Horizon MRT publishes first book, detailing love and war from WWI
Public Health builds community capacity through partnership
Chelsea Currie-Stokes, Registered Nurse, Public Health Healthy Learners in School program
A Horizon MRT has published her first book, which tells a story of love and war through the eyes of a soldier on the frontlines of the First World War. Heather McBriarty, a medical radiation technologist (MRT, or X-ray tech) at Horizon’s St. Joseph’s Hospital in Saint John, self- published Somewhere in Flanders in November. The non-fiction book is a collection of love letters between her grandmother, Isobel McCurdy, and her high school sweetheart, James (Jim) W. Johnstone, interspersed with a historical narrative of the First World War. In September 2018 (which was, fittingly, the 100th anniversary of the end of the war), Heather and her sister received a package of family letters from a cousin. “Amongst all the family letters were 70 love letters to my grandmother (before she was married to Saint John physician Dr. Kenneth Baird), written by a young man who had went off to war, and never made it home,” she said. James, from the Halifax area, went to war in 1914 and was killed in action in 1916. Through the letters, Heather discovered his big personality: he was thoughtful, insightful and politically-aware. The letters have since been donated to the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, which will help preserve their pristine condition.
When she couldn’t find more about his life story she decided to do the research to fill in the blanks, building the picture of a man who was almost completely forgotten – and, as she puts it, “He wasn’t just your ordinary Joe soldier.” His great-grandfather was once premier of Nova Scotia and one of the founders of the Bank of Nova Scotia. “He deserves to be remembered and for people to get to know him as I felt I got to know him,” she said. Along with military records and Archives Canada, one of her sources was a front-page article and photograph of James, published in a Halifax newspaper edited by her great- grandfather. She encourages others to learn more about Canada’s role in the war and those who fought for our freedom, and not just on Remembrance Day. “It’s really important we remember all of these men who went over and didn’t get home, and the men who went over and did come home; they came home completely changed, both mentally and physically,” she said.
Heather ran a Kickstarter campaign to help with costs of editing and publishing, and created a Facebook page to share excerpts from the letters and promote her book leading up to its publication. The group now has almost 1,000 members, and the book has been shipped to all corners of the world, including Mexico, Scotland, and Australia (including to a woman who visited Jim’s grave, which was adopted by a Belgian man who Heather met through social media). The positive feedback and reception of her book encouraged her to continue writing, and she’s now writing a novel (fiction) based on the Great War. She’s taken inspiration from the Commonwealth War Grave plot at Fernhill Ceremony in Saint John, discovering the stories and personalities of men buried there, putting them together in a trench, and mixing in a love story inspired by her grandmother and James’s love letters and her grandfather’s time as a medical student trained in administering anesthetics after the Halifax Explosion. You can purchase Somewhere in Flanders directly from Heather or on Amazon.
For Public Health nurses and dietitians working within the Healthy Learners in School program, building strategic partnerships and accessing services to provide opportunities for advancing school health and wellness is at the very center of their work. Using the Comprehensive School Health model as a guide, the team recognizes healthy students learn better and achieve more. Gaining the support of families and communities at large is a crucial part of realizing this goal. For the Healthy Learners team at the Woodstock Education Centre, a crucial partnership in their success is with the Western Valley Wellness Network. The network is comprised of many people who are key in each community they represent, each community member supporting health and wellness in their respective specialties. Together, they make up seven committees — seniors, workplaces, schools, food security, First Nations, communities, promotions and communications — who come together every two months to share successes and collaborate on initiatives. It is through these committees that resources and knowledge are shared. Through this partnership, and together with Horizon Health Network, RCMP, Canadian Mental Health Association, Anglophone West School District and the Department of Social Development – Wellness Branch, 60 students from grades 9 to 11 in the Upper River Valley area recently came together for a Youth Empowerment Forum. The event, held at two locations, was a 78% DID YOU KNOW OF CANADIAN YOUTH FEEL THE OCCASIONAL VAPE IS NOT RISKY?
The Youth Empowerment Forum allowed students, teachers and partners in health care and wellness to come together to share resources and knowledge and have fun!
day of learning and discussion about how communities could empower youth to tackle the growing issue of mental health. Students listened while professionals within the community spoke about how social media use, nutrition, sleep habits and healthy relationships can affect mental health in both positive and negative ways. Teachers took part in workshops on self-care and stress management with the overall objective of supporting mental health in the school environment. After a healthy lunch, students and teachers together participated in a large group asset mapping activity to discover what is being done in other schools to support mental wellness. After the activity, students broke off into their school groups to develop a S.M.A.R.T goal within the topic of mental wellness to take back 4X DID YOU KNOW YOUTH WHO VAPE ARE MORE LIKELY TO START SMOKING WITHIN 18 MONTHS? NATIONAL NON-SMOKING WEEK JANUARY 19 TO 25 VAPING = SMOKING
to their schools and carry out with their peers. Public Health practitioners are usually never seen at the forefront of their work in schools. With the ability to collaborate, foster partnerships and advocate for students on issues such as vaping, nutrition and mental health, their work helps to advance health promotion for students in the school community every day. Using the core competencies for Public Health in Canada as a standard, practitioners are also able to effectively communicate, interpreting health data and information to make sure schools, students and families have the information they need to thrive. To learn more about the Healthy Learners in School Program please visit: https://en.horizonnb.ca/home/facilities-and- services/services/public-health/healthy-learners- in-school.aspx 43% DID YOU KNOW OF NEW BRUNSWICKERS IN GRADES 9 TO 12 HAVE TRIED VAPE PRODUCTS?
Heather McBriarty, a Horizon MRT who works primarily in the prostate ultrasound clinic at Horizon’s St. Joseph Hospital, has been with Horizon for 30 years. In November 2019 she published her first book, Somewhere in Flanders.
One of the letters from James (Jim) W. Johnstone to Heather’s grandmother, Isobel McCurdy.
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