Making Waves: Executive Director at Aberdeen Health Foundation says community collaboration is key to equitable health care

Michelle Ferris, Executive Director at Aberdeen Health Foundation
Michelle Ferris, Executive Director at Aberdeen Health Foundation

Every day, individuals and teams of staff, physicians, researchers and volunteers strive to deliver high quality care and services in all areas of our province. The Making Waves Awards program recognizes individuals and groups who have made outstanding contributions to the health and well-being of Nova Scotians.The Making Waves Awards are designed to recognize exemplary efforts and contributions by employees, physicians, researchers and volunteers who advance our vision, mission, values and strategic directions.

The Outstanding Community Partner Volunteer Award recognizes a Foundation or Auxiliary member that has shown exceptional commitment and values-based leadership, or advanced health services.

Q&A with Michelle Ferris

Tell us a bit about yourself; what you do, where you are located, and your favourite part about it.
“I'm located at the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow and I work to support initiatives that enhance health care programming and health care delivery in my community.

The Foundation has been around for more than 35 years. We began like most hospital foundations, supporting needs of the hospital, like equipment. That’s changed over time, and now we’re also invested in keeping our broader community healthy through initiatives that promote health and prevent illness. We do this by working very closely with our many wonderful community partners. The best part of my job is collaborating with individuals and organizations who are passionate, creative, innovative and extremely dedicated to ensuring the people of this community receive equitable health care within our hospital but also through local programs and initiatives as well. It’s very inspiring.”

How do you feel your work contributes to the health and wellbeing of Nova Scotians? Why is it important?
“I’m proud to be a health care champion and ambassador. I do my very best to put health care at the centre of what I do and the relationships I have within the community. That means going beyond the walls of Nova Scotia Health and advocating that things like government work, local policy and even local economic decisions include a perspective that have the health and wellbeing of our people and community in mind. If we do that, we’ll have better outcomes across all sectors.

I’m passionate about trying to break down existing silos, helping people recognize that health is everyone’s mission and helping decision makers and organizations make more positive impacts within their work for the wider community.”

What does it mean to you to receive the Outstanding Community Partner Volunteer Award?
“It means a lot. Just the fact that it says ‘community partner’ right in the title - it’s obviously something I'm very passionate about. You certainly don't do the work for recognition, but when you receive a recognition like this, it feels like maybe some of the things you care deeply about, have made a little bit of a difference, or meant something to the people you’ve been trying to make an impact for.”

As this year’s recipient of Outstanding Community Partner Volunteer Award, how do you hope to inspire others who are working to make a difference in the lives of Nova Scotians each day?
“I don't think of myself as inspiring others. I am inspired every day by the people who choose to show up and do this work. It has been a very challenging few years and to see people remain positive and passionate about making things better for the people they serve and work with, is inspiring.”

Congratulations to Michelle Ferris on receiving this year’s Making Waves: Outstanding Community Partner Volunteer Award. Many groups and organizations have benefited from Michelle’s willingness to collaborate and engage in mutual learning. She personifies the Nova Scotia Health values of respect, integrity and innovation in her engagement with community-based organizations and coalitions. Her approach to working across communities and sectors to find creative ways to increase access to opportunities for health and wellness has made her a well-deserving recipient of this year’s award.