Provincial award lauds freedom given healthcare staff to pursue military training, deployment
Story by Gregory Kennedy
Alberta Health Services (AHS) has received a crisp salute — a provincial award from the Canadian Armed Forces — for its commitment to reservists, the military personnel who work for AHS as well as serve Canada at home and abroad.
The Honourable Lois E. Mitchell, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, presented the Canadian Forces Liaison Committee (CFLC) Employer Support Award to Todd Gilchrist, Vice President of People, Legal, and Privacy for AHS, at a luncheon at Government House in Edmonton in February.
“I’m very proud of the dedication and accomplishments of our reservists both here at Alberta Health Services and for their service to our nation overseas,” says Verna Yiu, AHS President and CEO. “I also believe we benefit right here Alberta from the operational and management skills they learn from the military.”
About 100 AHS staff in the Reserve Force enjoy the flexibility of AHS, which gives them time off for courses, field exercises and overseas deployments to grow their careers and military expertise.
One such soldier is Major Drew Beauchamp of The Calgary Highlanders infantry unit, who also serves AHS as Human Resources Senior Advisor with HR Business Partnerships, part of the People, Legal and Privacy team.
“I feel incredibly fortunate to have an employer like Alberta Health Services that’s not only dedicated to our patients, but also to our members of the Canadian Forces,” says Beauchamp, who joined the Reserve Force in 2000 as a university student. “It means a lot to me to be able to pursue this interest.”
“As an army officer, we have opportunities to attend leadership and professional development training opportunities. A lot of the planning and communications that are required on the battlefield is directly transferable into any business atmosphere, including Alberta Health Services.”
Gary Agnew, National Director of Communications for CFLC, praises AHS’ progressive approach to reservists.
“Maintaining a balance between civilian and military life is complicated,” says Agnew. “A reservist’s relationship with his or her employee is central to transitioning into, and out of, civilian life. AHS has demonstrated extraordinary and consistent support for both the educational and operational needs of our reservists within its employment.”
Current Reserve Force members have seen action in Afghanistan, the Golan Heights, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Egypt, along with peacetime training exercises around the globe. On the home front, reservists have also stepped up during states of local emergency, such as the Southern Alberta Flood of 2013.
For more than a century, AHS and previous provincial health authorities have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with the Canadian military that dates to 1914 and the Strathcona Military Hospital during the First World War.
In 2015, AHS also received a CFLC award for its commitment to Alberta’s only reserve medical unit, 15 Field Ambulance.
The CFLC is an organization of military personnel plus civilian business and educational leaders who volunteer their time to serve as a link between the Reserve Force and the business and educational community.
The AHS-affiliated reservists who nominated AHS for the award are Beauchamp and his fellow HR Senior Advisors Lee Watson, Rob Caswell and Kris Van Apeldoorn.
Beauchamp, a father of two young children, keeps up his reservist commitment by spending an evening weekly and two weekends monthly to lead exercises that ready other soldiers for overseas deployment, such as the mission to train soldiers in Ukraine.
“One thing you learn in the army is that you’re part of a bigger team, just like at Alberta Health Services, where we’re all doing our best to support the patient.”