Dr. JoAnn Leavey, pictured here with some IUBAT students, is a former volunteer faculty member at IUBAT’s school of nursing and was recently announced as a recipient of the prestigious Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award. The Caring Canadian Award acknowledges the efforts of unsung Canadian heroes who volunteer their time and efforts to help others. The award highlights the fine example set by these volunteers, whose compassion and engagement are seen to exemplify Canadian character.
To help celebrate this honour, we have invited Dr. Leavey to reflect upon her volunteer work, her involvement with the Bangladesh Health Project, and her many accomplishments along the way that have led to this remarkable accolade.
1) What was your initial role in Bangladesh and how did you feel like it helped with your career/personal growth?
My initial role was to teach in the Nursing College at IUBAT. I taught mental health nursing and co-taught medical/surgical nursing. I also taught the principals of public and environmental health and leadership and change management.
I really learned a great deal when working in Dhaka at IUBAT and beyond. Living and working in Bangladesh taught me more about international citizenry and global health matters, not only from a public and environmental health perspective, but the fact that each citizen on this planet matters in terms of health and welfare. It became so evident that each one of us contribute to the status of the other. It helped me gain insight and knowledge regarding international issues of health, poverty, building capacity and sustainability, the importance of local and international relations and relationships and how that impacts on global functioning on every level, and how each of us is responsible for public policy, leadership and change.
2) What is your current role with IUBAT?
Research Fellow and International Advisor for (OfP) Opportunities for Posterity, in Bangladesh.
3) Is there any other work besides Bangladesh that contributed to your success/being awarded this national honour?
Yes, I did volunteer camp counselling work in Moosonee, ON with the Cree First Nation community years ago in high school, and that set the stage for my passion to volunteer for social change, poverty, opportunities for those needing assistance and first responder work in disasters.
I worked in Hurricane Katrina with the American Red Cross for 28 days when it first struck, providing medical and mental health interventions. I volunteered for IUBAT in 2011 and I have subsequently volunteered once or twice a year on a medical team in Haiti (Perryville Rhode Island Medical Team). I have also volunteered as a Board President in BC at VTEA, providing equestrian (mobility and agility) training for those with physical/emotional/behavioural/neurological challenges and I am a Habitat volunteer member, a Canadian Mental Health Association of BC – Beyond the Blues national annual telephone counselling volunteer.
I do a lot of volunteer speaking events to help raise awareness for Breast Health and Cancer in London Ontario at Hot Talks and the Annual Breast Show in Town, and I am the Founder and President of Hometeam Foundation, which raises money for educational opportunities for disadvantaged youth aged 18-24, amongst some other projects.
I spend about 40-50% of my time on giving back to the community. I truly believe in global citizenship, global health safety, achievable public and environmental health safety through health promotion, prevention, and infectious disease management, positive social change through productive relationships and international friendship.
Congratulations on your amazing achievements, Dr. Leavey; your various humanitarian efforts have helped so many, and it is an honour to have your continued involvement with the Bangladesh Health Project. The recognition is very much well-deserved, and best of luck in the future with your many endeavours!