For Carolina Chamorro Vina, family is everything. Spending time outdoors with her two sons and husband is how she keeps her batteries charged, which is why they love living in the SW community of Woodbine.
In 2010 Carolina and her husband moved to Calgary as they were beginning to grow their family. She grew up in Uruguay where she attained a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education and Sports before moving to Spain where she completed her master’s and Ph.D. in pediatric oncology and exercise.
It’s her belief that exercise has the best benefits on overall human health, cognition, development, and wellbeing, which is what makes her such an amazing addition to the team at Kids Cancer Care. There she is a Pediatric cancer patients & survivors Engaging in Exercise for Recovery (PEER) Specialist where she works on clinical practice and research on the impact of regular physical activity in children affected by cancer — it’s the only program of its kind in Canada.
Carolina is one of the kindest, passionate, and persevering people you will ever meet — but she also thrives on a little competition here and there. We sat down with her to learn all about her journey and what brought her here to Calgary and the impact she’s made on our community through all the incredible work that she does in her day job and on a personal level.
How long have you lived here?
“I arrived in Canada in November 2010. It was such a special year because I was waiting for the arrival of my first son and had just finished my Ph.D.”
What brought you to Calgary?
“We moved to Spain because I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. When we decided to have kids, we started to think about moving to a place in which we will be able to have the amazing support of family and at the same time we will be able to pursue the careers we wanted. So we decided to move to Canada where my husband’s family (originally from Uruguay) moved many years ago.
I was awarded with a Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) fellowship that allowed me to carry out a postdoctoral appointment at the Faculty of Kinesiology, at the University of Calgary in Canada. My postdoctoral supervisor introduced me to the fascinating world of knowledge translation, a much-needed field in research. Thus, we created POEM** (Pediatric Oncology Exercise Manual) and PEER***.”
What neighbourhood did you settle in and what makes it so special?
“We live in Woodbine, and are surrounded by the beautiful nature of Fish Creek Park and Glenmore Reservoir. It’s the perfect place for an outdoor active family like mine!”
What makes Calgary feel like home?
“I love the multiculturalism in Calgary and how welcomed we felt when we first arrived.”
What do you admire about the Calgary community?
“In Calgary was where I really learnt the meaning of volunteerism. Volunteers in Calgary do so much and their passion and dedication never cease to amaze me. At Kids Cancer Care we have an amazing community and volunteers are a huge part of it. Since 1999, over 6,900 volunteers have put in over 300,000 hours for Kids Cancer Care.
I also admire the strength I have seen in our community. In my job, I witness so much strength of families that have lost a child because of cancer. They endure such a tough journey and many go on to honour and remember their child by fundraising for childhood cancer causes, spreading awareness about cancer, and supporting other families affected by cancer.”
How are you involved in the community outside of your day job?
“I am involved in my community in so many ways! First, I am involved in my community in my role as a mom trying to be sure to create the best persons that my kids can become! I am also lucky to get to volunteer at their sports programs and in their school.
I also donate blood because I am lucky enough to be able to do it and I know that a simple gesture will save many lives. Many children who are diagnosed with childhood cancer receive blood products as part of their life-saving treatments.
I am also actively involved in the scientific community in the pediatric oncology field doing manuscript reviews, supervising students and being part of the International Pediatric Oncology Group.”
What do you love about your role at Kids Cancer Care?
“This job allows me to do clinical practice and research about the impact of regular physical activity in children affected by cancer. It is the only cancer-specific exercise program for children in Canada and is designed to mitigate long-term side effects.
Each day, I get to plan exercise sessions for kids with different diagnoses and at different stages of their cancer journey. We have more than 70 kids signed up for the program. Thanks to the Calgary Flames Foundation, amazing volunteers and donors we can do what we do. I also hold an Adjunct Assistant Position at the Faculty of Kinesiology, at the University of Calgary that allows me to stay connected with academia and research and maintain the standards of the PEER program. What I love the most in my job is interacting with all the amazing kids that are real superheroes. I always say that they teach me so much more than what I teach them.
I have never done anything in my career because of ego, rather I do everything because of the impact that my work will have in the community. My goal is to make exercise part of standard care in pediatric cancer.”
Last but not least, what does it mean to be a Calgarian?
“I think Calgarians are very perseverant, they are innovators, they are resilient and support each other when times are tough. We’ve seen that, especially in the last few years.”
** POEM was the first international Exercise Guidelines in Pediatric Oncology based on the evidence.
*** PEER is an evidence-based exercise program created in 2012 by a multidisciplinary team. It was the first community-based exercise program in Canada for children with cancer and it is run by trained volunteers supervised by me.
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