Leadership Lesson 3: Featuring Louise Binder with the Save Your Skin Foundation

Louise Binder is a lawyer and health advocate who has been involved in informing the development of health policy and systemic treatment access practices from a patient perspective since the early 1990’s subsequent to her own HIV diagnosis. She co-founded the Canadian Treatment Action Council (CTAC) in 1996. Louise began similar work in the cancer area four years ago and is presently the health policy consultation with the Save Your Skin Foundation. She has been recognized by many organizations for her work, including receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from her alma mater, Queen’s Law School; the Order of Ontario from the Province of Ontario and two Queen Elizabeth II medals.

What is the biggest lesson/skill you learned that has helped you progress in your career?

“Build a reputation of being someone others want to work with.”

  • When starting out you have no track record so focus on building your credibility. Some foundational principles for this:
    • Taking the time to define the type of person you want to be seen as.
    • Align your actions and behaviors accordingly- think about the long game.
    • Be a team player- “Stand out without stepping on others. Give credit where credit is due- this will serve you well no matter what your career journey is.”
  • Mid-career and beyond the important things are to collaborate, work in partnership and recognize that you have a responsibility to mentor others. Always have on your mind… “Who can I help along the way?”
  • Build good solid principles and processes for working on your own and with others.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your professional journey and how did you work through it? 

“Build small wins. Each step towards a bigger victory is a victory in itself.”

  • With every challenge, it can be hard to maintain enthusiasm. Create milestones for yourself, turn big goals into a series of small goals and recognize these small goals as victories otherwise the mountain feels too big to climb.
  • Find people with whom you can talk things through in a safe environment- mentors, work colleagues, etc. It is important to be able to share experiences, hear other perspectives, get advice. It is a show of strength not weakness and builds relationships.
  • When you do this, mentors emerge quite organically versus stressing over ‘finding’ a mentor.

What advice do you have for women looking to advance their careers?

  • Be you and do your best work.
  • Don’t dwell on things and let them get in your way.
  • There can be ageism in the workplace particularly for women in 40s, 50s—Don’t acknowledge it- ignore it and move on.

What value can HBA Toronto bring to business professionals in healthcare?

  • Anytime a group gets together there is a natural sharing of experience and mentorship.
  • Groups like the HBA let people know they are not alone. They can come together to share experiences, get advice, network in a safe space- especially with other women.
  • Important to be able to connect candidly with others. 

What is your one big takeaway from the HBA event you attended?

  • I thought “How astonishing that it is a stunning September evening and all these people showed up to this event.”
  • Clearly there is a huge appetite for this. Not only did people come, but they were also engaged and stayed for quite some time to network. 
  • It was also apparent that in healthcare people want to hear from patients and this is encouraging. “Never speak on behalf of other people without either giving them the opportunity to do so themselves or getting their agreement to do so.”

Advice for the HBA 

  1. Seasoned professionals want both to mentor others and still keep learning themselves. In that regard, think about what the future holds, where the world is going and bring forth those topics- philosophical or groundbreaking – for discussions. Engage seasoned professionals. “I am reading each of the books on the list of the Top Ten Books that changed my life as determined by the Guardian.” I am learning so much and would be intrigued to join conversations about them, maybe in a book club.
  2. We live in a multicultural world and cultural perspectives are important to understand when interacting with others to ensure we are communicating what we are talking about and in a manner that is culturally respectful. Consider bringing together different cultures to dialogue and discuss perspectives as an opportunity for all of us to grow.
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