FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Pam Heard
February 13, 2018
My visit to this interview was a bit surreal – first time I’d been at the Rockyview General Hospital since my dad passed away there four years ago. My appointment at the Prostate Cancer Centre was a déjà vu as well – that place, a full 6th floor (38,000 sq. ft.) above the parking garage, we frequented often. As a 30-yr. prostate cancer survivor my dad had many appointments there, and I was his wheelchair pusher …
This day was different – interviewing the big boss, Executive Director Pam Heard.
Waiting room coffee, handshakes and pleasantries, business card swapping, and what followed was entertaining and enlightening for me, perhaps for readers too:
She was born in Calgary’s Holy Cross Hospital, first-born of five. Mom was the stay-at-home kind, dad was an educator. When Pam was a wee child the family moved to Port Hope, ON where her dad taught at Trinity College School. She returned to Calgary in 1967 by way of Montreal; her dad returned to Calgary to take the job of Headmaster at Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School – but first he packed the family in the station wagon bound for Expo 67 in Montreal where Pam first got her appetite for travel and history. Mom and dad later divorced and both remarried. Dad passed away, mom continues to thrive …
Pam graduated from Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School but has remained very attached/involved [she received their 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award ]. She was as a pretty good student - Governor General’s Medal in hand, she headed off to Queen’s University in Kingston where she earned a B.A. in History and plenty of waitressing experience. She returned to Calgary and worked in accounting at Dome Petroleum - but accounting didn’t take … so she went to University of Calgary to do a Masters Degree in Western Canadian History. She completed the work but did not complete the degree, and went back to the workforce, “we needed the income”, with a job as Heritage Planner at the City of Calgary which she loved … but the ‘NEP happened’ resulting in cutbacks. Pam did pharmaceutical sales for four years – then her husband’s employment took them east to Toronto, Montreal, and Moncton. She was a stay-at-home mom until returning to Calgary in 1995.
Back in Calgary she got back to work - in sales at Indigo Books, but then a dream contract ‘came along’, a three year project in her field – history, documenting corporate history for Alberta Energy Company, Pan-Canadian Petroleum, recording the legacy 'before they merged' to form Encana.
She adds, “amiably divorced in 2005 after 30 yrs., two daughters, no grandchildren yet …”.
Next step in her career took her to the United Way of Calgary and Area where she was Manager of Communications and Marketing. A discussion one day with an Imperial Oil volunteer alerted her to an opportunity – which connected her with a head-hunter looking for an Executive Director for the Prostate Cancer Centre; she interviewed, won the job and has been there since. Starting with a staff of five, they are now 25 – with an annual budget of $4.0 million – a non-profit clinic without government funding - all donations and community support. The 6,000 sq. ft. centre office, is adjacent to ‘all the urologists in Calgary' in 20,000 sq. ft. (they are tenants of the PCC), and 12,000 sq. ft. is ‘being developed’ for expansion.
Why are you successful? “lots of simple things – doing what I love. Always believing ‘I can do it’, knowing I’m making a difference, parents gave me education and opportunities, I’ve always had confidence in myself. My attitude.”
What has held you back? “the choice to stay home with kids for 10 years – no regrets – but that delays things. When I was working on my masters degree I had a falling out with my professor over my thesis – I couldn’t re-do that work because we needed income and I had to get back to work. But really, none of that has held me back, or holds me back from doing what I want to do.”
How do you see your business – not-for-profit one-stop-shop clinic for prostate cancer – going forward over the next quarter?
… hard to compare ourselves to others – we are a one of a kind; Edmonton has tried to copy our model somewhat, but we are unique: no government funding, no bureaucracy, all the urologists in Calgary are here (we serve people from Red Deer south and some patients from out of province). So, in the next 90 days – fantastic! We are piloting some new services coaching ‘men’s health’, working on some mental health initiatives. This disease is 99% curable if caught early …
And over the next five years?
… I see a Urology funded Chair at the U of C, working on projects to better research and monitor blood pressure, waist measurement and blood sugar, more use of our Man Van, rapid access to service, active surveillance .. ‘watchers watching’, better science to deal with slow growing vs. aggressive prostate cancer. Better tests than the PSA test; lots of people are working on that. Increased use of MRI v. biopsy … less intrusive, less risk of infections.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… reputation is a big thing. Loyalty. Supporting Calgary suppliers, buying Canadian …
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Pam Heard, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… trustworthy, loyal, smart, well-rounded and with a huge work ethic (learned by example from my parents)
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… that depends on the situation, on the issue – autocratic, democratic, visionary, strategic … that’s my wheelhouse. I’m a hands-off ‘don’t micromanage’ manager. It’s not always easy, but we have a great team – and because they feel they make a difference. And they do.
… yes. My work and my fun stuff is balanced. And I think it is important – and I make sure my staff have schedule flexibility.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… making sure this place is sustainable. Succession planning, my next move – I don’t plan to quit working – I’ll probably be here till 2020 …
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… Expo 67, I was 12, saw things that gave me a desire to explore history and travel; a teacher in grade 10 (English and Latin) who opened my eyes to deeper reading; Barbara Shumsky – during my United Way days – who connected me with the head-hunter for this job, the interview with Dr. Donnelly that followed, seeing we shared a vision for what the PCC could be …
... reading books. Travel – one month a year – Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, hiking in the Rockies, time with family. Volunteer work – board involvements etc.
What do you read?
… lots! Business books, biographies, fiction, non-fiction. I consume five books a week, read the Economist and three newspapers a day. Ray Dalio’s Principles: Life and Work is one I like.
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