Jide Babalola’s Story
When I came to Canada, it was 19 degrees outside and I remember shivering in my jacket. I had just graduated from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and moved to Halifax to pursue a master’s degree in Economics at Dalhousie University as part of the Canadian International Development Scholarship. Being the first member of my family to come to North America, I spent many of my early years adapting to the “full Canadian multi-cultural experience” by living in the university’s residencies, integrating with different groups of people and exploring the school’s new computer technology with help from a fellow Nigerian woman (who later became my wife).
In the early 1990s, I moved to Manitoba so I could enroll at University of Manitoba to continue my studies, though I considered the real challenge to be finding permanent employment. At that time, there were fewer People of Colour in leadership positions and on average, it often took Black people three to four years before finding permanent work in the public sector. Diversity wasn’t prioritized, then, the way it is today.
After a handful of short-term placements, I worked in the policy area within Manitoba Health, which helped lead me to where I am leading, Shared Health’s Health Human Resources Planning team. Now I’m using my experiences – and those of others – to gain a better understanding of our workforce dynamics and collect data to inform provincial policies for a more culturally safe and inclusive health-care system. We know that when patients feel safe and confident accessing the care they need, health outcomes improve. And when patients have access to care from a provider they can relate to – who perhaps reflects them in some way, either gender, ethnicity or otherwise – they often feel more comforted, whether that’s a physician, a nurse, or other important supporting professions. I am honoured to be part of this important work to build a health workforce that better reflects the populations we serve and help connect people of all backgrounds – whether its education or ethnicity – to the opportunities that are available in health care.