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Meet Lee Johnston, patient and family engagement advisor for the Slocan site

Lee Johnston is fiercely committed to bringing the needs of families and caregivers to the forefront of designing a new centre for children living with health complexity.
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​Lee joined the Slocan Site Redevelopment Project team in June 2022 as the patient and family engagement advisor. The project is focused on designing and delivering a new centre and set of services for children living with health complexity​ and their families and caregivers. The centre, to be located at Slocan Street and 21 Avenue in Vancouver, is slated to open in early 2028 and will be a program of BC Children’s Hospital.

Lee’s primary responsibility is to ensure that the voices of families and caregivers inform critical decisions about the new centre: from the physical building design and floor plans, the landscaping, the art and interior design, to the very services that will be provided at the site. Lee and the project team have been applying a human-centred design lens to the planning work, to co-design solutions with families. A group of 12 parents, caregivers, and former patients have been instrumental to this work, generously providing their expertise to the Slocan team for over two years.

We asked Lee to reflect on her role with the project over the past ten months.

What were yo​​​u doing before you ​​took on this role?

"I was (and still am) working as a part-time Research Associate at Simon Fraser University. I work alongside the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue on a variety of engagement projects related to health. Some​ of the highlights of this work include collaborating with the Public Health Agency of Canada to inform the development of a national diabetes framework, and developing a think tank on self-injurious behaviour – a project that deepened my understanding of health complexity and helped prepare me for my current role."

What are you mo​​​st pas​sionate about?

"I’m most passionate about centring family and patient voices in health systems decision-making. I also feel strongly about improving our systems when it comes to providing compassionate, trauma-informed care. There’s so much complexity in this project – in both the design of the program and the health issues facing these families. My background in systems thinking gives me access to principles and methods that can inform our practices. Some of these have to do specifically with building trust in systems. By serving thoughtfully as a bridge between families and the project team, I hope to build trust in our engagement process, and show how the input we receive from families is directly informing our decisions."

How does your lived experience info​​rm your work?

"As a parent who experienced a very difficult delivery and a stay in the NICU, I have some understanding of how an experience with health care can have both positive and negative effects on your well-being and ability to engage with the medical system. I want to contribute to care improvement for families struggling to access the services they need, and to be the best partner to patients and families that I can be."

What excites you about the roa​d ahead?

"The Slocan Site Redevelopment Project presents a really special opportunity to engage families and patients in a meaningful way from start to finish. I’m excited about exploring different ways for our advisors to get involved, and to broaden our reach to include a wider diversity of experiences. I’m always inspired by the drive that families have to help make health care better not just for themselves, but for other families who share similar experiences. Their knowledge and wisdom will benefit all aspects of this project and I’m honoured to assist with its transfer."

How do you unwind outside of w​​ork?

"My preferred way to unwind is by watching one of my favourite television programs – or one of my daughter’s favourites if we’re having a family viewing night! I also value socializing with a group of friends in a pub, usually with sports on in the background. I play team sports like floor hockey when I can find the time and really enjoy visiting art galleries. In the summer, getting out into the ocean or a lake is my most restorative activity. I love being in open water."

The Slocan Site Redevelopment Project ​is currently seeking new family/caregiver partners to join our advisory group. If you’d like to get involved, please connect directly with Lee.

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