Rural Talks to Rural 2022 opens in Brussels
BY DENNY SCOTT
The fourth Rural Talks to Rural Conference started on Monday morning with several special guest speakers, including one woman whose work has had a profound impact on Huron County.
Dr. Baretta Casey, the former Director of the Center of Excellence in Rural Health in Hazard, Kentucky, helped to form the Gateway Centre for Excellence in Rural Health in Seaforth. Casey shared her story, as did Ron Thomas, a Six Nations advanced care paramedic, and Mary Doyle, CEO of Rural on Purpose, before those in attendance took a break.
The bi-annual event, run by the Canadian Centre for Rural Creativity, was emceed by Peter Smith of the centre. Smith welcomed Huron-Bruce MPP and Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Lisa Thompson, Huron County Warden Glen McNeil and Huron East Mayor Bernie MacLellan to provide comments for the opening ceremony.
Thomas was the first guest speaker. He is of the Seneca Nation and the Bear Clan and said he was really able to reconnect with his culture after being diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder in 2017. After opening with a thanks-giving address, Thomas explained that such an address helped him in his recovery, allowing him to continue to work as a paramedic. He is now part of a pilot project that uses his own culture and his connection to it to help other people similar to him in recovery.
Doyle was next to speak, and ran the group through mental exercises to help prepare them for future events. A trained futurist from the Institute for the Future, she said that everyone needs to know that new creations can’t happen as long as people feel that change can’t happen. Through her activities, she helped to make people realize that, not only could change occur, it has to and the attendees need to feel empowered to make those changes.
Dr. Casey was the third speaker, and was excited to get back to Canada after helping with the creation of the Gateway Centre in Seaforth. Casey recounted her history, growing up in the Appalachian Mountains in rural Kentucky and shared how she created the Center of Excellence in Rural Health in Hazard, reclaiming land that had only been made available due to strip mining. She explained how, after initially being discouraged from trying to become a doctor, she became a trained imaging technician and was soon told by other doctors she needed to go back to school and chase her dream, leading to her becoming one of the few solo health providers in her area. She then discussed how she realized that health needed to be more than the doctor’s office and connected with other stakeholders to look at what keeping people healthy looks like in different areas, focusing on rural communities.Those meetings would eventually lead to the creation of the Center of Excellence in Rural Health, which would enrich people’s lives through specialized health care tailored to their needs, or, as Casey put it, focusing on equity in health care instead of equality.
In an interview with The Citizen before she took to the stage, Casey said she was excited to take part and excited to be face-to-face with both the people she had worked with on the Gateway Centre and new attendees. She said she was “amazed and very happy” to be remembered, and looked forward to discussing the differing paths their two centres had taken. She said she wasn’t quite sure what to talk about until Smith told her to just tell her own story and let people know how these things had come to pass.
The event carried on throughout the week including special events, performances and guest speakers. For more coverage, see next week’s issue of The Citizen.