If you asked me about medical bioethics, HPV, right-to-die court cases I would have said I know nothing. If you’d asked me for a list of Calgary’s oldest retailers, I’ve had said The Bay and Riley & McCormick. More about that later …
There is no such thing as a short resume for this woman: schooled in Calgary (Sacred Heart, St. Martin’s, Bishop Carroll, BA at Yale, BA & MA at Oxford, Ph.D at U of T, articled on Bay Street at Tory’s. Along the way, she met, fell in love with and married a professor from Belgium – so there was time teaching Theory of Law at the University of Brussels, children – and a return to Canada to raise their children here. Her husband was considering jobs in Victoria and Calgary. Juliet’s Calgary roots and family perhaps swayed the choice. And the U of C found a place for Juliet. Lucky us.
Let me back up and set the stage for this …
It isn’t every day that phenomenal opportunities sit down next to you at a rubber chicken luncheon. I was at one not long ago – and the lady to my right intrigued me. Between salad-speech-dessert-windup interludes, our conversation was like a tease, an appetizer – and I wanted more.
I requested this interview – which she quickly and graciously granted I might add – and this allows me to introduce to my readers and friends, a most interesting Calgarian, Dr. Juliet Guichon from the University of Calgary Medical School.
Now you might expect a doctor from a medical school, one who teaches and advises, to have a black bag in her trunk and a stethoscope in her handbag. Think again …
Her Doctorate is in Law, her education is quite the pedigree – yet her roots are long and deep in Calgary’s Catholic community and retail business scene. And she’s animated. And brilliant, approachable and funny. Not a bad get for me from a rubber-chicken luncheon.
Moral of this story … if someone you don’t know sits down next to you at a luncheon, ask questions – then sit back and listen. It helps to take notes. I don’t know if I should say thanks Doc, or thanks Juliet.Thanks, so much for your time and openness.
I asked, what contributed most to your success? “My parents. I was really lucky. They took the happiest and compassionate view. A wonderful teacher – Bill Dever. Yale. Oxford. And, I upset people.”
What has held you back? “Not wanting to upset people – but I’m over it! Timing. There is lots more I’d like to do …”
Back to the HPV battle – she told me it wasn’t difficult to square her own Catholicism with her opposition to Bishop Henry’s position: “My interest in the issue began when a friend died of cervical cancer. The vaccine would have prevented that. I didn’t understand the resistance. I don’t think that’s Catholic.”
There was so much more that won’t fit in this piece. In short, I was entranced - entertained, educated and engaged by this incredibly interesting woman who is, it seems, just getting started. Wow, what a life, and what a difference she is making.
Some interviews are hard to get. This one was easy. I asked. The answer was yes, an appointment made, I showed up. I spent the whole afternoon …
We did this interview during Hallowe’en week. Juliet said we should return to its roots – to use that event to talk about death, about dying. Laughter. Interruptions. While we met in the lobby of her office building we were at a crossroads – and colleagues kept coming by, for a hug, a chat, to congratulate her on her work, on her medal win and to discuss new projects. Each time, I was graciously introduced and included in the conversation. I had a wonderful time.
Her parting gift to me – a book; hers. The Right To Know One’s Origins. Then her phone rang – a kid wondering when they would be picked up by the mom-van. She had to go. It was an afternoon well spent, one I won’t soon forget …
I asked Juliet how she sees her business – as a medical bioethicist and advocate; ‘how’s business going to fare’ over the next quarter?
… academics are getting better at sharing across disciplines. The public interest is not served by silos. The whole discussion of beginning of life, end of life is becoming far more important to understand for everyone.
And over the next five years?
… baby boomers are agents of change. In the 70s it was the counter-culture, in the 80s it was reproductive technologies. Over the next five years – well, we baby boomers are now more concerned about end of life issues. Imaging technology advanced, ‘incidental findings’, cross-border genetics issues. DNA, eggs … don’t have a passport but they travel across borders. Lots of interesting new issues to explore …
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… people who are curious, knowledgeable and humble.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Juliet Guichon, when you are selling yourself or your organization, why do they hire and do business with you?
… it doesn’t happen very often and there is no money in it; because I’ll get it done. I don’t care about people having a harsh judgment – I just do it.
How would you describe your leadership or management style?
… I don’t know if I’ve really been a manager!
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… about this stuff (at which point Juliet walked me through a PowerPoint and Supreme Court of Canada transcripts about the ‘right to die’ case currently under review about assisted suicide, outlining problems she sees on the horizon for both Federal and Provincial governments because if it isn’t a crime [Federal] it becomes a health issue [Provincial] – and I found myself in awe of her brain and astounded by her passionate presentation) .. oh my!
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
... several stand out. My parents. Mom was a social worker, dad did government work, but he put his life on the line in the war. The people he would keep around. The ones he would keep away. Being sued because I wrote a letter …
Work life balance, do you have it?
… I think so. You have to when you have kids (19, 16, 11).
… swim, bike, ski, walk the dog (Bichon Shih Tzu).
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