We are Women’s offers the WCH community a chance to get to know each other and share our stories.
Name: Ruby Shanker
Title & Department: Bioethicist, UHN Toronto Rehab & WCH
On the WCH team for: 6 years
1. What does your typical workday look like?
Everyday is unpredictable, but the fun is in the chaos! While my time is contracted for one day per week at WCH, I respond whenever there is need for ethics support. My daily practice includes ethics consultations from clinical, organizational, and research ethics to providing ethics education. Patients, healthcare providers as well as members of the senior leadership reach out variably for support with thinking through ethical issues and dilemmas. Of course, I don’t have a magic wand to resolve issues always, but the exercise of critically reflecting through issues to reach an ethically defensible decision is crucial always.
2. What excites you the most about working at WCH?
It is absolutely an honor to work alongside some of the most brilliant, compassionate, and persevering professionals I have known at WCH. There has always been tremendous energy at WCH to strive for inclusivity, which is what I seek to work with and amplify as a bioethicist. From my experience supporting healthcare organizations across the GTA over the years, WCH espouses the spirit of collaboration, enthusiasm to engage with and learn from diverse worldviews and life experiences, and approaches to constantly be attentive to relations of power, a key aspect of any healthcare environment that truly cares about equity. With the pandemic, we have all experienced the heights of moral distress and burnout as a healthcare system. And yet, there is a unique energy of hope at WCH to ask the morally tough questions to repair and heal from point of care across to leadership. I am not referring to a focus on resiliency, which can be performative posturing. Rather, there is a desire to get to the root of such burnout, and shift through organizational needs and wants as is feasible to create better conditions to care for each other and the communities we serve. I am grateful to be able to support and serve folks striving for equity and liberation.
3. How does your work contribute to creating a positive patient experience?
I believe that safe and open moral spaces are paramount within which those involved can explore underlying values and share understanding of ethical issues at hand. My constant endeavor is also about asking who else ought to be invited to the conversation to provide any missing perspectives. Re-telling why and how we may have reached a particularly challenging situation becomes essential to probing any conflict of values that fuel emotions. This exercise helps bring to light “human backstories” that are often not explicit within clinical histories, but that are essential to transition us from empathy towards compassion. In offering the opportunity to reflect upon our approaches and processes towards ethically defensible decisions, I contribute to supporting equitable, collaborative, and compassionate care.
4. Tell us one to three things that your colleagues would be surprised to learn about you!
- I am a physician by first profession. Practiced as a General Practitioner in the community, and trained in Surgery before immigrating to Canada.
- Fountain pen aficionado. I love calligraphy!
- I belong to the Indian diaspora, growing up amidst vibrant and diverse immigrant populations in the Middle- East (Oman and UAE). This means my passion for global cuisines translates into my love for buffets!