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September 30, 2019

Opinion: HQC’s learning journey − the most challenging and exciting focus of my role as interim CEO

Dr. Dennis Kendel
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Dr. Dennis Kendel stepped in as HQC’s interim CEO on May 17, 2018. In this post, Dr. Kendel reflects on the work that has taken place over the past sixteen months as  Tracey Sherin assumes her new role as HQC’s CEO on September 30, 2019. 

On Sept. 30, 2019 I will conclude my service as the interim HQC CEO that commenced on May 17, 2018. Over the past sixteen months I have been privileged to work with the amazing staff team at the HQC to implement the goals defined by the HQC Board.

Just eighteen days into my service in this role, the HQC Board established five exciting new focus areas for the HQC. Two of these focus areas challenged our management team to explore and implement new ways of working. We accepted that challenge and are making good progress on the change journey.

Recognizing that Better Health is at the very center of our health system’s Quadruple Aim, the Board determined that the HQC should focus more intensely on the social determinants of health (SDOH). The Board recognized that our capacity to influence the SDOH would require us to work collaboratively with stakeholders beyond the health care system. We are steadily growing our capacity to work collaboratively with Community Based Organizations and the Human Services Ministries.

The Board also noted that there remains an unacceptably large gap in the health status of First Nations and Métis people in Saskatchewan as compared with other citizens of our province.  It asked the HQC management team to find new ways of working with First Nations people to narrow that health status gap. This has proven to be the most challenging and exciting focus of my leadership role over the past sixteen months.

This has been a humbling learning journey for me personally and for our entire management team. I am grateful for the generous spirit of many First Nations and Métis people who are guiding and supporting us on this learning journey. I’d like to share a few observations about our journey to this date.

We recognized at the outset our need to develop respectful and trusting working relationships with some key First Nations and Métis leaders. We reached out to Gabe Lafond in his leadership role with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).  From my very first meeting with Gabe and throughout our journey to date, I have come to deeply appreciate his wisdom and his willingness to work collaboratively with us.  Along with his team members, Tania Lafontaine and André Letendre, Gabe is teaching us and opening doors for us to work in new ways with First Nations and Métis leaders.

To deepen and broaden our understanding of First Nations history and the current experience of First Nations people, our full leadership team attended the Wicihitowin Aboriginal Engagement Conference last fall. This fall we have become an organizational sponsor of the conference and a larger cohort of our staff will participate in this valuable engagement forum.

We are sponsoring the participation of our staff in a range of cultural awareness and cultural safety educational programs.   

I recognized at the outset that our capacity to work effectively with First Nations and Métis communities and leaders was compromised by the fact that we did not have a representative workforce. We had just one Métis employee, Heidi Abramyk. We have subsequently engaged two additional First Nations employees in key roles. Jeanine Lynxleg now serves as the lead of our First Nations and Métis focus work. Tanya Paul serves as the Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to the CEO and the Board. We will engage other well qualified First Nations and Métis staff as employment opportunities arise.

During our Board meeting on Oct. 1, elder Andre Letendre will lead our Board and senior staff in a Kairos Blanket Exercise. Each of these learning experiences is strengthening our capacity to work with First Nations and Métis people. Our relationships are growing stronger.

On Sept. 30, Tracey Sherin will commence her service as the HQC’s new CEO. During my work with her over the past sixteen months, I have come to appreciate Tracey as a very competent and committed leader. I know she will do well in this new role.

Dr. Dennis Kendel, Interim HQC CEO

To learn more about HQC’s strategic focus areas, click here.