The person that I am today and all that I have learned is a testament to the positive influences of a select few—most notably, my late sister and parents. I learned so many things from them when they were alive, all of which I was forced to use when they died. From this sadness and struggle, I acquired strength and a resolve to help those who are particularly vulnerable and experience inequities in healthcare.
I learned about strength from my sister and her brave battle with cancer and pain: Courage when her husband died before her because he could not live without her; endurance from my orphaned niece, so beautiful, strong, wise, and witty; and tenderness from the nurses who cared for my sister.
I learned about respect and compassion from my mum who used to smile throughout life, even when faced with racism or bias because of her limited English, education, or the “different” way she dressed. I learned about open-mindedness and humour from my dad who died only very recently. My greatest regret was not telling him how proud I was of him and how much I admired his strength.
While the lives they lived were full, they also experienced barriers and prejudice. In my role as director of Equity and Volunteer Resources at William Osler Health System (Osler) I have been given the unique opportunity to minimize those barriers and reduce potential risks to health outcomes. My role at Osler includes: involvement in staff training; building clinical and community partnerships; engaging staff in becoming ‘diversity change champions’; developing diversity tools and resources; strengthening communications among staff, physicians, and volunteers, and with patients and families; and collecting data and demographics. The ultimate validation of this work was achieved this past year with a number of national and international diversity awards for Osler.
Although we can never help enough, I see many champions across our organization helping vulnerable patients and families through a difficult and sometimes painful experience. I also see many advocating and intervening to minimize inequities and injustices. I believe that these are the champions who are helping to change attitudes, bias, or prejudices that can obstruct caring for those in pain or possibly dying. I wish we could all remember Anne Frank’s quote: “How wonderful it is that no one need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
What does it take to succeed and stay competitive in your position/field?
Plan and implement innovative projects and initiatives. Maintain interest and engagement from audiences. Network and stay abreast of initiatives and ideas, both nationally and internationally. Make your ideas plausible. Engage individuals and build relationships.
Is there a role model who has had a profound impact on your career and/or life?
What did he/she motivate you to do? While I could say Nelson Mandela, I will choose someone with a personal connection: two leaders (one former) at my place of work. One gave me a unique opportunity. The other gave me the support I need to succeed, and the challenges to keep me inspired.