Inventing hope: Distinguished alum’s breakthrough helps doctors target brain tumours

March 3, 2017 • Written by

Dr. Mark Torchia

Thirty years ago, Dr. Mark Torchia started tinkering with an idea that had life-saving potential — a tool that could destroy inoperable brain tumours.

The seed was planted during a conversation with neurosurgeon Dr. Michael West at St. Boniface Hospital. A short time earlier, West had used a minimally invasive procedure to access a brain tumour and collect a sample for biopsy. To Torchia, it seemed logical to expand on that idea to deliver a killing blow to the target tissue.

“Taking the idea and turning it into something viable is where the challenge arises,” he explains. “It was one of those situations where the idea was there, but the core technology that was going to be required to really bring the idea to fruition didn’t exist.”

A 1995 recipient of Red River College’s Distinguished Alumni Award, Torchia and engineer Richard Tyc eventually met the challenge, developing the NeuroBlate System at the St-Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre and in 1999, founding Monteris Medical Inc. to take it to market.

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a visual guide, the complex system lets neurosurgeons insert a laser probe into the brain and destroy tumours without damaging surrounding tissue.

Approved for use in the U.S. in 2009, the system was first used in Canada in 2015. It’s now available in some 45 hospitals in the U.S. and in three Canadian hospitals — in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Torchia says it’s only a matter of time before it’s available in Winnipeg.

The invention earned Torchia and Tyc a $100,000 Principal Award from the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation in 2015, and one of six inaugural Governor General’s Innovation Awards in 2016. Read More →

2017 Valentine’s Day Contest Winner

February 23, 2017 • Written by

Thanks to everyone who entered the Something’s in the Water contest at Red River College.

All of the submissions were amazing and the Alumni program looks forward to running the contest again in 2018.

The winner of the prize package walked away with sweet treats provided by the Professional Baking program and other assorted gifts thrown in from Alumni and the Culinary program at Paterson GlobalFoods Institute.

Jordan and his wife Leslie are both graduates of the Medical Radiologic program at RRC and first met in 2008. After a clinical rotation at St. Boniface General Hospital, the two were officially a couple. Immediately following the rotation, Leslie enrolled in Magnetic Resonance Imaging, and in 2011 Jordan accepted a position as an Educational Assistant in the MRT program. Jordan also completed his Certificate in Adult Education in 2016.

In 2014 they were married, and in 2016 they welcomed the best gift of all, a beautiful daughter.

In Jordan’s submission he revealed “Without RRC, my life would truly have been different. Now with our new addition, it is whole. Thank you RRC.”


Finding the words: Language training helps RRC grad begin medical career in Canada

February 17, 2017 • Written by

Dina KoreenBecoming a doctor is a long and daunting process – especially when you don’t speak the same language as your future patients.

Dina Koreen knows the feeling. In 2013, she completed her studies to become a general practitioner in Alexandria, Egypt, but after years of maintaining a long-distance relationship with her husband, she opted to join him in Winnipeg, instead.

While her husband — who was also from Egypt, but moved to Canada for work in 2007 — had already established himself as an accountant, Koreen, who only spoke Arabic, had a long way to go before she could pick up her career again. After six months of basic English language training, she turned to Red River College.

“It was perfect,” Koreen says of the Language Training Centre’s Communication for Health Professions program. At five months, the program was shorter than Koreen expected – but also more intensive than she ever could have imagined.

“It was very hard,” she says. “I didn’t know it was going to be hard like this. It was nine-to-four every day from Monday to Friday, with three or four hours of homework at night.”

As many RRC grads can attest, that level of hard work often paves the way for opportunity. For Koreen, it led to a volunteering gig with CancerCare Manitoba. From there, she was able to obtain the experience she needed to complete the program in 2014 and pass her clinical assessment. When it came time to interview for her current job with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority in early 2015, she had both the language skills and the confidence she needed. Read More →

Calling All 1967 Business Administration Alumni & Staff

January 17, 2017 • Written by

In 1967 Red River College was referred to as the Manitoba Institute of Technology.

Olafur Halldorsson graduated from the Business Administration program in 1967 and this year marks the 50th anniversary of his graduation. Olafur will be visiting Winnipeg in June of 2017, and will be travelling all the way from Iceland, where he has been living and working for the past 45 years.  He is interested in reconnecting with classmates and instructors.

If you are interested in reconnecting with Olafur while he is in town, please email the RRC Alumni Office at and we will let you know how to reach him.

******RRC uses its discretion with respect to what it posts on the blog and requests of this nature from alumni will only be posted on an exceptional basis********

Something’s in the Water…

January 11, 2017 • Written by

HeartsIn our travels, we’ve learned there are a number of alumni out there who met at Red River College and then married or entered into long-term relationships/partnerships.

As part of a Valentine’s Day contest we’d like to know: Did you meet your significant other at RRC?

Tell us your story in 400 words or less, and you could win a prize package including dinner for two at Jane’s (RRC’s downtown restaurant), a selection of sweet treats from our Professional Baking students, and a few other surprises will be thrown in.

We’re looking for love stories, so the best submission (as determined by a committee of RRC staff) will really need to woo us. Submissions will be judged on creativity and content and the ability to show how your relationship evolved while pursuing post-secondary education at RRC.

Please send submissions to by Wednesday, Feb. 8, at 4pm (CST). Along with your story, please include the RRC program you graduated from, the year you graduated, and the best way to contact you (email or phone number). If your last name has changed since you were a student, please note that, as well.

Thanks and good luck!

No purchase necessary. This contest is open to alumni of Red River College, as defined by Red River College. Stories submitted must be true. The winner will be selected shortly after the close of the contest. Only the winning entrant will be notified. The winner will be subject to verification of alumni status. Maximum one entry per person. Late entries will not be accepted. Breach of any rules will result in disqualification. The decision of RRC’s judges on any contest matter shall be final. By entering the contest, contestants give Red River College the right to publish their entries and the name of the person who submitted it.

Red River College will publish the winning entry and the name of the contestant who submitted it. The definition of Alumni at RRC is: Individuals who have graduated with a certificate, diploma, post-graduate diploma or degree from a credited program at Red River College.

Note: Apprentice students who have graduated prior to 2013 are considered graduates of Apprenticeship Manitoba, not Red River College.

Business Leaders Needed!

January 5, 2017 • Written by

We need your help in shaping Manitoba’s future business leaders!

In the fourth semester of Red River College’s Business Administration program, students participate in the Entrepreneurship Practicum course where they develop business plans for a hypothetical venture. The course helps students integrate and apply the knowledge gained throughout their four semesters in the program.

We’re looking for external examiners to evaluate the business plans the students have developed.

The time commitment is approximately three hours – one hour for reading the written business plan and two hours to attend an oral presentation at Red River College’s Notre Dame Campus.

The key dates are from March 21 – 23. Oral presentations will be held from 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. You can pick any date and time slot that fits your schedule. Judges will be provided an easy-to-complete grading form.

If you’re interested, please contact David Grusko, Entrepreneurship instructor, at or 204-632-2981.

Thank you for your support of the Entrepreneurship Practicum course in the Business Administration program at Red River College!

Adiós, au revoir, goodbye, so long

December 21, 2016 • Written by

liz2015_smile2_smallElizabeth Glaseman, Alumni Relations Manager at Red River College will depart the College on December 21, 2016. She has accepted a new position with Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, MB as the institution’s new Marketing Manager.

Since joining RRC in 2014, Elizabeth has implemented a variety of successful alumni programming at the College and built a great foundation for her successor. Her contributions have been essential to our alumni community, and we very much appreciate her dedication and efforts over the past three years.

On behalf of everyone at Red River College, we would like to thank Elizabeth and wish her the very best on her next adventure.

The alumni relations office remains open and continues to be of utmost importance to RRC. Should you have any questions or be in need of service, please contact A team member will be happy to assist you in the interim until a new manager is in place.


Garage brand: Power Equipment Technician grad restores the little engines that could

December 19, 2016 • Written by

Chantele Lavack, outside La petite machine

Chantale Lavack knows how to fix your lawnmower. In fact, she knows how to fix a lot of the tools in your garage – from chainsaws to pressure washers, tillers and leaf blowers.

Even more importantly, the Red River College grad (Outdoor Power Equipment Technician, 2009) knows her gender has no impact on her success in the small engine repair business – and she wants other women to know that, as well.

“I hope my experience encourages more women to get into [the field],” says Lavack, who operates her own repair shop, La petite machine, out of her St. Boniface garage.

“The door’s not going to be closed on you right away, and if it is, then good riddance — you don’t really need those people, anyhow.”

Lavack recently talked to us about how her RRC education is “like gold,” how she sees her business evolving, and why other women shouldn’t hesitate to join a male-dominated industry.

RRC: Were you interested in fixing things as a kid?

Lavack: I wasn’t. It’s kind of strange. I only learned later in life that I had a liking for repairing things and wanting to get my hands dirty. It’s not like I was 10 years old with my head under a hood with my dad or anything like that. My dad was a funeral director.

What drew you to small engine repair?

It was those Orange County Chopper shows! I just thought it was really neat to see these guys in a garage, creating all of this cool stuff and putting it together and seeing it work. I had been working in an office at CN Rail and didn’t find it to be all that satisfactory. You just don’t get to see the results of your work. But when you have something that’s broken, you fix it, and away you go. Read More →