Becoming an entrepreneur with a career in international healthcare consulting may not have been the obvious choice for a farm kid who grew up chasing cattle across the prairies, but a stormy night and a cattle round-up gone wrong set Kathryn York on her path to a lifelong career in healthcare.
She was six years old when her father’s horse took a bad fall on a slippery hillside, pinning him and crushing his pelvis. For the nights that turned to weeks and months, Kathryn witnessed firsthand the work of Dr. Fred Wigmore and the many talented staff of the Moose Jaw Union Hospital (MJUH) work to save her dad’s life and eventually return him to the ranching life he loved. She appreciated their warmth, kindness, and dedication, and she was enthralled by the hospital’s efficiency and inner workings.
Fast forward seventeen years to 1992. With degrees in hand, her timing could not have been worse for starting out on a traditional healthcare management career-path. Saskatchewan’s 400 plus facility boards were suddenly being consolidated down into 32 Health Districts, and as provincial layoffs mounted, the likelihood of an over-educated, under-experienced fresh grad landing meaningful employment were slim. She then turned to her two closest and wisest mentors who were no help at all… or so she thought. Both strongly advised that she put her MBA to work by founding a consulting firm and providing professional services to the new Health Districts. “Note to emerging health leaders – listen to your mentors!” she says. RPA Resource Planning Alliance was founded in 1993 and CCIG: Collaborative Change & Innovation Group in 2013, fostering a 25+ year consulting career spanning the continuum of care across Canada and eventually to Hong Kong, Japan, Macau and Singapore.
Kathryn’s training began at the University of Saskatchewan where she completed B. Comm. (HCAdmin Hons) and an MBA (Thesis: Recruiting Physician Specialists to Secondary Referral Centres). The programme incorporated hands-on postings in Moose Jaw to complete a joint healthcare residency between the Sisters of Providence at Saint Anthony’s Long Term Care Home (Providence Place) and the Moose Jaw Union Hospital (Dr. FH Wigmore Regional Hospital). These included everything from working with senior management to tackle budget cuts, to scrubbing in for tableside views of surgeons at work in the MJUH. She says this later experience confirmed she did not have the stomach for first line care, sealing her career path to the administrative side of the calling.
Kathryn joined the College in 1993, first serving as Secretary to the Assiniboine Chapter (SK). For the past 8 years, she has volunteered on the Northern Alberta Chapter Board where she has held Committee Chair, Secretary, Vice-President, Chair and presently Past-Chair positions. In addition, she has Co-Chaired the Chapter Advisory Council, was active in several national committees and is currently serving on the Canada West Planning and National Awards Advisory Committee. Kathryn received the Distinguished Service Award from the CCHL Chapter of Northern Alberta in 2021 for her persistent service to the CCHL Chapter.
She points out that the annual highlights in the College agenda are certainly the regional and national CCHL conferences. “These are unquestionably not-to-be-missed opportunities. The calibre of speakers is top notch, and the knowledge gained outstanding, while the after-hours socialising and camaraderie with colleagues from near and far are by themselves worth the price of admission in building lifelong relationships. In healthcare, it is important to care for others, but we must always set time aside to care for ourselves. I have found CCHL conferences to be professionally inspiring and restorative – good fun for the mind and soul.”
She strongly encourages every professional at some point become actively involved with their local chapter. Chapters offer opportunities to connect with and build lasting friendships with Canada’s finest healthcare leaders, and they provide multiple forums for the discussion and support of our most pressing front-line issues. “While working closely with the College, Chapters provide opportunities for continuing education, mentoring, networking, professional development, board and/or committee experience at both the local and national levels. If you have not yet been involved, there is no better time than the present. Spring is Chapter AGM time, and your contribution will be welcomed by the local chapter and rewarding to you” she adds.
Leadership for Kathryn has always meant working collaboratively with others to overcome obstacles and reach goals. Over the years, she has researched and consulted extensively with healthcare, government, and non-profit organizations, evolving a deep and nuanced understanding of how to encourage collaborative change and innovation, while delivering complicated change initiatives in complex, dynamic environments. She says, “The greatest satisfaction comes from working directly with senior management and staff to push the boundaries, challenge the status quo and incorporate innovative learnings to advance the opportunities for improved client-centered care.”