Young professionals are often referred to as the leaders of tomorrow, but here at WCH Foundation, we like to call them the leaders of today – because that’s exactly what they are.
WCH Foundation’s neWCHapter group is a committee of young professionals dedicated to raising awareness and funds for Women’s College Hospital, and they are having a tremendous impact through grassroots initiatives that grow with every passing year.
In honour of International Women’s Day and its 2017 theme be bold for change, we’re proud to share this exclusive Q&A with three neWCHapter leaders – Carly Martin, Dawn Levine and Lindsay Brand – to learn more about how the committee is helping to create change by transforming healthcare for women.
WCHF: Why did you first decide to get involved with neWCHapter? What resonated with you about the work of Women’s College Hospital?
I first learned about Women’s College Hospital through colleagues at work who had been involved with the organization. The more I learned about the research being done there, the more I realized how incredibly important it is for the future of women’s healthcare. I reached out to my colleague who was involved with the hospital and that led me to neWCHapter.
I first got involved while I was on maternity leave. I had developed an interest in the hospital through the personal care I had received there – the WCH family health team took care of me through both of my pregnancies and they were amazing.
I’ve always said that it’s not enough to just be a fan of something; if you’re a fan of something and you really mean it, you need to put your actions where your feelings are. My mother-in-law has volunteered with WCH for long time and she introduced me to the Foundation.
I was also introduced through work – I work for Dream, which has a partnership with WCH Foundation. I was really drawn to the fact that Women’s College Hospital is focused on advancing healthcare through technology, with an emphasis on making care more convenient. I liked that WCH had a different approach to healthcare that was unlike anything I’d ever heard about before.
WCHF: Why do you think WCH’s mission is particularly relevant for younger women?
When I talk to my friends about neWCHapter and why they should come to an event or get involved, I find that they are really interested in the work taking place here to create an equal playing field for healthcare. It really resonates with them. It’s also an awareness issue: many young women don’t realize that such significant gaps exist in healthcare for women. When they do learn about the issues, like the need for women-focused cardiac care because more women are now dying from heart attacks than men, they realize the need to be part of the solution.
As a woman with young children, I’ve found that the changes WCH is creating for healthcare through the lens of women’s needs are extremely impactful. I experienced post-partum depression after my first child was born and received incredible support from the mental health team at WCH. Not only was the care focused on my unique needs, but the fact that on-site child care was available through Stella’s Playroom made a world of difference. It’s amazing to see real changes happening, led by WCH, that are addressing the needs and concerns of women.
Our generation is much more open to talking about issues affecting women than in previous generations – for example, speaking honestly about body image issues or post-partum depression. So I think women of our age are naturally drawn to WCH and the work they’re doing to address some of the greatest challenges facing women’s healthcare today. I also think there’s an appreciation for the fact that we’ll be beneficiaries of this important work for the rest of our lives. Also, the way that WCH combines healthcare with technology to improve systems is more in tune with younger generations.
WCHF: neWCHapter is currently raising funds for the Virtual Mental Health Program at WCH, which is an innovative program that creates access to mental health services for women from anywhere through the use of mobile technology. Why did this particular program strike a chord with the group?
A big part of our decision to support the Virtual Mental Health Program is the age and stage that our committee is at. We knew it would be of interest to the group because it’s so innovative. We’ve also had the good fortune of getting to work with Dr. Valerie Taylor, WCH’s chief psychiatrist, over the years so we felt a strong connection to WCH’s expertise in the area of women’s mental health and really wanted to help advance the team’s priorities.
Women juggle a lot of things – work, caregiving, family responsibilities and taking care of ourselves too – and we realized what an impact this program could have on their ability to access care. Our pledge of $20,000 will help up to 40 women just like us. So knowing that we could support them in this way was a very easy decision to make.
WCHF: Can you share a highlight of neWCHapter’s recent successes?
A great example is our Women Paying It Forward event, an annual breakfast event that invites members and their networks in to hear from WCH experts. We had our first Women Paying It Forward event in 2014, and we had just enough people to fill a boardroom table. This past January, our third event saw 175 guests fill an auditorium and it raised nearly $10,000! That kind of exponential growth just really demonstrates the great direction we’re heading in and the impact we’re creating.
WCHF: That’s so inspiring. What are your goals for neWCHapter’s continued growth?
We’ve made some big strides over the past couple of years, including introducing our funding commitment of $20,000 in support of the Virtual Mental Health Program and ensuring all of our members contribute personally as well. Going forward, we have a commitment to grow our membership, to secure more corporate sponsorships and partnerships and to keep engaging more and more women in this important cause.
WCHF: What do you look for in new members?
We’re always looking for people with a wide variety of backgrounds, who are committed to raising awareness and helping us grow neWCHapter’s impact. If anyone reading this is interested in getting involved, please visit www.wcnewchapter.ca
to learn more and find contact information!
WCHF: Finally, what advice would you have for other young women hoping to make a difference in their communities?
Embrace sporadic or random opportunities. Before neWCHapter, I had only really gotten involved in charity work through events, but never in this capacity. And I am really happy that I took the opportunity to explore it, because not only do I have an opportunity to give back, but I’ve met a whole group of awesome women. There’s so much to learn from them – both when it comes to neWCHapter and in the way they approach life. For me it’s about community support but it’s also about the things you learn from people along the way, expanding your network and seeing where it takes you.
One of my mentors once said, “Those who show up make the decisions.” I really started taking that to heart because I feel that sometimes, as women, we’re prone to imposter syndrome – we can feel like we’re not good enough. We’ll tell ourselves, “I don’t have the qualifications. I don’t have the experience, I don’t know anything about healthcare. I don’t know anything about leadership or being on a board.” And it just isn’t true. Because every single person in neWCHapter showed up and lent their time with heart, and it’s making a difference. So I think that just by taking those chances to be part of it, you’ll discover that you are more than welcome and more than meant to be there.
Ultimately, find something that fits you – something that you want to spend your time doing. Put yourself in a position where you’re a little bit uncomfortable and open yourself up to opportunities to grow and learn.
Thank you so much for chatting with us, Carly, Dawn and Lindsay!
For more information about neWCHapter and how to get involved, visit www.wcnewchapter.ca or call Kat Biondi at WCH Foundation at 416-323-6323 ext. 2339.