In honour of International Women's Day — Tuesday, March 8 — we're highlighting just a few of the thousands of incredible women who help us deliver exceptional care at Vancouver Coastal Health. Read about all of them in VCH News stories and see more photos on our VCH Instagram and Facebook channels.
As a deaf person, Kristen Pranzl is always challenging and breaking biases in all aspects of her life and she carries this approach with her as Operations Lead for Vancouver Coastal Health's Deaf Well Being Program that provides mental health and wellbeing services to a minority population often facing barriers in accessing health care.
“Kristen advocates for herself and clients and continuously pushes to increase access in all areas of our work," said Cecilia Tung, who nominated Kristen for the International Women's Day campaign. “In the past seven years, Kristen has expanded the program and increased awareness of mental health for deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind people and built a network with other VCH programs and community organizations to improve access."
According to Kristen, education is an essential tool for breaking the bias, seeing unintentional ignorance as the source for a lack of inclusion.
“I am a big believer in win-win advocacy and tend to approach resistance or bias by asking, 'how can we collaborate to make this experience a positive one for both of us?'" says Kristen. “People are often surprised at how adaptable deaf people are in our everyday functioning. So when I notice this bias, I often take opportunities to gently educate people about how to be inclusive in their thinking."
Kristen says a career in health care isn't what she initially envisioned, however, it's a path she's glad to be on.
“I had been working with the Ministry of Children and Family Development at the Provincial Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, working to supporting families who have deaf and hard-of-hearing children. After finishing my Master's degree, someone suggested I apply for this position," said Kristen. “I'm so glad I did! I'm passionate about ensuring people have equal access to their health-care needs and information. I will always be grateful to the person who hired me because she took a chance with someone who was a bit green but showed potential and she allowed me to evolve and grow."
For the women who are just starting in their field, Kristen offers this advice. “Keep an open mind to diverse opportunities and expect the unexpected. You don't have to be the perfect person right away for a new position. It is so important to hold space for growth and change within your role," she said. “You will be bringing your own unique life experience, perspectives and skills to your field and must trust that you'll be able to contribute in your own way."
This year's theme and pose for International Women's Day is Break the Bias. Posing with arms crossed in solidarity shows commitment to challenge inequality, call out gender bias, question stereotypes and help forge an inclusive world.