Every good team needs a leader. That's the case in hockey, but it's also the case when it comes to public health. With the COVID-19 pandemic serving as a formidable opponent over the last year, the Prairie Mountain Health Region has been able to rely upon the steady advice and leadership of Medical Officer of Health Dr. Amy Frykoda.
From the very start of the pandemic, Dr. Frykoda has been at the centre of the health region's response, offering public health advice and guidance both regionally and as part of the provincial public health team. Just as a leader on a hockey team works to ensure everyone plays as a unit, Dr. Frykoda has worked with staff, health care facilities, and communities across the region to share information and keep everyone on the same page.
Working with so many teams has of course made for some long days at the office.
"I am often at my office early and begin the day with early meetings, followed by daily case rounds with the regional public health team, and then numerous meetings, phone calls, and emails throughout the day responding to regional COVID-19 issues and assisting various teams and individuals," said Dr. Frykoda. "As part of the Provincial Medical Officer of Health team, we also all rotate providing on-call coverage in the evenings and weekends for the entire province."
Even when hearing Dr. Frykoda talk about her role during the pandemic, the concept of team is paramount.
"Teamwork is critical. Listening to members of the team, colleagues, community leaders and the community has been important to hear what the needs are and work to put these things into action. This is critical to help co-create solutions," Dr. Frykoda noted on one lesson she's taken away from her experience with the pandemic.
She's been especially proud of the cohesiveness of leadership and staff working across Prairie Mountain Health (PMH).
"Prairie Mountain Health has truly come together as a team to plan, prepare and respond - everyone's role is valued, people have done what's required even if it's outside of their normal work, and the team has made personal and professional sacrifices to support each other, the patients, clients, residents, families and the community."
That type of cooperation and commitment has been integral in the fight against COVID-19, especially when you consider the long list of groups Dr. Frykoda meets with on a regular basis. That list includes the PMH public health team and public health inspectors, with whom she reviews cases, contacts, support plans, public education and more. She has also aided with the testing sites in her region - directing testing parameters and reviewing situations when re-testing is recommended. Add to that her work with the Brandon Regional Health Centre COVID Hospitalist team and other PMH physicians, giving them provincial and regional updates, and addressing any of their concerns.
Working with government and communities has been essential as well, as she's worked with MPs, MLAs, and municipalities to collaborate their response to various outbreaks of COVID-19 cases and work together on targeted communications to Brandon and Westman citizens on public health recommendations and orders. Embracing her leadership role, Dr. Frykoda has even been the face of COVID-19 video messages broadcast regionally to provide relevant information to Manitobans.
Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest, for one, has been thankful for Dr. Frykoda's compassionate and steady leadership over the past year.
"I've had the distinct privilege of working with Dr. Frykoda throughout this pandemic response. While we regularly see a small handful of public health leaders as the face of managing COVID, we should all feel better knowing there are a great many unsung heroes battling tirelessly against this pandemic," said Chrest. "Dr. Amy Frykoda is such a hero in our Prairie Mountain Health Region that Brandon is part of. She has been an excellent collaborator, providing calm but firm expertise and professional guidance. We are grateful for her steady medical leadership as we all continue to do our part towards an eventual shutout of this virus."
The list doesn't end there. Dr. Frykoda has had regular meetings with the education sector, from school division superintendents to university leadership, offering a line of communication to regional public health and providing support on any issues.
In the new year, with the arrival of vaccines, part of her attention has shifted to supporting immunization, including offering support to vaccine supersite coordinators in Brandon.
The level of effort and dedication that Dr. Frykoda and her colleagues across Prairie Mountain Health and around the province have devoted to COVID-19 over the past year has been enormous, with many challenges along the way. Through it all, Dr. Frykoda has considered it a great privilege and honour to serve her community.
"I have such gratitude to be part of a team providing care and support for the population of the Prairie Mountain Health Region," said Dr. Frykoda. "It has created intense workloads and rapidly changing environments where we have needed to be nimble and responsive to change that is unanticipated. Throughout it all, though, it has been important to maintain a respect for everyone and work with kindness and compassion - blame and stigma have no place in a pandemic. From the staff at all areas within the health system, to the teams I've worked with, to the cases who unfortunately contracted the virus and the contacts that are now required to isolate, and those who have struggled with pandemic fatigue - we really are in this together."
Thank you Dr. Frykoda for your tireless efforts and for your dedication to the health of our community.