Cindy Starnino discovered her professional passion at the tender age of 20. Fresh out of CEGEP, she was hired for a position in social work that involved visiting seniors in their homes in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. The hardships she witnessed left a mark.
“I couldn’t go home and sleep at night,” Ms. Starnino recalls. “I didn’t think it was fair that people had to live through these kinds of experiences at the end of their life. There was a sense of injustice.”
Driven to help her vulnerable clients as best she could, she collaborated with a university researcher to develop screening and intervention tools to address elder abuse. Ultimately, this marriage of compassionate clinical work with data-driven research would become the template that guided Ms. Starnino on her rich professional path.
Ms. Starnino retired on Aug. 1 after a 35-year career in the CIUSSS West-Central Montreal and the facilities that were integrated into the healthcare network. Homecare, caregivers and the mistreatment of seniors remained at the heart of her mission. Among her accomplishments, she co-developed the Elder Mistreatment Helpline of Quebec; headed the Directorates of Home and Senior Care, Quality, Performance and University Affairs; and most recently led the Directorate of Academic Affairs and Research Ethics.
“I’m proud of contributing to the culture of learning,” Ms. Starnino says. “We’re dealing with people’s lives in the services we provide, so we have to be on the cutting-edge of quality care throughout our careers. And the best way to determine the best practice is to base it on objective data and human compassion.”
Ms. Starnino’s mandate in Academic Affairs was to advance the “U” in CIUSSS—the University mission that involves overseeing six research institutes and two centres of expertise while also advancing a vision of teaching, knowledge mobilization and leading practices at each facility in the CIUSSS.
“It’s about being innovative, thinking outside the box and becoming lifelong learners,” she explains.
Colleagues say Ms. Starnino’s gifts include her ability to rally diverse groups to work together toward a common goal, whether they’re researchers, clinicians, ministry officials or community groups.
“She can steer all these people in the same direction with leadership skills that I’ve rarely seen,” says Nathalie Dupont, Associate Director of Academic Affairs and Research Ethics. “She’s always in solution mode and can be very convincing. She has the ability to bring out the best in people.”
“It’s about being innovative, thinking outside the box and becoming lifelong learners.”Cindy Starnino
Christiane Montpetit, Coordinator of Academic Affairs and Research Ethics, says Ms. Starnino was appreciated by colleagues and researchers. “Excellent communicator, always prepared, she also knew how to attain her goals,” she says. “She’s calm and could be firm, but she does it with a velvet glove.”
“Even when she challenged you, it was with respect,” Ms. Montpetit adds. “And she wasn’t the type of manager who was afraid to be wrong or to change course.”
Ms. Starnino’s recognized expertise in the fields of caregiving, health promotion and elder abuse led to numerous positions at the provincial and national level. She is Board Chair of the Canadian Home Care Association, an appointee to the federal government’s National Seniors Council, and was named Administrative Director of the new Quebec Observatory for Caregiving, launched by the provincial government this year.
Senior managers of CIUSSS West-Central Montreal congratulated her on her retirement and, in personal messages to her, praised her qualities.
Associate CEO Francine Dupuis, who worked with Ms. Starnino for many years, commended her “calm, rigourous and serious” approach to her mandates.
“Your interest in research and excellence made you a partner of the highest quality. I never had to have a second look at your achievements, as they were always performed at top level,” said Ms. Dupuis, who also retires this year.
Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, our CIUSSS’s President and CEO, wished Ms. Starnino well and saluted her “amazing career.”
“You’re a remarkable individual,” he said, “and we were honoured to have you as our Director of Academic Affairs.”