“You can’t build a healthier community if you don’t think about those who are left behind,” says Janice Kaffer, Chief Executive Officer and President of Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare.

Kaffer is describing why her organization partners with ProsperUs, a collective of local leaders, residents, investors, and service providers aiming to lift children and youth out of poverty. Hôtel-Dieu’s approach to community wellbeing is rooted in the social determinants of health — how educational success, social inclusion, health and nutrition, housing, and access to transportation impact an individual’s health. “That’s one of the goals of ProsperUs and that’s what we do here at Hôtel-Dieu,” says Kaffer as a Co-Chair for the ProsperUs Leadership Council.

Serving in these executive roles, Janice has been a strong advocate for patient care, team development and reimagining hospitals and healthcare.  As a registered nurse since 1984, Kaffer has witnessed the impact of poverty on human health— individuals forced to decide to either pay for medications or a place to live. She believes our community’s social systems are not organized in a way that allows for a continuation of care between organizations throughout a lifetime, especially as it relates to youth mental health. Kaffer feels that ProsperUs may have that solution to help these young adults as Hôtel-Dieu is just one of 50 organizations that have committed to shifting their work in the community.

“Being the CEO of Hôtel-Dieu has now given me a great opportunity to make it a mission to help those in need, in every way that I can,” declares Kaffer.

By focusing on individual accountability within a strong team-based structure, Kaffer has been successfully leading strategic change, prioritizing patient and family centered care, staff development and physician engagement, throughout her organization. It’s not just her professional experiences in non-profit, clinical research, coaching, case management and strategic planning that inspired her to become involved in ProsperUs but her personal life experiences as well.  

“I come from a family where we didn’t have a lot. And it wasn’t until I was much older until I realized that I was one of these kids that we’re trying to help now.”

The CEO draws her strength and inspiration from her friends, her colleagues and her own personal experiences. Her husband of 40 years, Bernie, her children Kate, Matt, and son-in-law Jason help family and community stay top of mind for her. Janice is also an exceptionally proud ‘Amma’ to her grandchildren, Allison, Nathan and Courtney, who are the light of her life. Being a grandmother helps keep families in the centre of her work.

“If it’s better for at least one or two families, then I know I can sleep at night,” says Kaffer about her motivation to help youth succeed from Cradle to Career. Kaffer suggests that if all of us just shift a little bit, then together we can help children become healthier and ultimately the community will be healthier too.