And Then There Was a Pandemic…

I was standing next to the ocean when the World Health Organization announced the COVID-19 pandemic on March 12th, 2020. As you likely know, I am from Winnipeg, so I was a long way from home. My Royal Roads University colleagues and I were three quarters of the way through our final field study of the values-based leadership program. We were in a lovely wooden house on the Victoria campus by the ocean, and it became increasingly difficult not to think about the journey home.

At Klinic our medical director had told me it was a pandemic long before I had left, we had been trying to balance preparation and not jumping to speculation for some time like the rest of our system and everyone else in the world. Coming home I was struck by our collective closeness, the bond of this common human frailty.

I have not written a blog since I returned. I had this one started, but in full honestly, in my head I have added seventeen other blogs to it, perhaps there will be a series someday- unfortunately those have yet to reach the keyboard. It was hard to know what to say last spring, and it was hard to find the space to say it.

I can imagine that 2020 has been many things to many people. It has been a heart wrenching global pandemic that has touched all of us, highlighting not only our human vulnerability, but yet again how the inequities in our world ensure that the impact is also inequitably felt. It has been a time of grief and isolation for many, whether loss of loved ones, relationships, supports, routines, or simply a world that we knew.

There has been opportunity for the rise of voices and movements calling out the inequities, such as Black Lives Matter. For me, and I imagine many others, this also created a critical time of reflection about how and when we use our voice, and I imagine this will be an important and ongoing conversation at Klinic.

In March when I returned from Victoria, the Klinic Board of Directors requested that I take a leave from my SERC role in order to focus on the pandemic, and ensuring that our joint move happened safely and successfully. I am very pleased and relieved to say that move is now complete. During that time the Klinic Board of Directors came to the decision that they need a full time Executive Director in the role permanently and put forward that request, and I have now assumed this role. I hope this will allow both our organizations to move forward together more strongly.

Though like any major change there are still many details to work through and areas that still need some focus, the reality is we were able to move all three organizations (Klinic, SERC, and the Occupational Health Centre) with over 200 employees and volunteers, to our new site in the middle of a global pandemic, with limited disruptions to care. This was an incredibly challenging time and I am very grateful to everyone who was working right through it. I am also aware that this, along with imagining our new organizational life with COVID, has become the focus of all our attention for some time now, and most of mine.

I am writing this blog on the eve of Klinic’s first ever virtual AGM. I am feeling a little sad. Normally there is hoopla. Normally there is food and celebration of the years people have dedicated to Klinic, and I know that this will be different. I am sad there will be no ribbon cutting or grand tour of our new site as we had hoped for when we opened this fall.

However, I am also feeling hopeful. I believe we have reason to be hopeful. Over the last few weeks we have had our first virtual staff forums, COVID has helped us expand and expedite the implementation of our new technologies. As we continue to discover the breadth of this technology, we will learn and benefit from new ways to come together as we have not before. We hope this will allow us to serve more people, in more places, with increased accessibility.

We also now have a remarkable new opportunity to connect and engage more widely with our communities to talk about how we bring in new voices and ensure that we are reflecting our diverse communities of service, which we hope to do as we roll out our new community engagement plan.

I would like to end with a final thing that has been on my mind, a lesson I am trying to learn, if you will. Today that is reflected in the words of the great, and recently lost to this world, Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”