Meet Leda Jarvis: Rehab assistant and chair of the Dartmouth General Hospital African Descendant Affinity Group

Photo of Leda Jarvis, Rehabilitation Assistant and Chair of the Dartmouth General Hospital African Descendant Affinity Group
Photo of Leda Jarvis, Rehabilitation Assistant and Chair of the Dartmouth General Hospital African Descendant Affinity Group

“I've always been told by my mother that hard work pays off,” Leda Jarvis said with a smile.

Jarvis works as a rehab assistant, providing support to inpatient physiotherapists and occupational therapists at Dartmouth General Hospital. A deep love of helping people, especially those that sometimes have limited knowledge of how to help themselves, is what Jarvis finds so rewarding about her role.

Jarvis is also first chair of a newly formed Dartmouth General Hospital African Descendant Affinity Group. The group works to provide advocacy to its members by providing them information about mentorship, system navigation, anti-Black racism and the health of people of African descent.

Jarvis said that her health care aspirations came to be a passion when her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

“Her diagnosis instilled in me the importance of why each one of us plays an important role in helping one another,” explained Jarvis. “I also saw an opportunity in terms of gaps in the system, knowing there were very few people of my background working in the hospital.”

When it comes to her African heritage, Jarvis said she is most proud of how far her community has come from its history of discrimination, unequal rights and marginalization. However, she understands that there is a need for more work to be done in institutionalized systems, from health to education, to address racism.

“People of African descent continue to strive and work hard, even when the system proves to be challenging or limited. The patience and perseverance that is reflected in our work and our children and in our communities is what makes me most proud,” Jarvis said proudly.

However, being Black does unfortunately come with challenges, especially navigating systemic racism and cultural prejudice.

“There is this stigma that Black people somehow contribute less to society. So, you have that feeling within you that you must work 10 times harder to contribute to society or to us as a people.,’ You’re looked at as a strong individual, which makes me approach my work full force. However, this is not a label that I always like to be called, because I want to be looked upon as an individual that has a role and works hard at that role regardless of her skin colour,” said Jarvis.

As for sources of inspiration that Jarvis looks to within the Black community, she said her mother is at the top of the list.

“My mother has been a driving force behind why I work as hard as I do,” Jarvis stated proudly. “The admiration I have for her in terms of her love, kindness and hard-working spirit as a woman of African descent, is endless. Even when faced with adversities, she's managed to keep moving and working.”

Racism, including anti-Black racism, is a reality for anyone who is of African descent. Jarvis wants people to know that racism is real and it needs to be unmasked and talked about.

“Racism is something we go through every day. It's not something that should be swept under the rug or labeled as untrue. Whether in this institution or any other institution, every person of African descent has experienced it in some shape or form,” said Jarvis.

Jarvis also wants to issue a call-to-action to those who witness racism, to stand up and speak out.

“I want people to understand that we all need to combat anti-Black racism and reflect a zero-tolerance policy in our institutions, whether it is here at Nova Scotia Health or in any other institution. We all must lift our voices and verbalize that it's wrong,” Jarvis said.

Anti-racism training for employees at Nova Scotia Health is one area where Jarvis sees opportunities within the health system to improve the experience of people of African descent.

Taking allegations of workplace racism and intolerance seriously is something Jarvis said is extremely important and are situations that warrant full investigations at any employment level, including all levels of leadership.

Jarvis also wants people to understand that addressing racism and prejudices should not be left to people of colour to address.

“Combating racism is not just an issue for African descendants. We all should be working alongside each other to combat it. It's everybody's issue. It affects us of course, but it’s about creating allyship,” Jarvis said.