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Honouring her heroes

Posted Feb 9th, 2024

We are Niagara Health is a series of stories that celebrates the incredible people working and volunteering in our organization and how they make a difference in the lives of patients and coworkers every day.

Service Transition Specialist Nicole Bindoo at the St. Catharines hospital

Nicole Bindoo, a service transition specialist on the South Niagara Hospital project team, carries the influence of her heroes in her actions every day.

The list of her Black heroes is extensive, but it doesn’t take Nicole Bindoo long to narrow down whom she admires most.

Martin Luther King Jr. is the first name she mentions. But there are two others she holds dear – less known than the American civil rights leader but no less worthy of celebration or representing excellence.

They’re her parents, Ron and Mitzi.

“What I admire most about them is their perseverance, generosity and positivity. They’ve always taught me to go after what I want and to always give my best to whatever I was doing – big or small,” says Bindoo, a service transition specialist on the South Niagara Hospital project team. “They also are always giving and helping others when they can, and they’re always there to uplift, empower, support and remind me that there’s always something positive to be learned or taken away from every interaction, person or experience.”

Bindoo carries her parents’ influence with her in much of what she does. Her mom, Mitzi, for example, worked in healthcare administration, including at Niagara Health.

Like Mitzi, Bindoo wants to improve the quality of care for patients. But rather than become a physician, which was a real possibility in those early days as a health studies student at the University of Waterloo, she opted to specialize in health informatics and leverage her knowledge of information technologies and medical practice to benefit those accessing healthcare.

Her portfolio is significant. It involves12 programs she has been getting to know closely in an effort to understand current operations and how those programs will look in a new space at the South Niagara Hospital. Bindoo listens to feedback from each program about the physical design of the new hospital and uses that to make this generational project an efficient and effective place for their processes.

That might make her a hero to those who will benefit from her work – patients, their families, staff and physicians – for years to come, but Bindoo’s impact outside of the office also puts her in hero territory.

She volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Halton and Hamilton’s cultural mentorship program. She spent her spare time with her ‘little sister’ talking about being Black in their community, the racial wealth gap, which is the disparity in assets of a typical household across race and ethnicity, systemic racism, but also the importance of celebrating Caribbean-Canadian and African-Canadian culture.

"I know we all have implicit biases but it’s really important to try to understand someone’s background and experience and show kindness and compassion to everyone at the end of the day.”

Her next volunteer experience will be tutoring black youth in Halton.

“For me, it’s just knowing that I’m connecting with my community or if she has a question or experience, I can provide advice and relate to her, and there’s that education and helping component,” Bindoo says about being a Big Sister. “It’s letting her know she’s not alone in her experiences, and the world is her oyster. Highlighting excellence is something I enjoy doing and being part of.”

That’s why when it comes to naming her other heroes, Bindoo doesn’t hesitate. Since joining Niagara Health, she has found many willing to help, uplift and support her. Karen Paschert, Clinical Manager for the Niagara Falls Emergency Department, and committee chair for Niagara Health’s first Black History Month recognition in 2021, and Simon Akinsulie, Executive Vice-President, Practice, Clinical Support and Chief Nursing Executive, are among them.

“These are people at Niagara Health who I’ve had the pleasure to get to know. Seeing them in leadership, having conversations with them and having Black people in leadership has been awesome,” Bindoo says. “That’s what I love about Niagara Health. You can send an email and everyone is welcoming. It’s very much ‘I’ll make time for you. Let’s have coffee and chat.’ It’s almost like informal mentoring and there’s no real barrier to that here.”

The same holds true for recognizing and honouring Black History Month, something that Bindoo, who sits on Niagara Health’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, has seen grow in prominence since joining the organization in 2020.

Nationally, this year’s theme for Black History Month is Black Excellence: A Heritage to Celebrate; a Future to Build. In an ongoing commitment to inclusion, equity and understanding at Niagara Health, the DEI committee has selected the theme of Celebrating Black History, Every Day for the organization, with a focus on removing the perception that Black history is somehow separate from collective Canadian history.

It’s a theme that weaves through Bindoo’s life and mirrors the values of her greatest role models, whom she not only celebrates but exemplifies in her actions every day.

“For me, every month is Black History Month. Every month is about focusing on uplifting and empowering those in the community,” Bindoo says. “I know we all have implicit biases but it’s really important to try to understand someone’s background and experience and show kindness and compassion to everyone at the end of the day.”

Niagara Health System