Robyn Allen

2021 International Women's Day Nominee - Robyn Allen

Give a brief bio about yourself/ your background/ your history.

I am a 35-year-old single mother of three who is a full-time student at BU. I balance school, raising my children, community work, and an RA job while maintaining a 3.93 GPA. Community work involves volunteering time for baking and sewing masks at my children’s school, working at Christmas cheer and funerals in 2019, and the ongoing assistance of community members or their families who are undergoing transitions to long-term care or palliative settings. Additionally, I volunteer my time to be a part of a moderating team for an online music community Chillhop. I worked in rural healthcare for 10 years before returning to school and I have learned the importance of empathy led learning in academia because I have fled intimate partner violence and healed from it.

What education have you taken?

I have previous college certificates for pharmacy technician, through the Winnipeg Technical College and Health Care Aide, from the Assiniboine Community College. I am in a Combined Honours Bachelor of Arts Degree with the majors of Sociology and Political Science. Additionally, I have taken the first aid course, mental health first aid course, and attended online conferences of the CSA Professional Development webinars.

What accomplishments are you proud of?

There are many accomplishments I am proud of Being the parent of three amazing brave children. Being selected by Dr. McCulloch to attend the Women, Peace, and Security Conference in March 2020. Being selected for the BURTA (Brandon Research Training Award ~ $5,000) in the summer of 2020 where I undertook a socio-historical analysis of Epidural use as a folded force within clinical decision making at Brandon Regional Health Centre. My work as an RA with the EEWG (Employment Equity Working Group) which contributes to mobilizing effective change in collective agreements towards equity, diversity, and inclusion. My contributions as an RA including editing, research, and administrative work for Dr. Hanemaayer’s SSHRC application to create meaningful change in clinical settings of those receiving care for complicated diseases. I have also been selected to present in the Open Session on the Sociology of Medicine, Health, and Illness as part of the 2021 Canadian Sociological Association Conference.

How did you become interested in your field of study?

I was very frustrated working in rural health and noticing the unnecessary harm and death that is accepted in rural care. I initially went to BU for the Psychiatric Nursing program but in 2017, my child got diagnosed with immunocompromising illnesses. It was the caring ears of professors like Dr. Baker and Dr. Hanemaayer who helped me change my learning career. Dr. Baker always encouraged me that there was always another way. Dr. Hanemaayer gave me the confidence and opportunities to use the methods I learned to evaluate health policies. I would not be here today if it were not for the potential that they saw in me. I am now in a Combined Honours program of Sociology and Political Science to effect change in rural health policy so I can save my child’s life, and countless others.

What is your philosophy in life?

Patience, kindness, and tolerance are the roots to love, peace, and joy. From that starting point comes listening, accepting, and forgiveness in the present. They are the actions, thoughts, and words we can practice with ourselves and with others that create the foundation for a healed society. This philosophy allows me to stay present, to encourage growth within me and others, and move towards a great future I could not image was possible. I have a past filled with violence, precarity, and hurt and I healed and moved to this present by being kind to myself, patient with my healing, and tolerance during my growth. This is the philosophy I teach my children; this is the foundation of the truth I share in class; this is the way I pull the empathy found in lived realities on the local level into class discussions regarding systems, methods, and theories.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

I see myself going for a PhD in Critical Sociology, working with partnerships with CIHR and RDI to evaluate rural health policy in Manitoba, Canada, and in the international setting. I see myself effecting meaningful change in rural health policy through policy analysis, teaching future policy students, and writing papers and hopefully books on the transitions from current health policies, which further create rural health disparities, towards future health policies of empathy and emancipation built on rationales of plurality. I see the potential in using local community networks like the Brandon Immigration Centre, Brandon Friendship Centre, and Brandon University as ways to create community care networks that facilitate the many forms of health found within rural areas. These agencies can be translators of care, advocates for impactful change, and assistants of health system transitions where the singularity of the biomedical model moves to a complementary network of health paradigms.

What do you #ChooseToChallenge?

I #ChooseToChellenge rural health disparity.

Nominator’s Comments:

Robyn has overcome significant personal challenges to pursue her post-secondary education, including a twelve-year absence from school following her high school graduation, domestic violence, poverty, and being a single mother to three children (including a child with a life-threatening medical condition). Yet through all these challenges Robyn has not only persevered but thrived, achieving academic excellence, and serving as a positive role model and inspiration to her peers and professors alike. Robyn is generous in sharing her journey of healed growth and perseverance with others, so they may benefit from her wisdom and lived experience. Robyn is a leader amongst her peers, who have benefitted from her example, her knowledge, and her resilience. Robyn intends to pursue a career in health care policy, so other families will not have to endure the same kinds of struggles she and her daughter have suffered. As Robyn says, purpose is not found in one particular part of a timeline; sometimes your purpose changes and grows as you move through your life. Robyn has indeed found her purpose, and the world will be a better place for it.

It is a marvel to behold the intensity of Robyn’s committed engagement to the communities and causes she has embraced. Robyn takes the notion of “belonging” very seriously, both for herself and others. She prioritizes community-building at every step, whether in the context of a classroom environment, a student organization, an academic department, a faculty, or the university as a whole. And she self-consciously understands her presence within a community first and foremost in terms of service and obligation to others, as opposed to seeking personal benefits. Moreover, Robyn would never allow herself to be satisfied with providing mere lip service to a cause. She is guided by a strong moral compass and is undeterred in following its direction, regardless of the obstacles encountered along that path. She proudly walks the walk, serving as a fierce advocate for justice in so many areas, including truth and reconciliation for Indigenous peoples, substantive gender equality and, especially, improved access and outcomes in healthcare.

Robyn has already made significant achievements in disseminating new knowledge. In 2020 Robyn won a Brandon University Research Training Award valued at $5,000 to work with Ariane Hanemaayer (Sociology) on a project titled “EPIDURAL USE AT BRANDON REGIONAL HEALTH CENTRE: A HISTORICAL SOCIOLOGICAL ANALYSIS.” Her analysis sought to explain why the rates of epidural use have come to be higher here than both the national and provincial averages, and she developed a novel approach to health policy analysis to do so. She found that part of what explains the variance in rates is systemic racism and misogyny in obstetrics. Robyn will be presenting these results at the Congress for the Humanities and Social Sciences in June 2021, demonstrating her commitment to sharing her expertise with others.