Get to Know the Faces of ICN: Leslie Ayre-Jaschke

We are thrilled to highlight one of the extraordinary members of our Executive Leadership Team, Leslie Ayre-Jaschke.

Leslie has been with Imagine Citizens Network as a volunteer since 2015 and served on our board for 6 years. In 2020, prior to moving to Edmonton, she was honoured with the Town of Peace River’s Lifelong Achievement Award (2020 Volunteer Awards – Town of Peace River). Now retired from a career that took her from teaching to lactation consulting to program evaluation, Leslie enjoys time with family and friends and is still volunteering, primarily with ICN.

We caught up with Leslie to ask her some questions about her time with ICN and are thrilled to share this exclusive interview with you today! Take a read below.


What inspired you to become involved with ICN and furthermore as a board member? 

I was on the HQCA Patient & Family Advisory Panel (later renamed Committee) as a rural resident (living in Peace River). We had a request from Imagine Citizens Network for members to participate in a strategic planning session and I put up my hand. I knew Judy and Gail MacKean from my time with SEARCH Canada (2000-2002), a program funded by the Alberta Health Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR) to train health professionals living in the rural health regions.  I think it involved an extra trip to Calgary for the facilitated session at the O’Brien Institute at the U of C. I then committed to stay involved “over the summer” while the plan was developed. Somehow that “over the summer” turned into becoming a founding board member when IMAGINE Citizens Collaborating for Health applied for society status. I’d been involved with many committees and boards over the years, including 10 years with a national not-for-profit board, so it was a natural move.


What aspect of ICN’s mission and vision resonates the most with you and why?

While I’ve (thankfully) had little personal interaction with the broader health care delivery system beyond having two babies in small hospitals and minor issues requiring visits to primary care clinics, I worked peripherally as a certified lactation consultant and also as a program consultant for the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program in the Peace River area. This gave me an appreciation for the importance of a patient/client voice in program and policy development. Concurrent with my time with SEARCH (and beyond), I worked as the Peace Health Region’s Health Research & Information Officer and also returned to university as a distance student and completed an MSc in Health Promotion (University of Alberta). When I became involved with ICN, I had a small practice as an evaluation consultant and had municipal experience on a town council. My interest in ICN arose from knowing a rural perspective was needed and I thought I might bring some value in that regard.


What has been the most rewarding part of being involved with ICN? 

I always say that I like to be around and work with really smart people because I learn so much. ICN has an incredibly knowledgeable community, enriched by both book smarts and lived experiences, of committed people. I’ve been able to be involved and connected in small and larger ways, depending on my time and interests while I was still working, through retirement, and through a big move–a perfect situation for me. The vision and work required to bring Care Opinion to Alberta has been incredible to watch and I’m pleased to be involved even to a small extent. The more recent opportunity to be part of the Executive Leadership Team has been a very rewarding experience.


 What do you believe are the most pressing issues with our healthcare system, and why are they important to you?

While my interests have been focused to a large extent on the issues around rural access to equitable healthcare, my time in Edmonton has helped me appreciate the challenges in urban centres as well. I’m very concerned that Edmonton’s important hospital project has been once again put on hold, which puts not only Edmonton area people at risk but also all of those in the northern part of the province and the NWT who rely on these over-stretched and aged facilities and staff. Access to high quality and timely primary health care, related services, and within the continuing care sectors are factors in overcrowded ERs. ICN can bring a broad and important non-partisan perspective about these and other issues to government and community organizations. 


How did your role as a board member contribute to the mission and goals of ICN?

I brought an administrative and policy mindset to the work of the board. I hope my experience with other boards, bylaws, municipal government, fundraising, policy development, etc. was helpful.


 What do you hope to achieve or accomplish during your tenure with ICN?

I’m excited to see ICN develop in ways I hope will be sustainable. If I can contribute to that, I’ll feel I’ve accomplished something worthwhile. 


What advice would you give to individuals who are passionate and looking for a way to get involved in shaping health and care in Alberta? 

Write your MLA with a copy to the Health Minister with your concerns. Then subscribe to ICN’s newsletter and also let us know you’re interested. 


What are your hopes for the healthcare system?

I’d like to see family physicians and rural generalists paid properly (preferably not fee-for-service) and supported to have multidisciplinary teams that serve patient’s physical and mental health needs. A system where hospital ERs aren’t full of people who should have access to a healthcare team (including after hours) that could keep them out of the ER. Adequately staffed/paid hospital and community-based healthcare professionals. Outreach to citizens/patients that is routine when considering changes. 


What does volunteering mean to you?

I’ve learned so much and made so many lifelong connections through volunteering that it’s a crucial part of who I am. I started volunteering in grade 3 when I was the secretary for the Red Cross club and now have over 60 years of varied volunteer experiences. I expect to be a volunteer until I can’t.


Thank you Leslie for taking the time to answer our questions! Your work and contributions to ICN are invaluable. We are grateful for your service of promoting Albertans and their patient-centered care.