a positive difference in the world.  He’s Kicking Cancer’s Ass again.  Cancer should be shaking in its boots.

We’re with you Brett!


Creating a workshop for The Ontario Hospital Association!

I am absolutely thrilled to be creating a workshop with The Ontario Hospital Association for their social media conference in January. We will collaborate on how to engage patients through social media. This is from the brochure…

There is a ton of experience and knowledge in the room. “Aha” moments occur for the whole group as people realize they have a piece of the puzzle to share. Rob’s workshop will facilitate exactly that so we can learn from each other HOW to create more meaningful patient engagement through social media in a way that benefits health care professionals, hospital communicators, and the patients themselves.

Here’s the link…

Today I am thrilled to be doing a talk for the 2nd year class at the U of T school of Medicine with Dr Dante Morra.

Its my 4th time doing it and its always a blast. can’t wait.

Event: University of Toronto Medical School
Topic: University of Toronto Medical School
Public: Private

What do you want to know about happiness? Seriously.


It seems to me that happiness is one of those things that all of humanity is after but not that many of us get on a regular basis. After we have enough to eat, a warm place to sleep and access to a decent PVR all of us start to wonder about how to obtain this weird commodity called happiness.

We stumble on it on occasion in strange places that always seem really funny to me. In fact, one of the happiest times I have had this summer was standing ankle deep in water during a thunderstorm while unplugging the drain at the side of my house. Really. This raises several questions, the first of which is probably “Why don’t I get out more?”

There are a whole ton of questions you might have about happiness as well. Ones like… Can we be happier on a daily basis? Is it something we arrive at when we get a new BMW convertible? What about sex? (I mean in relation to happiness..) What about money? Is it the root of all evil or does it actually help us get more satisfaction in our lives? What about genetics? Can we do simple things everyday that will help us increase our happiness?

What are your questions about happiness?

I really want to know. In fact, I am currently writing a book about happiness and I would love to get your questions and input.

What do you want to know ?

Please drop me a line at And if you want to hang out with me, you’ll find me by the side of my house waiting for the next thunderstorm.

Look forward to hearing from you!

Love Gilda? Sure you do.

Who doesn’t Love Gilda? Nobody. Gilda Radner was and continues to be an incredible positive influence for many of us who have gone through cancer. She was funny,smart, vulnerable and remarkably generous. Here is a photo of the lovely Miss Radner here with a Muppet.
Gilda is getting some much deserved recognition for her comedic work and also for her contributions to those affected by cancer. Recently, I had the honour of working with Lisa D’Apolito on her documentary Love Gilda. It was a blast. Lisa who hails from New York and is doing a tremendous job gathering interviews, tributes and the history of how Gilda did what she did. This is important work that is being done with heart and integrity. Kudos to Lisa!
For one fine morning, Lisa, an intrepid crew and myself, trooped around Toronto searching out places that were important for Gilda’s time in Toronto. Of course we went to The Royal Alex Theatre where Gilda performed in the legendary production of Godspell. Then it was off to The Old Firehall where Gilda did a stint with The Second City. So many legendary performers went through that place that I get choked up just thinking about it. When I performed there in my own humble way, they used to say it was haunted. Who knows?
A huge shout out to Lisa and the incredible work she is doing! Check out her facebook group here…

Happiness is Being Covered In Cowshit

evil cowHappiness is being covered in Cowshit.

When I was a kid, I had a job as a hand on a cattle farm for the summer. We worked for twelve or thirteen hours a day doing everything you have to do to keep a farm running. One morning, my boss, Mr. D, looked at me and said “Its inoculation day Robbie!” I didn’t understand the profound significance of this event, but I was about to.  We crammed all of the cattle into the barn and then waded into the sea of bawling animals and began injecting them one by one. I was all of sixteen years old and just wearing shorts and running shoes on the hottest day of the year. The animals were packed in the barn like it was fifth class on the titanic. These large smelly animals were getting more pissed off by the minute. Mr. D would pick out an animal and point at it. “Let’s get that one Robby!” I would grab the animal around its head and do my best to hold it steady while Mr. D would stick a long needle in its flank and hit the plunger sending the antibiotic into its system. The cow would thrash around and I struggled to keep it under control; all the while I was being pressed up against the side of another angry animal the size of a Toyota Camry.

The cattle complained about the heat and wanted desperately to go outside. I complained about the heat and wanted desperately to go outside. Mr. D complained about the heat and wanted to desperately to go outside, but we kept at it. For some reason, Mr. D wanted to make it even more difficult. He would point out a big cow that was 3 or 4 animals away and say. “Get that one Robby!” I didn’t know what was wrong with the one standing right next to me, but that wasn’t my job. I pressed my way through the crush of cows until I got to the head of our next victim. I grabbed the steer around the neck and as Mr. D was taking aim with his needle the animal I was next to happened to let go with a rather impressive stream of cowshit. It hit me square on the shoulder and ran all the way down my body. Mr. D could barely hold the needle he was laughing so hard. He guffawed with great delight as he stuck the needle in. I held on as the river of hot crap ran down my side and the steer I was holding bucked.

After several hours of this, we finally released the last inoculated animal into the barnyard and we emerged into the sunlight. I was completely exhausted and covered in filth. Mrs. D took one look at me and said “Good God Robby! Get down to the creek and go swimming, you are not going anywhere near the house like that.” I went down to the creek and swam while 3 hours of sweat and filth washed off me.


Why do I tell you this story? Because it’s one of the happiest memories of my entire time as a teenager! Isn’t that ridiculous? I was hot, sweaty and literally covered in shit and it was a blast! I know what you might be thinking. “Hey Rob, you are just looking at this with the rose coloured glasses of adulthood, you really had a terrible time.”  Nope. I thought it was a blast when it was happening as well. I felt alive, useful and even exhilarated. . So what gives? How is it that I was happy on that afternoon when I was covered in crap? Sometimes happiness seems to arrive inexplicably at unexpected moments.  You know when you go by the train tracks and you see a sign that says “Warning high speed trains may go by at any time without warning.” I think it’s the same with happiness; often it sneaks up on us without warning and just arrives. Weird isn’t it? Can you remember a time when happiness snuck up on you?