What are you studying and/or what are your professional ambitions?
I recently started my university degree at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, doing a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, as well as a double minor in Social Innovation and Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
As well as being a student, I am currently a member of the Design Lab within the Alberta Health Services, helping to ensure the user voice/perspective is present and that health care and the system works for the users—using design-thinking principles! I do this by helping co-facilitate workshops, doing public speaking engagements, and sharing my dream of what health care should look and feel like. I would call myself a rebel—questioning the status quo, wanting exceptional patient experiences, and pushing the health care system to think ‘patient first’ not ‘provider/bureaucracy first’.
My professional and personal interest and goal is that health care doesn’t become structured for every patient, instead that every patient has a health care system that is structured around their needs and wants. And that patients are seen and valued as the most important stakeholder in all health care interactions, and that patient advisors are used more effectively than just a committee-style approach. I also hope that patients don’t accept the system—that they ask ‘why’ and ‘why not’ and always question the status quo.
What are your passions, interests, and hobbies?
Beyond being a student and working, I enjoy traveling. I’ve been to Europe, Brazil and have traveled within Canada, to name a few. I also enjoy photography, especially taking pictures of nature and action shots. I consider myself to be a thrill seeker—doing activities such as skydiving, bungee jumping, and hand gliding. I also enjoy skiing, doing tandem biking with friends and finding the next great coffee shop!! Lattes, dogs and sleep are some of my life essentials!
Can you tell us about your experience with brain-based developmental disabilities?
I was a very happy kid—gifted naturally in sports—hoping and working to represent Canada on the Olympic stage in either skiing or ice hockey. But on August 17, 2002, at the age of six, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. That night I suffered a massive stroke. When doctors realized what happened, they told my parents not to hope for much. That if I did survive the next 24 hours—which would be a miracle in and of itself—I would be dependent on others for the rest of my life; never walking, talking, communicating, swallowing, chewing, and never functioning in an academic setting. And if that wasn’t enough, doctors also found two more blood clots in my heart that needed imminent attention, so I was airlifted from Calgary to Edmonton and also underwent open heart surgery to remove these potentially fatal clots.
Now, almost 16 years later, the consequences of my medical scare include:
Being conscientious of the foods that I eat
Having about 10% sensation on my right side
Having no fine motor skills in my right arm
Having limited balance
Being a bit quiet—I like observing more than speaking
Being a bit slower to understand academic material
And my social skills are a bit impacted.
What are your hopes for the National Youth Advisory Panel?
I hope that the National Youth Advisory Panel can help shift research to become ‘best practice’ and then improve health care for those who need the services. I also hope that we can show that youth can impact the health care system and can influence the way research is done and carried out—that this model of engaging and involving youth is a benchmark for those wishing to do the same in other sectors.