Connecting with Amr Elimam, the first Client Partner to join VHA’s Board of Directors
Amr Elimam has been a VHA Client Partner for nearly five years. In this role, he has made a remarkable impact as Co-Chair of VHA’s Client and Carer Advisory Council. Now, Amr is beginning an exciting new chapter with VHA as the first Client Partner to join the organization’s Board of Directors. We connected with Amr to learn more about his goals for the future in his new role and learn more about his passion and commitment to ensuring the voices of clients are heard and represented.
Could you tell us about how you first became involved with VHA as a Client Partner?
Amr: My sister was receiving care from VHA. An ongoing issue was causing me a great deal of frustration as her primary caregiver. I wanted to connect with the CEO at the time to share my family’s experience. I asked for a meeting, which happened later that day. At the end of our conversation, she suggested that I consider becoming a Client Partner. Being a Client Partner meant that I would have the opportunity to be involved in system-level conversations to share my perspectives and make a positive difference for clients and families across the organization.
What inspired you to work with VHA?
Amr: Frankly, having a meeting with the CEO on the same day I requested it impressed me. It showed me that VHA truly values the voices of its clients.
At the time, as a new caregiver I felt lonely and isolated. When I joined my first Client and Carer Advisory Council meeting, I discovered that there were others experiencing similar challenges as myself. These connections helped me a great deal. Very importantly, being able to deal with issues on a system-level and help make life better for people like my sister and I was a great outlet for me to channel my energy. I often struggle with caregiving but I felt energized and fulfilled by being a part of something that helped others.
Are there any highlights or initiatives you’ve been a part of during your time with VHA that stand out?
Amr: I think the biggest standouts have been the contributions of the Advisory Council during the pandemic. In the early days and months of COVID-19, there were many new challenges for VHA and the communities it serves. It became clear that there was an important active role for Client Partners to play in navigating these uncharted waters.
The Advisory Council geared up to provide ideas and find solutions. For example, we had many discussions about the communication needs to clients and families, especially when VHA was implementing its mandatory vaccination policy. All of VHA’s leaders engaged very well with the Advisory. They listened, put forward ideas and used the forum to launch important initiatives, like VHA’s COVID-19 Client and Family Town Halls. These were a reassuring method for caregivers and clients to hear updates directly from VHA leaders about the organization’s strategies to keep everyone as safe as possible during the pandemic. Looking back, I’m proud of how effectively VHA dealt with the crisis with the involvement of the Client and Carer Advisory Council and how we have continued to handle new situations.
What do you hope to achieve as a member of VHA’s Board?
Amr: My primary focus is on the care and overall experiences of clients. I’m excited by the prospect of finding solutions for some of healthcare’s current challenges. It is heartbreaking to know that many vulnerable people are not receiving the care and support they need. Issues such as the nation-wide health human resources shortage and the increased demand for services are affecting the entire healthcare system. I hope to help find creative ways to improve access to quality care.
In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed existing cracks in Ontario’s health system and supporting the province’s most vulnerable populations. We can’t let these issues become normalized or accept a future without safe, quality care whenever we need it. I think we all have a responsibility to help the system and restore it. I feel that my presence as a caregiver means that I have a responsibility towards people like my sister and I, and I need to continue to advocate on their behalf.