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CAMH CEO named 2011 'Communicator of the Year'

February 15, 2012
by News release
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Dr. Catherine Zahn has been selected as "Communicator of the Year" for 2011 by the International Association of Business Communicators/Toronto. Dr. Zahn was chosen out of a strong field of candidates because of the breadth and impact of her communications both as the CEO of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), and as a passionate voice for mental health and addictions.

"Dr. Zahn is a true leader in communication—she has demonstrated that a complex topic like mental health can be successfully conveyed through a simple call to action: 'discover, discuss and demand'," says IABC/Toronto President Trell Huether. This call to action galvanized the audience at Dr. Zahn's Talk at TEDX, making it a top trending topic on Twitter.

Winning a communications award is a first for Dr. Zahn, whose appointment as President and CEO two years ago was a transformational step for CAMH.  Her background as a practising neurologist, an academic leader in neuroscience and an innovator in the health care sector has helped her position mental illness and addiction in the mainstream of neuroscience treatment and research. Her keynote address to the Canadian Psychiatric Association in October 2010 (the annual Jones Lectureship) challenged Canadian psychiatry to follow her vision for this field.

"Communications is my passion. I'm an enthusiast for the power of story-telling," says Dr. Zahn. " So I'm extremely proud to have been named Communicator of the Year by IABC/Toronto."

It is clear that Dr. Zahn takes communications seriously. "At CAMH, we are committed to building a movement for social change—to break down prejudice and fight discrimination, and to transform the lives of people with mental illness and addictions. Effective communications is a powerful lever for change."

Dr. Zahn has introduced "Catalytic Conversations" with community stakeholders, tackling tough topics such as mental illness in the criminal justice system, and the unmet needs of children and youth with mental health problems or addictions.  And her Town Hall meetings and weekly "Call me Catherine" blogs provide a conversation space for 3,000 CAMH staff to have discussions with their CEO.

Dr. Zahn's award is lauded by the Chair of the CAMH Board of Trustees, Daniel Burns, who says "Catherine has a strong vision for the direction that CAMH is moving, and she articulates this vision, and the strategy to achieve it, with remarkable clarity. Whether addressing the Board of Trustees, donors, staff, doctors, patients, or the public at large, her ability to engage her listeners and to recruit them in joining her journey is remarkable to witness."

In this context, it's only appropriate to give Dr. Zahn the final word. "As the leader of CAMH, I have the privilege of using communications in the service of an extremely worthwhile cause—to build a movement to change the future of mental health."

Dr. Zahn will be accepting her COTY Award at a Breakfast Ceremony on March 20, 2012.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the world's leading research centres in the area of addiction and mental health. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental health and addiction issues.