A passion for strong leadership and an inclusive culture
Keisha Jack is a clinical manager on the stroke rehabilitation unit at Hamilton Health Sciences’ (HHS) Hamilton General Hospital. She says that as a Black woman and a Black leader, it’s important to her that her team feels respected and heard. “I’m a people-first leader, so I put a lot of energy and passion into my team,” says Jack. “I have a very diverse group of staff members and I want to ensure they feel valued and their contributions are consistently recognized.”
Learning about Black History Month in Canada
Jack immigrated to Canada from Trinidad and Tobago in her mid-teens and says that Black History Month wasn’t something she learned about until later in life in Canada. “We didn’t celebrate it in Trinidad and Tobago. It was something foreign to me as I integrated into Canadian society,” says Jack. “And even when I attended high school here, I didn’t have the opportunity to learn about Black history.”
“But as I experienced Canadian society throughout my life, I’ve had these a-ha moments that help me appreciate why we celebrate Black History Month here and my appreciation for it has evolved.”
“It’s important we recognize Black culture as multi-faceted. There are Canadian-born Black individuals, Caribbean-born, African-born. We all need to join together to share in our Black pride and Black Excellence.”
One of those a-ha moments was recognizing the accomplishments of Lincoln Alexander, the first Black member of the House of Commons and the first Black Lieutenant Governor of Ontario – and the cousin of Jack’s grandfather. “I have a lot of role models and he is one for me,” says Jack. “I had the opportunity to meet him in my early 20s. Learning about him and from him has been really humbling.”
“As a leader myself, I look up to him and appreciate the challenges and barriers he faced and how he overcame them. They shaped him as a person and his experience is what guides me.”
Supporting workforce feedback
Every year, HHS staff and physicians are invited to participate in an engagement survey, called My Voice Matters, to help the organization collect staff and physician feedback on its performance as an organization. Members of the HHS workforce were asked to participate as faces of the marketing campaign to help encourage their colleagues’ participation, and several staff across varying roles volunteered. Jack was one of them.
“I’m a strong supporter of My Voice Matters because it’s a way for HHS to hear directly from its workforce,” says Jack. “We have many employees that identify as Black and other minority groups. It’s important for staff to see someone who represents them, to encourage their participation, and it’s important for us as an organization to advance our efforts on inclusion.”
Jack also recognizes the challenges the health-care industry is facing when it comes to health human resources. “We strive for a great reputation as an organization, we value our employees, we care about them, and listen to their concerns.
“It’s important for us to assess how we’re doing – our people is one of our pillars as an organization. Hearing from staff through this survey helps us to implement strategies to support them, keep them engaged and feel valued.”
A passion for leadership
Being physically and psychologically resilient is important to Jack, especially as a leader who strives to have a highly-engaged team. She relies on her hobbies, such as travel, yoga, hiking, jogging and dancing, to stay engaged both as an individual and as a team leader.
“It helps with my mental well-being,” says Jack. “I am passionate about leadership and becoming the best leader I can, for myself and my team.”
“Black History Month is about who we are as a culture, as a people, and our contribution to society in general.”
As a team leader, Jack encourages her staff to be open about their concerns or ideas. “That’s something we reiterate at our daily huddles,” says Jack. “Especially at a time when we’re facing a lot of challenges in health care, it’s important our members feel supported because it can make a difference in recruitment and retention.”
Jack shares that having an open ear and encouraging her team to work together is part of her success as a leader. “Should there be any concerns within the team, patients or family members, we as a team can talk about it,” explains Jack. “I’m here to listen and work together to problem solve, identify solutions to our ongoing challenges.
“Leadership is something I’m passionate about. My goal is to be the best person I can be for the people I lead and my colleagues.”
Growing the Black staff affinity group
Jack is a member of the Black staff affinity group at HHS, which launched in 2023. “Being able to form the group is a huge accomplishment,” says Jack. “We continue to grow our membership and are actively looking for ways to become more accessible to interested staff.”
The group is open to staff, physicians, learners and volunteers at HHS, and members currently meet over Zoom. But the group recognizes a virtual format doesn’t work for everyone – especially those who work on the frontline. “We want to facilitate different ways members can attend meetings, so we’re looking into the possibility of expanding group meetings to in-person so we can grow our membership.”
Honouring Black History Month and Black Excellence is something Jack sees as part of her commitment to life-long learning. “Black History Month is about who we are as a culture, as a people, and our contribution to society in general,” says Jack. “It’s important we recognize Black culture as multi-faceted. There are Canadian-born Black individuals, Caribbean-born, African-born. We all need to join together to share in our Black pride and Black Excellence.”
The Black staff affinity group is looking for new members and ideas on how to involve more frontline staff. If you’re interested in becoming a member of the HHS Black staff affinity group, email email@example.com