The local South Asian community in British Columbia faces unique challenges. Through her strong advocacy and more than 20 years of volunteer work, Sukdev (“Suki”) Grewal has been a bridge to bring that community to the healthcare services they need and deserve.
While Suki is well-known for her advocacy work, that effort is grounded in the community involvement and professional development going back decades. Presently a Nursing Instructor at Langara College, Suki first began working on the wards as a staff nurse in Labour & Delivery at New Birmingham Hospital in the UK, in 1970. She served in a number of nursing capacities before arriving in Canada and in 1974 working at Burnaby Hospital. Since then, she served in a range of positions related to labour, delivery, post-partum and neonatal health and began teaching as a Clinical Instructor at various B.C. institutions in 2001. Until 2007, she still held a frontline nursing role as a Community Health Nurse-- and her volunteer work in the South Asian community has helped her to keep delivering important health care access to those who need it.
“Suki’s advocacy work in health promotion has directly resulted in programs that are pragmatic, useful and accessible and have had an impact on the health of women, children and seniors in the South Asian community,” says UBC School of Nursing Associate Professor Lynda Balneaves.
That advocacy has facilitated positive change in many ways. “Suki was instrumental in development of a pap screening clinic in the community that provided South Asian women with a culturally safe place to seek care and advice on women’s health issues,” Balneaves says. “The clinic was one of the first of its kind in British Columbia. It ensured South Asian women could discuss and seek care about sensitive issues from a female health care provider and be able to make appointments and receive information in their first language.” Many of these women previously had very limited access to health care, so this initiative helped them engage in important cancer-screening activities.
Another example of Suki’s practical work was when she brought clinical practice placements to the local Ross Street Sikh Temple, overcoming administrative barriers to deliver health screening and flu clinics by nursing students. “Her initiative provided students with an enriching experience as they were transported to another culture while still living in Vancouver,” says Langara College School of Nursing Chair Janine Lennox.
Suki’s volunteer work and community involvement can’t be overstated. She has been an advisory committee member for the BC Cancer Agency for the Oral Cancer Prevention Program among the South Asian Community; a Canadian consultant for the Royal Institute of Nursing in Punjab, India, facilitating a partnership of Canadian and Indian schools of nursing. She has also been a member of the “We Can” committee focused on domestic violence. Her research into South Asian health issues has also been widely published in various health-related journals.
Dedication to her calling, combined with a flair for good communication, has enabled Suki to do great work in her community and improve the lives of women around B.C.