In a move towards fostering a more inclusive and equitable healthcare environment, Health Sciences North (HSN) convened the inaugural meeting of the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Anti-racism (IDEAA) committee. The meeting that took place on January 18th saw the diverse assembly of members, representing a spectrum of identities including female, male, non-binary, indigenous, person of colour, immigrant, person with a disability, and 2SLGBTQIA+, along with a mixture of union, non-union, management, physician, researcher, medical learner, volunteer, and patient and family advisor. The formation of the IDEAA committee marks a significant step forward for HSN and HSNRI's commitment to Social Accountability.
David McNeil, president and CEO of HSN and HSNRI, expressed the committee's central role, stating, "The work of the committee is foundational to fostering a fair, respectful, just, and innovative culture at HSN and HSNRI where barriers to full participation are removed, and our diversity is leveraged to improve employee, physician, medical learner, and volunteer engagement, and the patient experience." The commitment to this work was made clear by the strong presence of several members of HSN’s senior leadership team.
Several non-committee members stopped in to say hi and wish members well before the event was officially underway. There was genuine excitement as people entered the space, greeting each other and socializing while sharing lunch before the meeting began.
One of the committee members, Teresita Escandon, an International medical graduate, shared insights into her unique journey. "I navigate licensure complexities, language challenges, and cultural adjustments [in my work with HSN]. International medical graduates contribute a tapestry of skills, enriching Canada with diverse perspectives. In healthcare, they epitomize the global essence, blending compassion and expertise. Grateful for the opportunity, I proudly contribute to HSN."
Kaitlyn Stahl, another committee member, highlighted the importance of tackling systemic barriers. "As an individual who is hard of hearing, I’ve encountered and understand the challenges that people with diverse abilities may face – as a patient, as a loved one, and as a staff member – navigating a world that is not always designed with inclusivity and accessibility in mind. I look forward to participating on the IDEAA Committee as the onus of change is not solely on equity deserving groups. Rather, it is everyone’s responsibility to tackle systemic barriers and promote a culture of inclusion and belonging."
Tammy Bourque spoke to why this work was so important. “Being part of the IDEAA committee was very important to me personally & professionally, I am a proud member of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, an ONA union activist and my work at HSN provides me the opportunity to work alongside disadvantaged and diverse populations. I believe that education and empowerment is the key goal for HSN & HSNRI’s social accountability framework. Furthermore, I believe the principles of inclusion, diversity, equity, accessibility & anti-racism are fundamental to health care and must be addressed systemically to ensure a safe & inclusive workplace so that optimal health care is achieved in Northeastern Ontario.”
The IDEAA committee reports to David McNeil, President and CEO with an operational oversight from Natalie Aubin, Vice-President, Social Accountability, and is chaired by Suchita Bali, Manager of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism.
The IDEAA committee aims to eliminate systemic barriers, ensure fair representation, and cultivate a culture of mutual respect and understanding within HSN and HSNRI. This momentous initiative signals HSN and HSNRI's dedication to creating a healthcare environment where diversity is not just acknowledged but celebrated. The journey towards a more inclusive future has begun.