Though her commute to work on Monday was comparable to when she was living in Southern Ontario, Dr. Kit Young-Hoon is pleased that generally she will only be travelling about 10 minutes to her new position as the Medical Officer of Health for the Northwestern Health Unit (NHU).
Having began her post on April 1 based in Kenora, Dr. Young-Hoon made the more than two-hour commute to Fort Frances on Monday to visit the office and meet the staff.
“Everyone’s really friendly,” she expressed. “The staff are very dedicated. They are keen on bringing me up to speed with everything and involving me in the work.
“They seemed to have accomplished a fair bit considering the organization itself is one of the smaller health units in the province,” added Dr. Young-Hoon.
Dr. Young-Hoon replaces Dr. James Arthurs, who retired March 31 after holding the position since 2009.
“We are so pleased to welcome Dr. Young-Hoon as our new Medical Officer of Health,” said board chair Julie Roy in a recent press release.
“Her enthusiasm for public health and interest in the health status of people in our area have us very excited for the future,” she added.
“Kit is familiar with our strategic plan and knows what the health unit is trying to accomplish in the next few years,” echoed health unit CEO Mark Perrault.
“We have set some tough but achievable goals for the future, and she brings a wealth of knowledge that can help our programs to meet them,” he added.
Dr. Young-Hoon is a public health and preventive medicine specialist certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
She trained at McMaster University in Hamilton, with qualifications including a Master of Science from McMaster University and a Master of Public Health from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay.
Dr. Young-Hoon has worked for public health units in Hamilton, Toronto, and Niagara Region and has practised clinically in Ontario, the United Kingdom, and the Caribbean.
“This is what I trained to do,” she noted about her professional reasons for applying for the position. “I had just gone through and completed a five-year residency program, which is what you do after medical school, in public health and preventive medicine.
“It’s what I like to do,” she added, citing she also liked the look of the Northwestern Health Unit organization.
“There are not too many levels of bureaucracy, which I think is something that attracted me to it,” said Dr. Young-Hoon. “And on entering residency, throughout my training, I did want to work in a smaller community and be part of that community—to feel like I was growing within a community and contributing to it in a meaningful way.
“Sometimes that is easier to do when it’s a smaller community. Having said that, Northwestern Health Unit does [cover] a very large geographical area and there are many stakeholders that we think about and consider,” she noted.
On a personal level, Dr. Young-Hoon indicated that her husband is from Northern Ontario.
“We had met here and decided that we wanted to return to a life that’s just a little less chaotic than southern Ontario,” she admitted.
She explained that in her role as Medical Officer of Health, she will provide medical advice, ensure the organization’s programing is effective and efficient, and offer leadership, along with Perrault.
“Engaging the community and making sure we have good connections with other community stakeholders and also with provincial and national organizations,” said Dr. Young-Hoon.
She indicated that public health has a wide scope and can be divided into different sections, including surveillance and population health assessment, health protection, health promotion, and disease and injury prevention.
“As a health unit, they have gone through a strategic planning process,” Dr. Young-Hoon noted, citing some of the key things they are looking at centres around chronic disease and reducing chronic disease.
“Chronic disease includes heart disease, strokes, cancers,” she explained. “So, improving the health behaviours that determine these chronic diseases. Things like healthy eating and physical activity are one of our major focuses right now and trying to see how we can move the community together, with our partners and other community members, to improve health behaviours and support individuals to make the right choir with respect to healthy eating and physical activity.”
She noted another focus of the health unit will be building partnerships and collaborating with other stakeholders.
“That’s an important thing for us to do because there’s no way we could achieve our goals as an organization alone,” she stressed, citing there are many stakeholders and organizations that we want to involve.
“There’s no limit on who that could be,” she said. “It could be school boards, municipalities, best starts, police, family physicians, the hospital groups. So there are many stakeholders we want to involve to help us move our goals forward and because there is often overlap with their goals, as well.”
One of the ways they are attempting to achieve this is by hosting the “Do One Thing” conference, which will run May 27-28 in Kenora.
“The whole purpose of that conference is to bring together stakeholders so we can build our relationships better and hopefully move forward in finding initiatives or commonalities, interests and goals, so that we can work together toward some of the goals around chronic disease, but also other goals around mental health, workplace health,” Dr. Young-Hoon expressed.
She added the “Do One Thing” conference is bringing in some keynote speakers who are well-known for their ability to engage the community and motivate the community.
For instance, Canadian comedian, television personality, and political satirist Rick Mercer is set to take the stage there.
“He can be a very funny individual and he will be talking about social community engagement,” Dr. Young-Hoon noted, citing the public is invited to that portion of the conference, with tickets no on sale by visiting www.doonethingconference.ca
Other speakers include social entrepreneur Mark Brand, Olympian Waneek Horn-Miller, artist and community catalyst Dave Meslin, and Mark Bowden, who is considered one of the world’s most foremost authorities on nonverbal communication.
“We are encouraging, and particularly hoping, we will get members of other organizations who might have a similar mandate or overlapping mandate,” Dr. Young-Hoon reasoned, citing stakeholders from across the region are invited, including from Fort Frances.
“This office is one of our major offices and it does offer the services we provide,” she voiced, citing it was her first visit to Fort Frances.
“Fort Frances looks like a very lovely community,” she expressed. “I was quite impressed with the downtown. It has a nice small town, relaxed, pleasant feel to it.”
She said she plans to stop by the local office once every month or two.