Interior Health’s new executive sponsor of renal services has a lifetime of experience in the health system, acquired from working in nearly every health authority across the province.
Like many of BC’s health system leaders, Heather Cook started her career as a nurse, after graduation from Camosun College in 1982 – in the college’s first graduating class of nurses. She furthered her nursing studies at the University of Victoria, achieving her bachelor’s degree before taking a position as a community geriatric mental health nurse in Dawson Creek.
Although she enjoyed working in the north, her husband – used to the mild Victoria winters – grew weary of shovelling snow, and they returned to Vancouver Island, where
Heather took on responsibility for managing long-term care across the island. Looking to further her training, she completed her Master of Science degree in Nursing at GonzagaUniversity in Washington in 2000.
Heather’s first significant experience with renal services came with her subsequent move to Fraser Health where she managed the residential care and assisted living sector. She was particularly concerned about frail elderly patients with kidney disease who needed transport three times a week for dialysis treatment.
Addressing this issue became one of Heather’s priorities and she continues to advocate for better ways of delivering dialysis services to patients in long-term care.
“My interest is primarily in reducing the impact on patients who require dialysis,” says Heather. “I think there are opportunities for innovation in delivering dialysis services, especially in the assisted living sector where we generally have healthier, more independent people.”
Heather moved to Kelowna in 2012, initially taking on the role of Chief Nursing Officer for Interior Health. She has since become executive director of acute services for the health authority’s northwest region, which includes responsibility for renal services and tertiary mental health programs.
Her move to Kelowna was also prompted by a desire to be closer to her parents, who live in the West Kootenay community of New Denver, where Heather was raised, along with her two brothers and three sisters.
Heather has been married for 32 years – her wedding in Victoria was planned for the same time as her graduation from nursing school, so her large family only needed to make one journey to the island for her two celebratory events. Although she has no children of her own, she is an aunt and great aunt many times over.
Heather’s favourite pastimes are reading (murder mysteries) and traveling with her husband, especially to Europe. She’s also recently started quilting, to equip herself with a creative and productive skill for when she eventually retires. Given the size of her extended family, she undoubtedly also sees quilting as a solution for family gift-giving for birthdays and other special occasions.