Little Flower Academy is very excited to celebrate two amazing women who are the recipients of our 2020 Distinguished Alumnae award. Congratulations to Gwen Ellert ’69 and Catherine Koch ’75, who are this year’s inductees. Gwen has built an extraordinary career as a medical educator; a registered nurse, she is also a teacher, trainer and author, specializing in rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and bone health. Catherine founded and built a charity to expand the impact she could have serving Uganda’s most vulnerable children by providing education, health care, and business opportunities.
Gwen Ellert ‘69
Gwen is an award-winning health care professional and tireless educator. A registered nurse, author, educator, and businesswoman, Gwen has built a life and career around what nurses do: increasing awareness and empowering people through health education. The author of three books (several editions of each) and multiple educational programs that she has developed, health care professionals and individuals have gained life-changing benefits from Gwen’s collaborative and holistic quality-of-life approach to patient care.
After attending 12 years at Little Flower and graduating from UBC as a Registered Nurse (RN) with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN), Gwen took on a role in assessment with the Registered Nurses Association of BC (RNABC). She soon diversified her expertise, completing a Masters in Education (UBC), and went on to work for Organon Canada Pharmaceutical Company, providing continuing education. In response to her own struggles with rheumatoid arthritis and her own research and experience, Gwen authored the best-selling books Arthritis and Exercise and The Osteoporosis Book in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Both books have been reprinted in multiple editions in collaboration with leaders in their respective fields of rheumatology, endocrinology, physical therapy, radiology and pharmacology.
Gwen continues to develop educational resources and materials for health care professionals, including manuals and educational programs. Just recently, she released her first e-book, Bone Health Basics
. She is a regular lecturer with Vancouver Coastal Health and the Gastrointestinal
Society. She was nominated for the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award in Health and Wellness in 2000 and was the 2017 Dedicated Service Award Recipient for the American Rheumatology Nurses Society.
Gwen has a very tight-knit family, which includes her parents, two sisters and wonderful nieces and nephews. She also loves her friends of many years, some who she met through her hobbies of skiing, tennis and water skiing, and some lifelong friends from her years at Little Flower.
Catherine Koch ‘75
This year, Catherine Koch ’75 is being inducted as a Distinguished Alumnae for her exemplary commitment as a carer for some of the world’s most vulnerable children: orphans in Africa. Catherine has led by example, making enormous personal sacrifices to see through her vision of enriching the lives of orphaned children in Uganda. Strategic in her application, she has also built a network of programs to help others who support orphans in the region. In transforming the lives of these young people, Catherine has embodied the values upon which LFA was founded: spirituality, integrity, respect, compassionate service, personal excellence and simplicity.
Though life circumstances meant that university wasn’t an option for Catherine, her hard work and dedication were well received in the workforce, where she would acquire many of the skills needed when it came to setting up the charity Love is the Answer (LITA). LITA was founded in 2011, nearly five years after Catherine had sold her Vancouver home to, “sponsored [herself] and… live among and begin learning first hand how to best bring Love and Light to orphaned children and this current situation on our planet.” She started in Uganda specifically because a 2007 UN publication, “The State Of The World’s Children”, highlighted the plight of orphaned children in Uganda, where there were more than 2.3 million children without parents. (You can read more about Catherine’s transformative early years in Uganda on LITA’s website
The work in Uganda was so substantial that Uganda would remain Catherine’s focus, once LITA was off the ground. Having raised more than a million dollars over the years, LITA provides food, medicine and supplies in emergency situations, provides financial assistance for schooling and boarding, and assists with setting up income-generating programs for Ugandans. Through LITA, Catherine has built three primary schools and a dormitory, providing orphans and those supporting orphans a safe and supportive place to learn. The non-profit arm of LITA in Uganda provides opportunities for its students to become leaders in their own communities. Indeed, LITA’s Board of Directors in Uganda includes several senior LITA students and in doing so, community impact planning is led, in part, from within the community.
Reflecting on those she has helped over the past decade, Catherine says that her “years at LFA taught [her] courage and strength, to believe in [herself], and to define success according to [her] heart.” It is a certainty that her heart is a very strong and wise guide for Love is the Answer.