She'd jotted down the three adjectives at the end of her notes. They served as reminders for herself about her learnings from decades of leading epidemic responses around the world.
Simply put, she says, during a public health crisis, people respond in one of three ways: apathy, anger and altruism.
And, since she was a young girl visiting her appendicitis-afflicted sister in the hospital, Dr. Henry has often found herself in that final third.
“If we remember it’s a common suffering, then we can support each other through it.”
She'd written “kind” because of a recent conversation with a young person who'd asked her: “What do I do when people in my class are making fun of others for wearing masks?”
She’d told them to be kind. “And that doesn't mean 'nice.' Kindness is a superpower that connects us to other people. It allows us to recognize others, who might be different from us, as kin.”
She’d written “calm” because, in her ability to help in a crisis, it’s the word she’s heard most about herself. “When we’re calm, we can see other people, and that we’re not alone.”
And, she’d written “safe” in hopes that it would be everyone’s ultimate goal. A reminder to everyone that the declaration of a public health emergency and the restrictions would prevent illness and death.
“The phrase came together at the last minute. And since then, I’ve added, ‘to be brave.’ Because I believe it takes bravery to accomplish all the others.”
Friend of Science World
“My friend sent me this picture!” Dr. Bonnie Henry exclaims, holding her phone up to her computer camera.
On the screen is a photograph of a BC Transit bus shelter. It features Dr. Henry’s childhood school photo and bolded words that read, “The World Needs More Nerds.”
Last summer, Dr. Henry was surprised at the invitation to be the poster child of Science World's grassroots fundraising campaign. And, even more surprised when it went viral.
“It brought me back to my youth. Especially being a teenager. I remember how challenging it was to accept that it’s cool to be nerdy.”