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Noorjean Hassam earns YWCA Women of Distinction Award nomination

On International Women's Day, BC Centre for Disease Control's Chief Operating Officer Noorjean Hassam was nominated for the Reconciliation in Action Women of Distinction Award from the YWCA of Metro Vancouver.
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Noorjean Hassam, Chief Operating Officer for the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), has been nominated for the Reconciliation in Action Women of Distinction Award from the YWCA of Metro Vancouver. The award honours work to engage communities and build just and equitable communities.

As Chief Operating Officer, Noorjean is responsible for keeping BCCDC running day-to-day. She does this while being champion of equity and ethics in health. 

“When it comes to Reconciliation in Action, no one is more deserving of this distinction than Noorjean. Through action, Noorjean exemplifies what reconciliation is and this simple act(ion) inspires others to explore, understand and embrace their role in advancing reconciliation work throughout BCCDC,” said Jessica Chenery, team lead of the Chee Mamuk program at BCCDC, who nominated Noorjean for the award.

Chee Mamuk is a comprehensive, evidence-based, community-driven Indigenous health program that has been working in relationship with Indigenous communities for the past 30 years. Recently, Noorjean oversaw a restructuring at BCCDC to position Chee Mamuk to the Central Administration portfolio. 

“As a result of this move, Chee Mamuk representatives are now present at various leadership and decision-making tables to have voice resulting in positive impacts on many aspects of Indigenous’ peoples health,” said Jessica.

This is just one example of how Noorjean supports teams at the BCCDC, pushing her public health colleagues to improve their practice by focusing on equity and providing culturally safe care.

“Noorjean truly listens to the needs of those around her, but perhaps more important, to the social justice issues that affect the health of our communities,” said Katie Fenn, director of Quality, Safety and Accreditation at BCCDC. “She has always prioritized equity and ethics in health, and began leading work in reconciliation for Indigenous communities far before the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions’ Calls to Action.”

After the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Noorjean led the creation of the group to review and action the Calls to Action at BCCDC, and to normalize cultural safety and anti-racism into BCCDC’s work, at every level.

“Over time we hit a critical mass, and the passion of the people who shared these values at BCCDC took over,” said Noorjean. “The impacts have been widespread across BCCDC, into other parts of PHSA, and with organizations outside of PHSA. I am absolutely thrilled to see the fire that a spark can create and I am so grateful to and proud of the people at BCCDC that are fanning, nurturing and spreading this critical work.”

In this way, Noorjean ignites individuals and teams to consider their own accountability and role in creating inequity, and how to reduce inequities through their work. 

There may be no better example of this than the previous year. As BCCDC’s focus turned to the dual public health emergencies of the overdose crisis and COVID-19 in 2020, Noorjean stepped forward and advocated that racism was the third emergency that also needed attention. From Noorjean’s foresight, vision and leadership, a group of staff have committed to and are engaged in anti-racism work, and linking with like-minded people at BCCDC who have been working toward social justice in their areas of work – and the momentum is growing. 

“This nomination was deeply touching – it demonstrated to me that my peers recognize my commitment to social justice,” said Noorjean. “I know that I am a child on this life long journey of understanding truth, reconciling with Indigenous people, and advancing anti-racist work – and I am deeply thankful for my guides that walk, sometimes in front of me, sometimes alongside me, but always with me.”

The awards recipients will be announced at an event on June 7, 2021. Learn more about the Women of Distinction Awards.



 
 

 

 

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