Former Stettler resident Judy Birdsell selected for the Order of Canada

Birdsell has been honoured for her extensive contributions to improving health care and the quality of life for patients

Judy Birdsell, who now calls Calgary home, has been selected to the Order of Canada for her, ‘Extensive contributions to improving health care and the quality of life for patients in Alberta and across Canada.
photo submitted

Judy Birdsell, who now calls Calgary home, has been selected to the Order of Canada for her, ‘Extensive contributions to improving health care and the quality of life for patients in Alberta and across Canada. photo submitted

A former Stettler resident has landed one of the nation’s most prestigious honours.

Judy Birdsell, who now calls Calgary home, has been selected to the Order of Canada for her, “Extensive contributions to improving health care and the quality of life for patients in Alberta and across Canada.”

It came as a complete surprise, and she is thrilled with the designation.

“I was flabbergasted. I remember getting the call in October, and I don’t even know why I answered the phone because I don’t often answer if I don’t recognize the number,” she added with a laugh. “It was unbelievable.

“I’ve known people who have gotten it, and I’ve always seen it as a huge honour. That’s how I feel,” she added.

“My husband knew about it, and it’s been in the works for about three years.”

Created in 1967, the Order of Canada recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation, notes the web site.

“Much of my volunteer work has also been, although not exclusively, at the national level,” she said. “I was involved many years ago with the Canadian Cancer Society in the province, and nationally. I was the national president in the late 90’s.”

Part of that role reached to her hometown as well.

“Some of the Stettler folks also still know me through that connection, because they were involved with the Cancer Society locally,” she said, adding that she has served on the board of the National Cancer Institute as well.

She also chaired the board of the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative.

These are just a few examples of how Birdsell has served the community – giving back so generously of her time and sharing her healthcare experience and expertise.

“Most of my work has been in health one way or another,” she said. “As a professional, for the last 20 years I consulted in health research policy – so that was my paid job. In the province, I was also on the board of an affordable housing foundation here in Calgary. We looked after about 2,500 to 3,000 seniors in 20 facilities,” she added.

“The nice thing about volunteering and what keeps me going all the time are the wonderful folks that you work with,” she pointed out.

“With people who are at volunteer tables, 99 per cent of the time it’s because they have a passion and they care deeply. And they come from all different backgrounds. I find that really interesting and challenging.

“I remember the very first committee I chaired for the Cancer Society in Calgary which was in public education,” she explained.

Other folks on that committee included a man who had been named the strongest man in Canada, a highly-regarded scientist at the Cross Cancer Institute, and a fellow who owned a pest control business whose wife had died of cancer. Very different backgrounds indeed but a common focus – and that’s also what Birdsell finds so inspirational.

“I quickly came to appreciate how they brought such hugely different perspectives to the conversation,” she said. “People are wonderful – and there are all of these great connections to be made as well.”

Other opportunities to serve came about via joining the board of the Health Quality Council of Alberta and her active involvement as a member of Patients for Patient Safety Canada.

She is also one of the founders and now chair of the Board of IMAGINE Citizens Collaborating for Health, a society created by a group of citizens who are working to support Albertans to take a more active role in shaping the future of healthcare in the province.

“We’ve only been a formal society for two years but now things are really picking up on that front,” she said.

Birdsell was born in Stettler and grew up on her grandfather’s homestead southwest of town.

She attended Waverly School until Grade nine and Wm. E. Hay Composite High School for Grades 10-12.

Her roots are still very much in Stettler and are reinforced by visiting her sister who still lives in the area, and by her re-connections with high school friends since retiring (and entering the quilting world).

She and her husband Terry Brooker have two grown children.

Looking back, Birdsell’s career began with nursing positions in aboriginal settings in Alberta and Northwest Territories.

She also earned a Master’s degree in Health Care Research (1987) which led to several years working in cancer epidemiology and prevention.

An interest in inter-organizational relationships led to a PhD in Organizational Analysis (1997) in which her research included a key focus on the role of patients and family in policy-making in breast cancer research.

In the meantime, it’s been quite the year for Birdsell in terms of recognition, as she was was also selected as the 2020 recipient of the Clearview Award of Merit, which was presented this past June by Clearview Public Schools.

“I think it’s pretty neat that the Stettler (award) came first,” she said. “It was fabulous.”

Unfortunately, the dinner where she was to receive the award was cancelled due to the pandemic but several friends from town organized a barbecue. “They all got together and made me a quilt which was beautiful,” she said, adding that the award was later mailed. “It’s a lovely glass sculpture.

“It was all really, really special.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
Dr. Wayne John Edwards, 66, died Tuesday at Chinook Regional Hospital. (Cornerstone Funeral Home)
Lethbridge doctor becomes 7th Alberta health-care worker to die from COVID-19

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, who was 66, died Tuesday at the Chinook Regional Hospital in the southern Alberta city

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

Erin O’Toole said he supports a woman’s right to choose and will personally vote against the private member’s bill

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pfizer to increase vaccine deliveries in Canada as Moderna supply slashed

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

A empty classroom is pictured at Eric Hamber Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Monday, March 23, 2020. The Alberta government says schools in Calgary will move to at-home learning starting Monday for students in grades 7 to 12.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary schools to shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12 due to COVID-19

The change, due to COVID-19, is to last for two weeks

A man wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
COVID-19 spike in B.C. could overwhelm B.C. hospitals: modelling group

There are 397 people are in hospital due to the virus, surpassing a previous high of 374 seen in December

Most Read