Alumni Volunteer Profile: Michael Negraeff

As the Volunteer Summit on March 25 approaches, we are profiling our many alumni who have contributed their time, talent or treasure to important causes and organizations.

Michael Negraeff (MD’92) is a pain medicine specialist living in Vancouver, BC. He is the founder of the Pain BC society, a non-profit organization that serves people living with pain and the healthcare professionals that serve them. He recently stepped down as Pain BC’s chair of the board of directors, a role he held for six years.

What specifically attracted you to volunteering?

At the time, I wasn’t thinking “what can I volunteer for?” I was thinking, “we need much better pain management services in BC.” After I finished my training (I was in an accident during my training and have a spinal cord injury), I decided that working in the operating room was going to be a bit too challenging from a wheelchair and did a fellowship in pain medicine in Sydney, Australia.  When I came back to Vancouver I started working in Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) taking care of complex pain problems in the hospital and it eventually led to outpatient work.  But we had no capacity in the pain clinics.

So, I didn’t seek out volunteering; volunteering found me as the best vehicle to achieve our purposes. It was important because as a society, and as volunteers, we were free to say what we wanted and felt was right to send the message.

What keeps you motivated to continue volunteering?

What I really like about it is that you are free to get as engaged as you want. You are free to work in the direction you want. You are not beholden to anyone other than the mission of the organization, which you are really happy to push forward.

The other thing I really like is all the other people you meet. Volunteering changed me, because I began to see through other peoples’ lenses.

I was also very inspired by others that were volunteering for us. They had severe pain, and had nothing else much to give besides their time and energy. Why?  Our message and mission resonated with them.  Volunteering is contagious. When you look at the others that are volunteering, and for nothing to gain but to feel a part of something, it is very inspiring and urges you to keep on going.

What’s your proudest moment/accomplishment from your volunteering experience?

The single proudest I have felt of the organization was when we successfully got the first grant from the Ministry of Health in 2013. Things were very dire for us financially.  Morale was low, but nobody quit. We tightened the belt and pressed on with various funding source options.  Right when things were darkest, we successfully landed the grant. It changed everything. All kinds of initiatives got off the ground after that and momentum has continued to build. I was really proud of the team that kept coming up with ideas.

Alumni Volunteer Profile: Joan Wilson

As the Volunteer Summit on March 25 approaches, we are profiling our many alumni who have contributed their time, talent or treasure to important causes and organizations.

Joan Wilson (BEd’97) has been a resident of Saltcoats, SK for 37 years. A former teacher, she has volunteered with several organizations such as the Godfrey Dean Gallery in Yorkton, the Yellowhead Flyway Birding Trail Association, the Town of Saltcoats and the Saltcoats Curling Club. Joan was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal and a Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal in 2013.

What specifically attracted you to volunteering?

As a young girl, my mother helped in our small community of Madison, SK. I realized that if something needed to be done, the best way was to get involved and help make it happen.  When my husband and I settled in Saltcoats, I took on roles in various organizations and soon I was involved in numerous things from town council, to home care to the art gallery, and more.

What keeps you motivated to continue to volunteer?   

There are ongoing activities that I am involved with that continue to need support.  In a small town, whoever does a job gets to keep it until they really can’t do it anymore!  I am motivated because I still care about the things I am involved with.  These include our curling club and our great little town.

What types of relationships and learning experience have you taken away from volunteering?  

There are bonds formed with the people in the organizations you work with, you get to know different people through volunteering, and I am inspired by other volunteers in our community.  I want to support other volunteers and our town.  The volunteer experience has given me leadership and organizational skills, supported by my other life as a woman and a former teacher!

What is your proudest moment/accomplishment from your volunteering experience?

I am proud that many of our students have become part of the Yorkton Regional High School curling teams because they have been part of our junior curling program, and I like to think I helped bring that about, including (professional curler) Steve Laycock (BComm’07), but he has his own special talent!   I am proud that we have conserved a small bit of native prairie in our regional park. This is especially important to me as any little vestige of prairie needs to be protected as it can so easily and thoughtlessly be destroyed.

How do you aim to inspire others to get involved?

Create a buzz around a new project and hopefully generate interest so volunteers will come out to help, keep things fun, give encouragement and show appreciation for help received, and give acknowledgement to volunteers.  Personal contact, asking someone to help by calling them, or messaging them is helpful.  Give a clear picture of what is expected or needed so volunteers have a better idea of what they are getting themselves into.  Brainstorm for ideas and to create an” investment” in the next project.  Through involvement, hopefully others will be inspired to become involved.

Stamp of approval

A Canadian opera legend and honorary U of S alumnus will soon be gracing a set of commemorative postage stamps.

Gerald Finley’s (DLett’15) stamp is part of a booklet of 10 permanent domestic stamps featuring operas and singers who helped to put modern Canadian opera talent on the world stage.

Born in Montreal, Gerald began singing in Ottawa, and completed his musical studies in the U.K. at the Royal College of Music in London, and King’s College, Cambridge. His career is devoted to the wide range of classical vocal art encompassing opera, choral, orchestral and song. He has perfomed at some of the world’s major opera and concert venues, and his recordings are available on CD and DVD in a wide variety of repertoire.

In 2015, the Grammy and Juno award-winning singer received an honorary Doctor of Letters from the U of S at the Fall Convocation ceremony. A year prior to this, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Alumni Volunteer Profile: Nicole Sarauer

As the Volunteer Summit on March 25 approaches, we are profiling our many alumni who have contributed their time, talent or treasure to important causes and organizations.

Nicole Sarauer (JD’09) is the MLA for Regina Douglas Park. She has served as a volunteer with the Regina Sexual Assault Centre; a board member for Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers; a board member of Regina’s chapter of Amnesty International; and a volunteer and board member with the YWCA Big Sisters program.

What specifically attracted you to volunteering?

First, to give back and get more involved in my community.  I strongly believe that a life of service to others is a life worth living.  A life spent serving yourself can get dull quite quickly.  Second, to meet new people.  I have had the opportunity, through volunteering, of getting to know some of the most inspiring and incredible people.  They have been both mentors and friends to me.

What was your first volunteer experience?

My volunteering really took shape at the beginning of university; it started with the 24-hour sexual assault hotline through what is now called the Regina Sexual Assault Centre.  That was an eye-opening and humbling experience for me.  I learned about the structural barriers that many face in our society, as well as problems with accessing the justice system.

What keeps you motivated to continue volunteering?

I keep motivated to volunteer through the feeling of helping others and being a positive contact in someone’s life, even if I can’t solve all of their problems. I know it’s trite to say that I feel some days that I get more out of volunteering than I give, but the statement rings true.

What types of relationships and learning experience have you taken away from volunteering?

I’ve met incredibly passionate people, all of whom I look up to and many of whom I call friends.

I’ve learned about the barriers and injustice that exist in our own community, many of which people often overlook or are invisible to those who are more fortunate.  I’ve learned that you can never tell what the person next to you is dealing with in their lives.  I’ve learned that the most rewarding experiences in life come from helping to make positive changes, however small, in the lives of others.

What is your proudest moment/accomplishment from your volunteering experience?

Whether it was on the 24 hour sexual assault line or, more recently, working at the Free Legal Clinic through Pro Bono Law Saskatchewan, I am honoured that people give me the opportunity to be let into their lives.  I think that is very difficult to do when you have felt rejected or ignored by society.

What is your vision for the future of volunteering? How do you aim to inspire others to get involved?

My hope is that others learn about the issues of inequality in their own neighbourhoods and realize that anyone can make an impact.

Countdown to lift-off for alumni?

Shane Journeay (PHD’08) and Jason Leuschen (BE’00) are two of 72 candidates selected by the Canadian Space Agency for its National Astronaut Recruitment Campaign.

—Journeay (left) and Leuschen (right) have been be selected for the Canadian Space Agency’s National Astronaut Recruitment Campaign.

Both will find out this summer if they will join Canada’s astronaut corps. Journeay completed his PhD in toxicology/nanotoxicology in 2008 and Leuschen graduated from the College of Engineering in 2000.

Read more on why Journeay and Leuschen want to be the next Canadian astronauts.

Alumni Highlights: Braden Davie

For February’s Alumni Highlights feature, as part of the Alumni Association centennial, we caught up with College of Nursing grad Braden Davie (BSN’11). Braden is currently the operations manager of NICU at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, NS.

Braden Davie

(Photo: Canadian Nurses Association/Teckles Photography)

Tell us about the campus when you went to the U of S; how is it different today?

When I was a student at the U of S, construction was the norm. At that time, it seemed that the university was growing at the same rate as the province and the necessary infrastructure was being built to accommodate the need. When I return to the campus now, it is exciting to see how projects like the new Health Sciences Building and the Place Riel expansion have turned out. I’m incredibly excited that health sciences students now have the opportunity to learn in a state-of-the-art building that fosters inter-professional learning.

What’s one of your favourite memories you had outside of the classroom?

My favourite memory outside of the classroom was being involved in the Saskatoon Nursing Students’ Society (now called the Saskatoon Nursing Students’ Association). We had so many opportunities to travel across both the province and the country to connect with nursing leaders. My time with the SNSS was certainly the highlight of my undergraduate education.

Overall, how was your U of S experience?

The experience I had at the U of S was wonderful. Faculty at the College of Nursing did an amazing job engaging students and challenged us to find an area of practice in nursing that excited us.

How did going to the U of S shape your career?

In the six years that I have been a registered nurse, I have practiced clinically in acute care and in a community clinic. I have also had the opportunity to practice in formal leadership roles in professional practice and in management. My degree from the U of S provided me with a solid foundation to build my practice and I am fortunate that I have had so many opportunities early in my career.

What did you wish you would have known on your first day at the U of S?

I wish someone would have told me to get involved in student organizations on campus. My involvement in the SNSS had a profound influence on my career and I wish I would have been involved in my first and second years.

Check in for monthly Q&As with alumni from all the U of S colleges, as talk about their life after the U of S and how being on this campus shaped their careers. In case you missed any previous features, you can read them here.