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Women of Influence: Lara Pietrolungo

By: Denise Ferreira, Editor in Chief

“Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued- when they can give and receive without judgment”.

Here is why I chose this quote to introduce our next Woman of Influence.  Leadership is not a position, it’s an action.  The purpose of leadership is to create more leaders not more followers.  The success of a leader is defined by their ability to connect and empower others. 

The woman you are about to meet embodies the true definition of leadership. Her dedication to healthcare is admirable, her passion is felt and her voice is impactful. I have known her for over 20 years, she has been one of my greatest mentors and supporters and it is an honor to call her my friend.  Her leadership, her guidance and passion for what she does inspires everyone she meets.

Meet Lara Pietrolungo, Director, International Education, SickKids Learning Institute & Managing Director at  Boomerang Health powered by SickKids.

Lara has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a Master’s Degree in Nursing Administration, and a Leadership Certificate from the University of Toronto. She is also a cross-appointed faculty at the Lawrence S. Bloomberg, Faculty of Nursing at UofT, as well as preceptor to graduate students from various healthcare and business programs. She has been involved in fundraising for many years, and is the Founder of the Emma-Rose Fund, which provides financial assistance to families of children with MPS Diseases.

Over the past 18 years, Lara has dedicated her career to SickKids, focusing on fostering local and international healthcare education partnerships while being committed to enhancing child health globally.

Lara has been invited to speak at different local and international forums. She has traveled personally and professionally to numerous countries and can speak English, French, Arabic, Armenian, and Italian.

Lara & her family

We sat down with Lara to learn more about why and how she does it all as she shares some pretty inspiring and impactful messages for all women.

What does being a Woman in Leadership mean to you?

It means no different than being a Man in Leadership. Leadership is leadership, and to me it’s about always having a “can do” attitude, surrounding yourself with people that are smarter than you, and believing in your team to carry out a common vision. Leading by example and mentorship are two key principles that I value the most, as I am always fascinated by the full potential of individuals and inspiring them to get there should they give me the privilege to do so.  

What’s the most significant highlight of your career and why?

There have been many moments in my career of 20+ years that can be defined as “the most significant highlight”. One of them is when I started doing international work as part of my job at SickKids. I was able to rely on my nursing and educator experience, use some of the languages that I spoke, reflect on my upbringing as an immigrant who moved to Canada at the age of 12 from a war-torn country, apply my love for helping those who most need it, engage in the need to learn and understand as much as I could about other cultures, and trust in my passion to be part of a change movement that was bigger than all of us. This was the capstone experience that had finally brought all of my worlds together…and it didn’t feel like a job!

 As a woman in leadership in healthcare, what have been some of the obstacles or challenges you have had to face/deal with?

Learning when “to do the right things” vs. “to do things right” is an internal debate that I continue to learn from everyday. The world is changing so fast, in healthcare and in technology, and keeping up with it while making important decisions can be challenging. Adapting to changes is a great asset because change will always be inevitable. Often, we have a little voice in us that is telling us what to do – listen to this voice if your intentions are honest.

Lara Pietrolungo, Managing Director Boomerang Health

What is the one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you first started?

Be patient Lara! Everything has its time. When you believe that your future is based on “part luck and part effort”, then you understand that there are times that you won’t reap the fruits of your labour because it’s the wrong season…but in due time, the right season will come along and your efforts will be rewarded. It’s all about timing!  

If you could give one piece of advice to another woman who is aspiring to be a leader, what would it be?

Oh my…where to start? Well, one thing is for sure; if you don’t see it, then build it. I’ve built my career on this belief and I can confidently say that working for me does not feel like work…when it does, then I’ll stop working. Secondly, we need to put in the time and the energy to develop relationships and learn from others, while making mistakes along the way. Don’t be scared! How else can you build your story? Thirdly, networking – some are natural at it, and others need to work at it. Whichever one applies to you, if you don’t invest in growing your network, your ideas will only be your ideas and not shared by others. Finally, don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t be afraid to have fun!

Work-life balance- does it exist? How do you do it all?

Nope! If it did, then we wouldn’t talk about it so much. The secret is that the balance is in collaborating with others and knowing that you can’t do it all. Having said that, something is always going to be sacrificed for something else…sometimes it’s your work, or your family, or yourself, or your friends…whatever is important to you. Maybe that’s balance? Asking for help is how I try to do it…and in return, I am there when someone needs me. As cliché as it sounds, this is life…all about give and take!

Lara & Rudy Pietrolungo, Founders Emma-Rose Fund

You and your husband started a Charity – The Emma-Rose Fund. What is the story behind it and why did you start it?

In 2008, my husband and I met a little girl at our kids’ daycare by the name of Emma-Rose who was suffering from an MPS Disease, called Hurler Syndrome. Her family’s resilience became an inspiration to us as they always had smiles on their faces, even though the disease had no cure and there was very little funding to support them. They taught us not to sweat the small stuff! We felt compelled to start a fund in Emma-Rose’s name and to help all families of children with MPS diseases to have access to financial support.  Sadly, Emma-Rose passed away in October 2018, and her legacy will continue through the upcoming 6th biennial gala on October 25, 2019 at the Grand Luxe Event Boutique in Toronto.

Favorite quote or words to live by?

Start the way you want to finish!

To learn more about Boomerang Health and the services it provides visit their website at:

Follow Lara at:

@larapietrolungo (twitter),

@boomerang_health (instagram)

@emmarosefund (instagram)

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