“You just need to do something”; the philosophy and practice of social engagement and advocacy

Calgary physician works and volunteers to strengthen communities

December 18, 2017

Green Fools circus training camp, featured at Alberta Culture days at Sunnyside community’s containR site

The Alberta Medical Association is proud of the many Alberta physicians who volunteer in support of projects and programs that help build stronger communities in our neighborhoods, towns and cities, province, country and throughout the world. Through Many Hands™, we celebrate and share the stories of these inspiring physicians and their altruistic endeavors.

As a physician at the Alex Community Health Centre, Calgary’s innovative health and social services centre, Dr. Kerri Treherne works on the front lines with some of Calgary’s most vulnerable people. The Alex is a multi-service community health centre that offers health clinics, housing programs, a wellness centre, a community kitchen and a youth health bus.

“I’ve been there since I was a resident, and once I graduated in 1996, I stayed,” explains Dr. Treherne, who today works mainly at the Alex’s family clinic. “I love the team environment and working in an alternative model of care, where you have more time with clients. And I enjoy working with clients who are considered challenging, because I know no one is difficult on purpose. Everyone has something great inside; you just have to take the time to find it. Being on the frontlines is tremendously rewarding … I stay there because I love it.”

Dr. Treherne is also active in community projects and initiatives that have enriched her own community. “I started with school council work when my daughter was in elementary school,” she recalls. “I also began working with the board of the community association. We built two playgrounds and tackled a lot of other community projects, including an area redevelopment and revitalization plan. But I always tell people you don’t have to be on the board to get involved – you just need to do something.”

One of the biggest projects she was involved in was Bow to Bluff, a community engagement project that aimed to transform the public corridor along the Sunnyside LRT line between the Bow River and McHugh Bluff into a usable, attractive public space.

“We had these pocket parks that were created when the C-Train went through,” explains Dr. Treherne. “And there were a lot of complaints about drug use and other issues. So we partnered with Calgary Transit, wrote an application for innovation funding to get input from the community, and then came up with a plan to use those spaces more effectively.” The framework that emerged from the project has proven so successful that it’s been used to model similar citizen-led engagement projects around the world.

As a resident of Calgary’s Sunnyside neighbourhood, devastated in the 2013 flood, Dr. Treherne has led local flood emergency planning and relief efforts. “We had more than 400 households affected by the flood, and we’ve been working to make things better than they were before. We were a strong community before the flood, and this has just made us stronger.”

When not immersed in community work, Dr. Treherne makes time to participate in events such as Jane’s Walk and the annual Pride Parade. She’s an avid runner who particularly enjoys running in the mountains close to Calgary and participating in races. “It’s my stress reliever,” she explains.

Dr. Treherne is currently working on a community safety initiative that will address drug use and crime in the neighbourhood, something she believes is connected to the opioid crisis.

“I really love the community engagement and social connection that comes with volunteer work,” she explains. “And in a lot of ways, it aligns with my work as a physician. Social engagement and advocacy are at the core of both. It’s about the health of the people living in that community; bringing them together to make the community healthier.”

The Alberta Medical Association stands as an advocate for its physician members, providing leadership & support for their role in the provision of quality health care.