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‘A rich experience that allows me to advocate for patients.’

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Sean Kilpatrick
Sean Kilpatrick, seen here receiving recognition from UHN President and CEO Dr. Peter Pisters at a celebration tea for Patient Partners last September, says the program has given him many opportunities to be involved in projects that allow him to advocate for patients. (Photo: UHN)  

Sean Kilpatrick feels a strong sense of gratitude to UHN.

A former head and neck cancer patient at UHN, he says the compassion he received during his treatment is what still resonates today. 

"What stands out the most about my time at UHN is the level of care and empathy I received from every single staff member I encountered," Sean says. "Everyone, including the coordinators, my oncologists, radiation therapists, and so many others, reminded me there was a normal life out there.

"I can't describe what a difference that made during a very difficult and painful time." 

In an effort to give back and show his appreciation, Sean joined the UHN Patient Partner program about 18 months ago.

"As a Patient Partner, there have been so many opportunities to become involved," he says. "I try not to turn anything down, as it is always a rich experience that allows me to advocate for patients."

Always looking for new members

Patient Partners are recruited and oriented into a community of patients and caregivers who are matched to various organizational planning and decision-making activities. Individuals work with UHN leaders, clinicians and staff to help improve care and service at UHN. 

Situated within the Patient Experience portfolio, the Patient Partner program is always looking to recruit new members. Click here to learn more or email patientexperience@uhn.ca.

Patients and caregivers often do not know about the program or do not know how they can help. UHN staff members are encouraged to ask the patients and caregivers they work with to consider signing up.

During his time as a Patient Partner, Sean has participated in many initiatives, including myUHN Patient Portal consultations, the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre Quality Committee and, most recently, at a UHN leadership retreat about the strategic planning process now underway. 

Sean said that participating in the retreat was both informative and helpful to the staff in attendance. 

"It was an honour to be involved at the retreat," he says. "A Patient Partner voice stands as a reminder to everyone of their role as leaders. The level of commitment around the table was amazing."

'A meaningful voice'

In each initiative, Sean has a specific role and partners with staff and leaders to bring his lens as a patient to the issues discussed.  UHN has been embracing this new perspective on many initiatives and has been learning from Patient Partners like Sean, on what matters most to patients and caregivers. 

Sean also spoke last fall at a Purpose Values and Principles launch event.

"Sharing my personal story is not always easy, but I look at it as a way of thanking staff for all that they do every day," Sean says. "Having a Patient Partner speak allows staff to reconnect to their purpose.

"It also reminds everyone in attendance about what the patient experience can mean."

Sean said that this connection with staff is one of the best parts of his role and encourages others who may be interested in participating to consider applying to the program.

"There are so many opportunities to become involved and provide a meaningful voice," he says.​

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