Pictured: Patrick Odnokon, SHRF CEO and Susan Cron, The Lung Association, Saskatchewan President & CEO at partnership announcement for $1M commitment to respiratory research.
I knew when I joined The Lung Association, Saskatchewan in early 2017 I had some very big shoes to fill, my predecessor Dr. Brian Graham had been holding the position for more than 30 years and is known as a world-renowned researcher on pulmonary function studies. Driven by passion for his work, determination to accomplish goals, a desire to collaborate, and a vision to improve respiratory health, Brian helped bring many “firsts” to the province – related to pulmonary function, tuberculosis, sleep apnea, COPD, asthma, patient education, research, tobacco legislation and even the development of the national Lung Association website, one of the first of its kind, at the time, in the world.
Almost three years later as I prepare to leave the organization I have been reflecting on what “firsts” I with The Lung Association, Saskatchewan staff team under the guidance of a strong and committed volunteer Board of Directors have helped bring to the province and I am pleased to say there are many. In the last few years, we have implemented patient support groups for those patients living with sleep apnea, lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis and a group specifically for those who have and are waiting for a lung transplant. We have launched Caring Breaths a financial assistance program so that those living with lung disease can access financial aid intended to reduce the additional burden that comes with chronic disease. We provided a voice and means for those we serve to be heard by carrying their voices to our provincial decision makers about what matters most to those struggling to breathe. We found a provincial partner who understands why research is important, who shares the same values as The Lung Association, Saskatchewan and who is prepared to match every dollar we direct to research in this province resulting in a commitment of $1M over 5 years. We are blessed to have such a talented and strong research community in Saskatchewan and The Lung Association is grateful to be able to support research through the generosity of our donors and community partners like the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (see photo).
On a personal note, my greatest joy was getting to know our strongest supporters, the ACT/UCT club members who for decades have been tirelessly fundraising on behalf of Saskatchewan charities and raising millions of dollars for lung health, the patients who choose to use their lived experience with lung disease to help others, the donors who remain loyal to our fundraising campaigns and give generously even in dire economic times, the volunteers who provide their time and talent freely and the corporate community who want to help our organization deliver on our mission, to improve lung health. We are not funded by Government and everything we do is a result of our generous donors and those who want to help.
I had the opportunity to visit Fort Qu’Appelle often and meet former patients and employees of Fort San and heard incredible stories of communities uniting to overcome and beat TB, this province has so much history with lung disease and a great deal to be proud of. Although I never met Frank Froh, who Dr. Graham succeeded, I learned he began his career at Fort San as the secretary to Dr. R.G. Ferguson and later assistant secretary of the Anti-Tuberculosis League leading mass TB screening for the province. Frank’s dedication to lung health continues to live on today and he inspired all of his family to get involved with son James providing service as a leadership volunteer on the both the Canadian Lung Association and Lung Association, Saskatchewan Board of Directors and his delightful mother Peggy who has many wonderful memories to share about Dr. Ferguson and raising her family on the grounds of Fort San, she also provides the best rhubarb-coffee cake I have ever enjoyed.
As the famous saying goes “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has”. My time as CEO of The Lung Association, Saskatchewan has demonstrated time and time again, the impact we can have when we work together to tackle lung disease which can only help those left breathless with lung disease today and protect our future generations from this burden.
PRESIDENT & CEO
The Lung Association, Saskatchewan