Personal Support Worker Paves the Way for Brighter Future

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Since October 2015, Shelby Hamilton has been working as a Personal Support Worker at the Country Care Seniors Residence in Allenford, Ontario. This position also allows her to pursue an education via correspondence while working and raising her three children, Paige, Lexie and the newest edition to the family, Bryon. At the end of every day, Shelby goes home knowing that she has not only improved the lives of her clients but she has also paved the way for a brighter future for herself and her kids:

“I love helping people and I love how happy my work makes the seniors and how rewarding it is to see the smiles on their faces every day,” says Shelby. “I have been through a lot, and when I was pregnant with my son, I realized I wasn't where I wanted to be…. I wanted to help people and be happy and have a rewarding job that could also help me provide a better more rewarding life and future for my kids….” As a single mom who was left during each pregnancy, Shelby learned the hard way that she needed to be able to depend on herself, and her dependability has served her well in this career, knowing that the seniors count on her to be there as part of their daily routine.

Shelby’s work day begins at 7 AM and ends “after tea time” at 4 PM. “As soon as I get there I get the residents up and cleaned up, and dressed for the day, and get them all to the breakfast table.” She assists them with both their food and medication throughout the day. “After breakfast, I assist them to their rooms or the living room (or wherever they want to go).” Soon it is time for lunch, which she prepares, and then she helps the residents once again with their meal and medication. After the meal is over, Shelby cleans up once again and returns the residents to their room of choice. Before you know it, it’s time for tea!

Within the first few weeks on the job, Shelby realized that a lot of the people in her care did not receive many visitors, and there were hardly any young children coming in to say hello. With that in mind and Halloween coming up at the time, she took it upon herself to “brighten their day”. 

“On the Wednesday before Halloween I got off work, came home, got my kids dressed up and took them out to Country Care! All the residents were so happy! They all had smiles on their faces! The only male resident who is 96 years old put Lexie (my 3 year old) on his knee and talked with her and then took Bryon (my 3 month old son) … and started to give him a horsey ride on his knee.” Shelby recalls another resident in palliative care with Alzheimer’s Disease, who also had a positive reaction to her children: “[She] very rarely smiles and very rarely speaks and she was smiling ear to ear and talking to the kids! It brought tears to my eyes to see how happy it made them and warmed my heart.”

For Shelby Hamilton, positivity and passion are two key things needed in this line of work for both those who are giving and receiving care: “The one piece of advice I would give to someone entering this field is that you have to have a passion for it. You have to love what you do or else you won't be happy and that will also impact the seniorsbecause they will sense that and it will have a negative impact on everyone, but especially the seniors suffering with Alzheimer's and dementia.” As for her own success, Shelby credits her children for giving her a reason to keep moving forward and for becoming a better person. She hopes to inspire other moms along the way as well, knowing that the journey in life is not always an easy one, especially when raising a family: “For other hard working moms out there, I would just like to say, tough times make you stronger, dark times will get brighter and sad times will get happier. Keep pushing forward, keep your chin up, make goals and reach for them. It will make you feel amazing and will make an amazing life for yourself and your children! My kids are my rock and are the reason why I am where I am today. I don't know where I would be without them.”

Healthy Balance with Tara Antle

By Mariana Hernández-Hernández, WorkStory Ambassador at Memorial University

Tara Antle’s work story is an excellent example of initiative, proactivity, and of how one experience (whether it be volunteering, work or school) can take us to the next one. Her work story also shows us how it is possible to do what we love as a job and even turn it into an entrepreneurial endeavour.

Tara is a Nutritionist whose weekly activities include private nutrition consultations, providing grocery store tours, hosting kitchen parties, giving cooking lessons, and organizing seminars and workplace wellness programs.

She’s also a regular guest on Rogers TV’s Out of the Fog (monthly segment called “Healthy Bellies”), Cross Talk on CBC’s Radio Noon with Ramona Deering, the CBC Morning Show with Anthony Germain, The NTV Evening News and Here and Now on CBC. Moreover, her articles and interviews have been published locally, provincially and nationally in The Telegram, NL Wellness Guide, The Downhomer, Fresh Juice Magazine, Atlantic Law Enforcement magazine and The Newfoundland Herald.

How did she get here?

When Tara graduated from high school in the city of St. John’s, Newfoundland, she didn’t know what type of work she wanted to do, so she took a few years to find herself. She devoted her time to volunteering with Helping Hands and The Community Services Council, working full time in retail, studying General Medical Sciences and taking evening courses at Memorial University of Newfoundland, which eventually evolved to full time General Studies.

Five years after being involved in these activities - and mainly because of her volunteer experience - Tara realized that she wanted to do something related to health care. She chose the Applied Human Nutrition program (BSc.AHN) at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax and was able to transfer all her credits from Memorial University. During her full time studies in Nutrition, she took elective courses in Business, worked as a Residence Assistant, and helped raise funds for scholarships and bursaries with the Alumni Association.

Every summer, Tara returned home to Newfoundland and held different jobs. The summer before graduation, she had the chance to work for the federal Public Works and Government Services as part of their student program, and after university graduation, she was offered a full time position. This experience led to an opportunity working in finance with the federal government in Newfoundland, and it, in turn, led to a government position in Ottawa as a Financial Officer! While working in her new role in Ottawa, Tara studied full time during the evenings at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition and earned her Diploma of Natural Nutrition (Holistic Nutrition).

Later, Tara became one of the three Nutritionists that were hired by Shoppers Drug Mart for a pilot project.  She was responsible for the Ottawa region and her duties involved helping build a clientele, developing and delivering health and nutrition seminars in the community, acting as a liaison and team member with local physicians and pharmacists, creating in-store educational displays, and facilitating sampling of products.

After being away from Newfoundland for ten years, Tara decided to move back with the intention of eventually starting her own business. Once in St. John’s, she worked as a Nutritionist for a company for a couple of years and then left to develop the business plan for her own private practice. Seven months later, her dream became a reality as she began Healthy Balance. With more than 15 years of experience, six years of formal education in Dietetics, Holistic Nutrition and Health Studies, Tara’s private practice has been successfully flourishing for the past six years.

When Tara was studying nutrition as an undergraduate student, she was often questioned about her choice and was told by some that she was wasting her time. She stayed firm with her decision, however, and continued doing what she loved. Now, nutrition is gaining more and more attention and is even considered something ‘trendy.’ Today no one would question its importance as a field of study and interest.

When I asked Tara if she had any advice for students seeking the ‘right’ career path, she said: Do what you love and the rest will follow as long as you take the right steps to find an employment opportunity that works for you. Skill sets are transferrable to each new opportunity that exists. Be patient, persistent and keep a positive attitude. Her career path is good proof of that as Tara enjoys her job so much that it doesn’t feel like work!

To learn more about Tara and what she does, check out her website at



Caitlin Schultz’s Journey to a New Area of Healthcare

By Emma Kushnir, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

Caitlin Schultz’s career has progressed into something even more exciting than she had originally pictured. She attended Fanshawe College from 2007 to 2010 and studied Respiratory Therapy. This is a three-year program – and the last year is all clinical work. Her placements were at University Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital and the Stratford General Hospital. After her placements ended, Caitlin secured a position as a Respiratory Therapist at University Hospital, and worked there for five years. She also worked at Stratford Hospital and Alexandra Marine & General Hospital, in Goderich, as a Charge Respiratory Therapist. 

Then Caitlin’s journey took a new direction – to a newly created position at London Health Sciences Centre: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Patient Navigator.  COPD is a disease that is 80%-90% caused from smoking and doesn’t typically onset before age 40. As a chronic condition, it can be managed, but not cured. So, patient care is based on disease management and patients need help with that.

Caitlin’s job is to work with COPD patients under the Respirology Service. A big part of her job is teaching patients.  She does patient consultations that involve education about COPD, self-management skills, community resources and discharge readiness.  After patients are discharged from hospital, she continues to follow up with them by phone to ensure smooth transitions.  Since the job is fairly new, and she is the first one to step into the role at London Health Sciences Centre, another big part involves developing projects and new initiatives.  These include things like a connecting-to-home initiative, standardizing education for COPD patients, and creating a clinical pathway for patients to follow. Caitlin is a certified respiratory educator in both asthma and COPD.  In addition to this ­– and her respiratory therapy training – she sees the special skills required for her job are patience and a genuine desire to help people improve their own lives.

Many events and people inspired Caitlin on her journey to this career. When she learned that her younger brother had asthma, and he had to get pulmonary function testing, that is when she learned about respiratory therapy. In Grade 12, she was interested in health care, but didn’t want to become a nurse.  She did some research and got her first glimpse of respiratory therapy. A neighbor worked as a respiratory therapist at Goderich Hospital, and so –  pro tip! – Caitlin job-shadowed him. This proved helpful in choosing to study Respirator Therapy in college and she felt confident and happy in the choice.

After college, the connections and experiences from University Hospital, Goderich Hospital and Stratford General Hospital, helped Caitlin decide exactly what she wanted to do.  In those organizations, she had broad experiences –  everything from acute to chronic disorders, and inpatient to outpatient settings.  When she heard about the job opportunity as a COPD Navigator, she was already doing some COPD education in Stratford – and she realized patient education interested most. It just made sense!

When asked what she loves about the job, Caitlin says that it’s “the change made with the patients, when from start to finish there is visible improvement, and satisfaction from it. It is very rewarding being able to improve patients’  experiences, and engage them in their care, especially when you can see how much more comfortable they are about going home and being at home. You really get to know some of the patients and it is so rewarding being a constant person for them in the hospital. Patients need continuity of care and integration of care.”  She also explains she loves seeing the changes in the hospital, as initiatives start to happen, and witnessing the hospital become more patient focused.

Deciding to drop everything and commit to an environment that was outside of her comfort zone was the biggest challenge in getting to where she is now. Having to give up her other jobs was hard.  Taking a jump in the hope that it would work out was huge. Caitlin had never worked at Victoria Hospital before, and it was a big decision to commute over an hour to work every day.  Further, many things that she is doing now would have intimidated her a while ago – such as all the presentations and public speaking. She worked her way into it slowly, each presentation getting a little bit bigger.

Caitlin’s advice for those interested in healthcare?  “Think outside the box when it comes to health care jobs!  There is a lot more in health care than just the front-line stuff you typically see and hear about – such specialty jobs…Definitely job shadow! You can do research, but it’s hard to know until you get into the action. So any chance you get at seeing things firsthand – take it!” 

A Daily Dose of Happily Better Afters

By Veerta Singh, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

Monica Soos has known from an early age that science was her passion. She began her undergraduate career in 2006 studying Life Sciences at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.  She later graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a minor in Biology. Currently, Monica works in Toronto as the Manager of Strategic Pricing at Janssen Inc., the pharmaceutical division of the well established healthcare company Johnson & Johnson.

Immediately after Monica completed her undergrad, she was accepted into the Master of Biotechnology (MBiotech) program at the University of Toronto. This is a two year Master’s program which “bridges science students into the business world. It is specifically geared towards students who wish to work in the field of biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry”.

The Masters of Biotechnology program opened up another door for Monica when it provided her with a co-op opportunity in 2012. She was selected for a placement at AstraZeneca, a biopharmaceutical company, as the Pricing and Reimbursement Co-op student. It was in this role where Monica “learned about how the biopharmaceutical industry works and was able to take what she learned in the classroom and apply it to the real world”. This placement enabled her to strengthen and develop the skills that help her succeed in the current field she is working in. In 2013, Monica became the access associate at Janssen and eventually the Manager of Strategic Pricing in 2015.

When prompted to describe what a regular day at work entails, Monica provides a detailed picture of how she begins and ends her day. “The day-to-day work involves checking emails, taking care of ad-hoc requests and working cross-functionally with business partners to ensure that projects are being implemented”. Within the specific role, Monica stresses the importance of having analytical skills, problem-solving skills and the ability to work well with others because these are major qualities that are required to be successful in this field. She adds that “pricing requires alignment and execution with several stakeholders, so it’s important that you have a good rapport with them to move things along”. 

Monica explains that what she loves most about her job is that the field of pharmaceutical pricing is very strategic in nature. She is inspired by the challenges that are presented to her and believes that this job is the perfect fit for her. “I am constantly learning and growing within my role, which is what keeps it fun and challenging. I have always wanted to work within pharmaceuticals, and working for a company that makes a difference in people’s lives is definitely a dream come true.

When asked if Monica had any advice to share for those who are still in the early stages of their career, she says to “make the most out of all the opportunities presented to you, but make sure you actively seek out opportunities as well as this will differentiate you from others”. 

“Cheerleaders in Nearly Every Corner”: Tito’s Story

By Katie Chalmers-Brooks

Photo by: Nardella Photography

Photo by: Nardella Photography

Growing up, Tito Daodu could have easily gotten stuck in a rut by focusing on what she didn’t have: much money or a sense of safety in the rough Winnipeg neighbourhood she called home. Getting dressed in the morning meant being mindful not to wear gang colours.  She had to make sure she walked back quickly to her apartment after school. She was well versed in her classmates’ personal connections to the stories on the six o’clock news—‘the guy arrested for a stabbing was so-and-so’s cousin.’ “All of those things felt close to home,” says Daodu.

So too did everything the 28-year-old doctor feels helped her to succeed. Daodu likens herself to a lottery winner—lucky because she had cheerleaders in nearly every corner. “I had a lot of people in my life who said I could achieve whatever I wanted.” She didn’t see getting into trouble as an option; her Nigerian-born mother made sure of that. Her mom’s voice would override those of her school chums, many of whom saw a trip to Juvenile Detention as a rite of passage. Daodu had bigger plans. And she had mentor Ken Opaleke at West Broadway Youth Outreach to help her on her path. She was in Grade 3 when Opaleke called out to her and her sister, Dupe, from across the street, inviting them to join the neighbourhood’s after-school club. Daodu did and has never really left. “I have had the pleasure of seeing her grow from a shy, energetic, nine year- old participant in the program to a now caring, selfless young woman who a great number of inner-city children have come to emulate and rely on, not only for academic and physical guidance but on a personal level as well,” says Opaleke.

Daodu went from mentee to mentor and launched a homework club at the centre, forming meaningful connections to kids as she helped them through mundane school assignments. Daodu says she would be hard on the kids when they didn’t “try to achieve”, just as Opaleke was hard on her. Daodu went to St. Mary’s Academy on bursaries, steadily inching her way toward university. When she earned her degree in medicine from the University of Manitoba in 2013, more than a dozen West Broadway kids showed up at convocation, rooting for “doctor number 2.” (Daodu is the second West Broadway ‘graduate’ to become a physician.) “Quite a few of them have said, ‘I want to be doctor number 5 or I’m going to be doctor number 7,” says Daodu. “When I go back I try to instill in them that this is totally achievable. I look at those kids and I think ‘I was exactly that kid.’” She is now doing her residency in general surgery in Calgary while chipping away at a master’s in international surgical care.

To Daodu, it makes perfect sense to seek out a problem and then try to be part of the solution. As a med student, she made a cold call to a researcher featured in a documentary about the shockingly high number of pneumonia deaths among children in Nigeria, her native country. “It was staggering to me that 200,000 children under age five die of pneumonia every year. In Canada, it would be unheard of for a child to die of pneumonia without any other complications,” she says. Daodu asked the researcher if she could come to Nigeria and help; he obliged. The hospital featured in the film happened to be the one where Daodu was born. She was just four when her mom left the country, which was then under a dictatorship, with her and her sister. (They lived in Jamaica and England before settling for good in Winnipeg, where Daodu’s uncle could be their sponsor. Her father joined them years later.)

The state of care at the Nigerian hospital shocked Daodu. In the first week, she witnessed the deaths of six children from conditions that could have easily been treated in North America: pneumonia, tetanus and malaria. “I had no idea what widespread, systematic poverty looked like on the ground,” she says. Minimum wage there is a paltry 100 dollars a month yet patients are required to buy their own medical supplies. Daodu dipped into her own wallet to stock up on syringes, gloves and needles. If a child needed a transfusion it was up to the parents to coax family and friends to donate blood. If there was a power outage, test results were simply unavailable.  Doctors there have the knowledge, Daodu explains, but no resources. She was there to investigate oxygen treatments for kids with pneumonia, specifically machines that convert ambient air into oxygen, a less expensive alternative to oxygen tanks. It took her a month and a half to get a backup generator in the room so they would work in a power outage, a routine occurrence.  Her frustration grew when she realized a separate, private ward within the same hospital was well-stocked for patients who could afford it.

The experience reinforced Daodu’s desire to help improve health-care systems in developing countries. She wants to work on international surgical education projects in impoverished regions to ensure first responders are properly trained in basic, life-saving procedures like inserting chest tubes. The World Health Organization identified surgical care among the globe’s top five pressing healthcare needs. The reality is: simple surgeries are getting missed and the consequences can be personally devastating. A patient with something as minor as a hernia—left surgically untreated—might go decades unable to work and be shunned by his community, Daodu notes. She also wants to offer her surgical skills in disaster zones. This fall, she is headed to Haiti, a country still shattered by 2010’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake. “As a surgeon, you really have an ability to make an impact,” she says. Daodu knows it takes leadership to act on these kinds of opportunities. She defines a good leader as someone who is “willing to take in and adapt to the changes that are presented along the way, without giving up.” It’s a philosophy that’s guided her throughout her life and, she’s happy to say, some of the kids from her old neighbourhood too. While studying in University Centre one day, Daodu bumped into a former participant of her West Broadway homework buddies group. Daodu had lost touch with the girl when she stopped coming to the centre as a teen so was thrilled to see she made it to university. The student had faced, and clearly overcome, a lot of the same challenges Daodu did. “It was pretty exciting to see that she had continued on and was doing well,” Daodu says. “It was awesome.”

This story, reprinted with permission of the University of Manitoba, originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of On ManitobaTito Daodu, a 2013 University of Manitoba grad (MD; BSc[Med]), was honored recently as one of the university’s Outstanding Young Alumni.


A Clinical Counsellor’s Perspective: Lanie’s Story

By Emma Kushnir, WorkStory Ambassador

Lanie Schachter-Snipper’s adventure in life and academics has been vast and amazing. After finishing her undergraduate degree from McGill University in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, she took a huge break doing various jobs ranging from teaching first grade in Honduras to running a cultural art tour business in Cuba. She then went back to school at the City University of Seattle for a Master’s degree in Clinical Counselling and Psychology, and finally to Yale School of Medicine to complete a fellowship in the Forensic Drug Diversion Program.

Now settled with a family in Toronto, Lanie is working as a full time clinical counselor for Shepell.fgi providing assessment and crisis intervention for employee assistance.  But her real baby is a non-profit organization Upfront Counselling and Management that she and a criminal defense lawyer founded in 2014. The organization provides psychological support for court-involved individuals who are charged with crimes involving aggression, with a primary focus on domestic abuse and substance abuse.  Offenders are referred by their lawyer, and partake in individual or group counseling that is therapeutic in nature, which is different than other organizations that exist in Toronto.

When asked why she got into the profession of psychology especially after so much different work, she answered that “from a young age I was always interested in deviance, people who broke the law, and crime in general.” As for the making the decision to do a masters program in psychology, she divulged that she applied to many different types of masters and international programs because she knew she needed to do something and was interested in a lot. She explains “in my case it really worked out and my work is really rewarding. I can’t imagine doing anything else, but it is very challenging and draining, and can be overwhelming.”

 Speaking about the many challenges that comes with the job, she explained that boundaries are hard, “I am fairly good at having a challenging work day and not spending a ton of time thinking about it, so having good self care and maintaining healthy boundaries is very important.” She also clarified that you must set realistic clinical expectations “you have to be realistic of what you can accomplish with people such as those who are living in poverty. One of the hardest things is knowing there are limits to which you can help people.”

Though with the challenging, comes the rewarding. She explained that “everyday I work, I get some feedback that the time I have spent talking to a client has been positive in some way. Whether there is an opportunity to vent or validating feelings, on a daily basis, even if it is subtle, I see the work I’m doing is meaningful to someone. There are moments today at the very least, this person isn’t going to kill themselves. Plus there is always new stuff coming up like new protocols and approaches, which makes it not the very least boring.”

As for people who are interested in this line of work her advice is: “you have to understand how complex people are, no matter how much learning you will do, every single person is unique and needs special attention. In this field you need a certain amount of stamina, energy, and a lot of compassion.” For others seeking out what to do, Lanie offered the advice: “Don’t rush. It can be easy to hurry into things because careers are appealing, but the importance of the in-between gets lost, and it’s an important time. I took so long to figure out what I wanted to do. Meet people travelling, work in different places and environments. Explore and be curious, and learn as much as you can about the wider world and your community. The more experiences you have, the better you will be in any job.”

Every Day is Different: Ben’s Paramedic Story

Ben Kenter has been a paramedic with the Ottawa Paramedic Service for about a year.  So far, it seems that things are going well for this 25-year old Fanshawe College grad.  He’s helping people every day, working with a great professional team, and doing rewarding and challenging work.  And, as he told Iris Winston, there is lots of variety!

“The only thing that is the same is how a day starts. You come, do your truck check to make sure everything is up to snuff. After that, you are briefed on road construction and anything else that is likely to affect your day…” [then] “nothing is typical”.

Have a look as Iris Winston shares more about Ben and the growth in career opportunities in paramedicine – where one has to “expect the unexpected every day."

Lovely Rita: A Personal Support Worker’s Perspective on Helping Others

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

If you have been looking for Rita Parent over the years, her location may have varied. However, Rita can always be found helping others, no matter where she is. For the last decade, the Tonawanda, New York native has served as a Personal Support Worker for countless people in the London, Ontario area.

Originally, Rita went to school for nursing in the United States, but as Parent recalls, things didn’t go as planned: “When I moved to Canada in 1983, the government didn't recognize my diploma in nursing and I was a single mother at the time.... I was unable to start over until many years later, where I decided to take a bridging course as a PSW.”

 Before returning to school, Rita faced many challenges while raising her young son in a new country. Regardless, she remained committed to helping others, even though she was not recognized as a nurse in Canada:  “We lived in Haliburton, Ontario – one of the greatest tourism towns in Ontario. I became a waitress at Sir Sam’s Inn, which – in my eyes – was easy for me, as it was still something I could do [to] give the customer[s] what they needed. I loved that job.”

 Many people would think that re-entering the educational system after a long period of time would be a daunting or scary task, but not Rita! Her advice to other adults (especially single moms) who might be apprehensive about going back to school is to not to fear it at all: “Don't be afraid to go after what you want!” she exclaims. According to Rita, school can even be enjoyable as an adult! “As a mature student, I enjoyed school more. [I loved] it so much, I couldn't stop! I had to make some sacrifices, but I did it!”

Currently, Rita is a Personal Support Worker for Cheshire London. Cheshire provides attendant (PSW) services for clients in their own homes, to assist them with healthcare and daily living. She feels very fortunate to have found her calling in this field: “I was lucky to find a great job where I have to utilize all of my skills at a client’s home. My job gives an individual the care they need and the opportunity to live independently.” Rita has also been able to “learn and grow” from the many individuals she has worked with, including award-winning, Paralympic Athlete, Tammy McLeod.

 Personal Support Work and athleticism are not often thought of as two things that go hand-in-hand, but it turns out that they do!  Parent and McLeod excelled together when Rita worked as Tammy’s caregiver and sports assistant in boccia ball. Tammy McLeod is a member of the Canadian Paralympic Boccia Ball Team. Rita says that working with Tammy was the “most rewarding part” of her job as a PSW: “I learned so much about boccia ball through the eyes of many athletes with disabilities. Not only did I assist and care, but I became close friends with many people all over the world. I'm very grateful for the experiences!” Although she is no longer involved with sport, Rita says she keeps “a close watch” on Tammy and her career.

Rita Parent admits that being a personal support worker is “a very demanding occupation. It's not meant for everyone, but if you have what it takes you'll go far. You need to be compassionate and love your work....” For her, “there is no doubt... that the healthcare field is the way to go, and we are in great need of PSWs.... I hope I'm not too wishy-washy, but I really love my job!”

Healing Waters

by Carol Crenna

Chelsea Kanstrup (BCom ’12) is in for the long haul. Three years ago, Kanstrup started with the privately -funded charity Mercy Ships as a cooperative student. After graduating, her dedication and passion were recognised and she was hired as director of Donor Relations.  

In fact, working in non-profit management was one of her goals when choosing UVic’s BCom program. Business Class caught up with Kanstrup to find out about Mercy Ships and why she decided to embark on the voyage.

What Does This Organization Do?

Mercy Ships is a privately-funded charity that sends hospital ships with medical teams to impoverished countries to provide free medical care, physician training, and community support. It has 16 global offices including Mercy Ships Canada, based in Victoria. Its Africa Mercy is the world’s largest charity hospital ship, staffed by 1,600 volunteers from around the world.  

How Has It Made a Difference?

In existence for 35 years, Mercy Ships has treated 572,000 patients in 54 countries, conducted 67,000 surgeries, delivered services to over 2.42 million, valued at over $1 billion. It serves people free-of-charge without regard for race or religion.

Why Was It Launched?

Mercy Ships was started by an American Christian group to serve the estimated one billion people who lack basic healthcare, particularly in Africa, where 50 percent of the population has no access to a doctor. The organization deemed that a ship is the most efficient platform to deliver a state-of-the-art hospital because 75 per cent of the world’s population lives within 150 kilometres of a port city.

What Results Have You Seen?

When in Congo, I saw a blind mother being led by her young daughter to the ship to have cataract surgery. After surgery, she regained her sight, which resulted in her daughter attending school, no longer having to care for her mother, and her mother getting a job to support the family and become a better community member.

I witnessed one-on-one training. In Congo, a doctor from Togo came for cataract surgery training. Before the instruction, it took him 20 minutes to do each surgery; he performed 400 surgeries per year (in 2010). After training, he could complete the procedure in 10 minutes, and this year he performed 2,000 cataract surgeries. He now voluntarily teaches other surgeons.

What Are You Working On?

My third-party fundraising work includes bake sales, discount coupon books, and collaborating with restaurants that donate money from a menu item purchased — small outlets that have added up to substantial funding over time. We also organize campus networks at 11 universities across Canada with hundreds of student volunteers.

Africa Mercy is heading to Cotonou, Benin, where volunteers plan to do over 2,300 surgeries, treat 18,000 at dental and eye clinics, and train 160 Beninois healthcare professionals.

Why Is Philanthropy Important?

It was instilled in me not to take for granted that I was born a woman within a supportive family within a supportive community within a supportive country. It’s not just right to be philanthropic and help others; it makes you feel good.

What appeals to you about working for Mercy Ships?

I love Mercy Ship’s mission; helping so many individuals in need through surgeries is amazing, yet educating individuals increases the capacity of our efforts, and works to stop the need itself. 

This story, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in Business Class Magazine, a publication of the Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria.    

Taking the Long Way to Medical Radiation Technology

By: Karli Steen, WorkStory Ambassador

Lynn Watson-Lee took the long path to Medical Radiation Technology. She went to Saint Mary's University in Halifax right after graduating from high school, and ran out of money before she was able to finish her B.Sc., so she got a job at a local nursing home and trained as a Personal Support Worker. Eventually, she finished her B.Sc., and continued to work in healthcare. When she moved to London in 2004, Lynn started working with VON, doing home care. She enrolled in the MRT program at Fanshawe College in 2006, and graduated in 2009, with her MRT(R) designation.

Lynn loved the scientific aspects of the courses she took: "While the majority of my job is patient care and radiographic positioning, I like that I know about radiation and how the machines work; how x-rays are created, how they interact with body tissues, how the images are actually created, etc. I still tutor Medical Radiation Physics and enjoy it a lot."

According to Lynn, there is no typical day in X-Ray: "We have three main x-ray departments at UH (London Health Science Centre): General Radiology on the second floor, and Emergency Radiology in the ER, plus the Fowler-Kennedy Sports Medicine Clinic at UWO. In General, we mostly image patients who are going to see surgeons in Orthopaedics, Neurology, Cardiology, Urology, or other specialties. We also have portable X-ray machines for inpatients who are unable to come down to the department for imaging. Sports Med is primarily Ortho, but we may also see some of the students who get referred over. Plus we see any Inpatients who may need follow-up imaging after procedures or when their condition changes. The x-ray area in the Emergency department pretty much just does whatever the ER docs need to see to understand what's going on. We don't see as much trauma as Victoria Hospital does, but I do have a lot of very interesting stories. We also run fluoroscopy (real-time, video x-ray) in Operating Rooms and procedure rooms. The vast majority of people who come through the healthcare system need imaging of some sort to support their diagnosis, treatment, or management of disease. We are 'open' 24/7/365, and provide a vital service."

 Although she always knew she wanted to be in the frontline of healthcare, MRT was not always where she imagined herself. She once considered Medical School, but realized that it might be too much. With her MRT position, Lynn finds a perfect balance; in which she can help others, and also see them.

 When asked what advice she would give those interested in the field, she had this to say: "Get out and work at a few different hospitals. I was hired where I trained, but one of the best things I did was take a contract position at another hospital. I learned different equipment, routines, and procedures, which only served to help me think "outside the box" on a regular basis. Also, shadow a MRT before you apply to the program. A lot of people have no idea what we really do. It is a very physically demanding job, and can also be psychologically and emotionally draining - especially when we are working in the morgue, OR, ICU, or ER.3.

More Than Counting Pills

By Karli Steen, WorkStory Ambassador

 Salma Ghanie was introduced to pharmacy work through a Which Career is Right for You? test in Grade 10. She had always had a fascination with medications and what they do to the human body, but had never known what to do with that fascination. When she took the test, most of her career results were something to do with the outdoors but, interestingly, one of the final ones was a “pharmacist”. Salma decided to act on this and in Grade 11 she tried a co-op placement at Shoppers Drug Mart, which she loved!  A few years later, that experience made applying for her program an easy choice.

 Salma studied at Fanshawe College for 2 years in the Pharmacy Technician program, and loved it: "It was hard and tough, for sure, but it was fun for me. There's a ton of math, chemistry, and pharmacology. We had a course on pharmacy law that was brutal. Like most people I always thought that a Pharm Tech just counted pills; but no, there is so much more to what I do than counting pills and putting a label on a vial or a box."

 In second year, Salma had the chance to experience both a hospital and retail placement opportunity. She did not find the retail portion very helpful, as she was only able to shadow, and didn't really gain any hands-on experience.  When asked what courses were particularly beneficial, Salma shared the following:  “Pharmacy law for sure, math, compounding (making drugs), pharmacology and the practical retail course I took, that course taught us so much. Retail Pharmacy, it was a two part course and taught us everything from, drug names, chemicals, Latin, math, communication, and how to count things properly."  She uses aspects of these every day.

 In spite of the retail placement not going so well, Salma grew to love the retail setting as, according to her, you actually get to see and interact with the people you're helping. In her current position at Shoppers Drug Mart in St. Thomas, Ontario, Salma does just that. Her day is filled with answering phones, processing and dispensing prescriptions, and communicating with doctors, patients, and customers alike. She shared the most rewarding part of the job: "I think the most rewarding thing is that once you get to know patients, they will confide in you and they will tell you what's on their mind and how they are feeling and it’s really nice knowing someone trusts you. Whether they are 30 or 85!  People know my name and when they want my help specifically, that’s when I know I've made a difference"

 As content as she is right now, Salma would like to continue up the ladder to be a full-fledged pharmacist. Her ultimate goal is to become a pharmaceutical chemist.

 As for advice, Salma says you have to be caring and compassionate, as well as know how to multi-task with things like phone conversations and counting pills and dosages at the same time. Patience is also key when the pharmacy is busy. If you are not good with math, a pharmacy is not the place for you. It is also necessary to learn how to read “doctor scribble”. As hard as some of this may seem, Salma says it all comes together with practice.  

Inaugural class takes its place in the world

By Jesica Hurst

From a young age, Gracia Mabaya knew she wanted to play a role in improving health care and living conditions around the world.

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   Crystal Mackay // Special to Western News

Crystal Mackay // Special to Western News

Growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, she watched other children dying from what should have been preventable diseases. For her, a career in public health made sense.

After completing her Master of Science in Health and Rehab Sciences at Western in 2011, Mabaya worked as a consultant for the World Health Organization. However, she wanted to take her career further by obtaining a degree that would set her apart.

Mabaya applied to Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program and was accepted to be a part of the program’s inaugural class. The class, which finished their studies in August 2014, graduated at convocation ceremonies last week.

“After being in the workforce and being exposed to the field, I felt like I wanted to have more of a course-based foundation in public health,” she said. “I wanted to obtain an internationally recognized degree that would set me apart in the workforce.”

Now into its second year, the MPH program was designed to fill a niche at the intersection of leadership, sustainability and policy within the Canadian health-care system, as well as globally. The interdisciplinary, interfaculty program aims to prepare students to address public health challenges, opening opportunities for students to serve as change agents on a local, national and international scale.

Since completing the program this summer, Mabaya obtained a job as a knowledge broker and research associate for pediatric neuromuscular research at the Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre. While she had previous work experience, she thinks the MPH program helped to enhance her resume, expertise and knowledge base which helped her into her current role.

“Now that I am back in the workplace, I can see how very well-designed the program was,” she said. “We were taught to collaborate with our classmates and we were encouraged to participate in the classroom setting as if we were in the workplace. That has been very valuable to me.”

Mabaya also enjoyed being a part of the inaugural class, because the faculty and management were very open to student feedback and took all of their suggestions into consideration.

For the moment, Mabaya is working on building her career at the national level, as her current role gives her the opportunity to work with organizations across the country and to manage knowledge transaction activities nation-wide. In the future, she would like to have more of a leadership role within the health-care setting, and she believes the MPH program has given her the foundation to get there.

Posted with permission, Western News

This story was originally published on the Schulich Medicine & Dentistry website. Check it out here.


Why Not Be A Nurse?

By Karli Steen, WorkStory Ambassador

ENT/Urology Nurse Karla McTaggart-Steen had always known that she wanted to work in the field of healthcare, but originally saw herself as a physiotherapist. She started out taking Western University's Kinesiology program, but soon realized her grades didn't meet the mark.

Nursing seemed like the obvious next step: "One day I woke up and thought 'Why not become a nurse?' It's a good job, secure profession, with a good income and the best part is you get to help people through the most challenging times in their lives".

With that, she pursued the collaborative Nursing program provided by both Fanshawe College and Western University. When asked what she found most useful about the program, she had this to say: "My clinical placements were the most beneficial experiences as I was able to go to different clinical settings and gain a sense of the type of nursing I enjoyed the best.  I was able to interact with patients and their families and learn about health, wellness and empathy."

A day on the job can be full of both reward and sacrifice: "I start at either 7 am, or 7 pm, and basically don't sit down for 12 hours.  Sometimes I miss my breaks, or go for 6-7 hours without eating something.  I am responsible for much more then basic patient care, I make sure the docs don't miss anything, that my patients get to all of their appointments on time, that they are cleaned, walked, dressings are done, vital signs stable, educated about lifestyle changes, given all their medications on time, documentation donein addition, there is coordinating care with allied health,  caring for their family members, wiping tears, making jokes, laughing and helping them to have a few smiles in this dark time in their life.  Go home, shower and repeat less than 12 hours later"

In spite of the sacrifice made, Karla says that the most rewarding thing is being able to help. Whether it be guiding patients and their families through after-hospital care, or holding the hand of a dying patient, being the helping hand is a blessing. She hopes to help even further by going back to school for nurse practitioner credentials, where she hopes to work alongside a family physician.

When asked for advice for future Nursing hopefuls, she had this to say: "My advice would be make sure it is something you really want to do, not something you go into for the money.  It is a very physically and emotionally draining career and if your heart is not into it, you will burn out.  It is a great career in that there are so many job options for nurses.  It is a very well-respected and rewarding career."

Ever considered Pharmacy? Megan’s Story

By Alexandria Friesen, WorkStory Ambassador

Meet Megan. Megan is a Pharmacy Manager at DMC Pharmacy. She has worked there for 2 and a half years. Upon completion of high school she continued directly to post-secondary education at the University of Windsor where she studied as a Biochemistry Major. After completing two years in her undergraduate studies she moved onto Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan to complete her Doctor of Pharmacy degree. She studied at Wayne State for four years.

While Megan didn’t know at a very young age what she wanted for an adult career, she decided that pharmacy was for her after meeting with her high school guidance counsellor. Thinking long-term, she knew that she wanted a career that could complement the life of a mother and she had always enjoyed the sciences thoroughly. In order to determine if this was the path she wanted to begin working towards, she acquired a job at a pharmacy while she was in university. Turns out, she really enjoyed it!

Although Megan is in the field that she loves, her road to get there wasn’t always the smoothest. Of course, becoming a pharmacist is no easy task – as with many careers, it takes a lot of late nights and a lot of hard work. Luckily, Megan knew that pharmacy is what she wanted to pursue as a career and focused very hard during her undergraduate degree to ensure she would have the marks to get into pharmacy school. What would she change? Distractions! “[In pharmacy school] I had too many distractions while in school”, she said, “and probably could have done better academically had I focused more on my studies than other things”.

As you will probably hear from many people, the environment in which you work can have a significant impact on your feelings toward your job! While Megan has always wanted to be a pharmacist, the pharmacy she worked at previously was a more stressful environment so she wasn’t always able to enjoy her job as much as she could have. However, she has moved to a different location since then and loves where she is at!

Above all else, “trust your instincts and never second guess what you think is best for you”.  Definitely some words of wisdom we can all use! Thanks Megan!