Dr. Jennifer Jocko (top) and Lise Armstrong who oversees the Genevra House transitional and housing support program (bottom far right) were honoured recently.
A Sudbury doctor on a mission to improve women’s health in Northern Ontario, and a social worker who has helped women in crisis were honoured at the Influential Women of Northern Ontario Awards in May.
Dr. Jennifer Jocko has been practising obstetrics and gynecology in Sudbury since 2014. She won the Aboriginal Leadership Award. Lise Armstrong, who oversees the Genevra House transitional and housing support program, won the Influential Community Trailblazer Award.
Twelve women from across Northern Ontario were honoured for their leadership and community contributions by the Northern Ontario Business awards program. Lunch events were held May 28 in Sudbury and May 31 in Thunder Bay.
Jocko, an Algonquin from Pikwàkanagàn First Nation, began her medical career as a registered nurse in North Bay and Mattawa. In that time, she married and became a mother of two. Her dream of “doing more” never faded, and with a lot of perseverance (and support from her husband, family, and close friends) Jocko made it through medical school at McMaster University and chose her specialization.
“When I delivered my first baby in medical school, I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life; to take care of women through the lifespan,” Jocko said.
Jocko is the regional cervical screening and colposcopy lead for the North East Local Health Integration Network (NE LHIN) with Cancer Care Ontario. In January, the NE LHIN recognized Jocko with a Healthy Change Champion award for her commitment to women’s health and patient-centered care. She’s a consultant specialist at the Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre, is an associate professor at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and sits on the Aboriginal Women’s Health Committee for the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada.
Jocko also joined the planning committee for the fifth International Indigenous Women’s Health Meeting, held in New Mexico by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
For her, making health care equitable and accessible is crucial.
This year, Jocko and her business partner, Dr. Karen Splinter, will open the first clinic in northeastern Ontario to offer fertility services including intrauterine insemination. Their NEO Women’s Health Network will operate as a “one-stop shop” for women’s health.
Many testimonials described Lise Armstrong as humble, brave, hard-working and devoted. Last year, she was celebrated by the YWCA Genevra House Women’s Shelter for 30 years of service.
The transitional housing program helps women and families fleeing dangerous situations, often with little but the clothes on their back, and provides a safe environment.
She describes what the women go through as akin to running a marathon. They come in and have to rebuild their lives practically from scratch. The program helps them empower themselves and reorganize, including finding shelter, so they can start over again.
“It’s a transition, but a heavy transition,” she said. “When they first come in, you see the depression, but when they leave, that’s where we see the reward in the work. They are happy and finding their home and they’ve done it. They had that pilot light in them and it came on.”
Even though the process is daunting, she said she is forever amazed by how well people do in the program once they are given the tools they need and start to see what they can do on their own. They tap into their strengths and find a way to transition back to the community.
They also help community clients, ones still living at home. If they feel stuck in a situation, they help them find a way out.
The Influential Women of Northern Ontario Awards event is now in its 21st year.