Alumni Spotlight: Jennifer Lee
Meet MPC alumna Jennifer, Manager of Proposal Development at William Osler Health System.
In your current role as Manager of Proposal Development at William Osler Health System, you’ve orchestrated important work in the mental health space. Can you tell us a bit about your work?
I work with the health system’s senior leadership and clinicians (doctors, nurses, therapists) to develop proposals that either create new programs or support existing programs and resources for the hospitals of William Osler Health System. These programs and resources “bridge the gap” to provide better patient care for the hospitals, which include Brampton Civic Hospital, Etobicoke General Hospital and Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness.
I am currently working with a large corporation on a mental health project that will decrease stigma and increase access to mental health therapy and resources for youth and adults. It’s exciting and rewarding, especially when the proposal goes through and you see the impact that it has made on the hospitals and the patient community.
You manage the RBC Better Mental Health Award, what is that and how does it help to shape the progression of mental health initiatives in Canada?
The RBC Better Mental Health Award is available to staff of William Osler Health System who require funding to launch an innovative mental health project that benefits youth and young adults between the ages of 15 to 29 years of age.
We chose to have this award focused on that particular age group because it can be a very vulnerable time for individuals with mental health issues, whether they are transitioning from high school to college or university, or finding a new job. RBC invests in positive social impact and one of their philanthropic buckets is to support youth mental health, so it was a perfect match.
I believe it’s so important to help youth and their families get the right resources and support right from the start so we don’t lose anyone due to cracks in the system or if their mental health issue increases over the years and they need more intense treatment and medications.
What drew you towards the field of health communication initially?
I volunteered in a hospital throughout my high school years and grew up surrounded by family and friends who are doctors, nurses, researchers and health care practitioners. I’ve always felt comfortable in a hospital setting.
I started out at UHN interviewing patients and writing patient stories and also interviewing doctors and researchers. It’s the stories that really moved me and pulled me toward program development – finding ways to work with donors and corporations to uplift our hospital programs that will eventually help the patients in our community get better care. It’s almost like fitting puzzle pieces together but in a creative manner, where I can control how they might fit.
How important is good communication around the topic of mental health?
It is very important. There is so much “noise” in our lives today that just being able to slow down, listen, and show that you care about someone is so very important.
As communicators we ourselves can face mental health challenges, especially when we’re always expected to put on a good face for the companies we work for. What advice do you have for communication professionals to take care of their mental health?
This is a good question as I think as communicators, we struggle with being on the job around the clock. Even when I’m at home, I tend to check my phone for any emergencies. I have two kids, so for me, I often don’t bring my phone when I go out with my family so that I have that quality time with my husband and kids.
As communicators, we often juggle various tasks from media relations to event planning to writing blogs and speeches to facilitating meetings. These all challenge us creatively and mentally! When it’s possible, I think it’s important to take a little “me” time, decompress and give yourselves a pat on the back for juggling so much!
Favourite breakfast/brunch food? Pizza, pizza and pizza. I can have it any time of the day.
What are you reading right now? The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew
What’s one New Year’s Resolution you have for 2019? I had a few side projects on the go and have been talking about getting to them. I think the new year is a good reason for me to get my butt in gear.