Dr. Sharon Burey, a Windsor, Ont., pediatrician and recognized leader in the health and well-being of children, has been appointed to the Senate. Dr. Burey has dedicated her career to equality and to justice for those living in poverty, visible minorities and other marginalized communities. She is the first person from Windsor to join the Senate in 40 years. After emigrating from Jamaica in 1976, Dr. Burey founded Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Awareness Windsor. She was the first woman of colour president of the Pediatricians Alliance of Ontario, was an adjunct professor at what was then the University of Western Ontario in 2009 and served as pediatrics delegate to the OMA Council and a member of OMA Women.
Dr. Sharon Burey, Windsor, Ont. pediatrician and founder of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Awareness Windsor, has been appointed to the Senate.
She spoke to the OMA about her Nov. 21 appointment.
Q: First of all, congratulations and has it sunk in yet?
Dr. Burey: Not really! In my line of work, we know it is a process, so I’m not surprised that it’s going to take quite some time for it to sink in. I felt a whole range of emotions from shock, surprise, excitement, being overwhelmed, to one of thanks that I’ve been afforded the privilege of serving my country in this manner. It is truly a deep honour and a privilege to be selected by the prime minister and appointed by the Governor General to serve in the Senate.
It was surreal, I’m still replaying it in my mind. It’s a moment to celebrate Canada really, for the kind of country that we are that afforded me this opportunity.
Q: Did becoming a senator or doing something similar ever cross your mind?
Dr. Burey: This was certainly not something I ever envisioned. Initially of course my work was in pediatrics, neo-natal, intensive care work, something I had trained in and what I did when I worked in northern Ontario in Sudbury, but when I came to Windsor, the priorities, needs of the communities, the hospital and the patients, those priorities were in children’s mental health. And so, I retooled myself with the help of so many with further training. I was part of the children’s mental health collaborative response in Windsor-Essex from the early 1990s and that is what brought me to this place. Responding to the priorities of my community and my patients. And that’s what’s kept me going from different things and that’s how life unfolds.
Q: What does it mean to you to be the first senator from Windsor in 40 years?
Dr. Burey: I didn’t really know this was going to be such a historic appointment. What it means to me really is that Windsor, and communities like Windsor, these are places where anyone can make a home in Canada, and they can contribute to their community and aspire to the highest level. This is Canada.
Q: What are your priorities and what are you most excited about? Is there anything you’re nervous about?
Dr. Burey: My priorities are the people and the children and the community. I started out wanting to be in intensive care, but the priorities of the people and the children and the community are what have always guided me. So, I’m going to be doing a lot of listening. There’s so much wisdom to working with such a distinguished group of Canadians and senators and also the administrative staff. The prime minister really made it clear that he expects me to make a significant contribution to the work of the Senate, to help tackle the broad range of challenges and opportunities facing the country. That’s my duty and the priorities will come that way. About being nervous, I have to say the parliamentarians, the Senators, who have been reaching out to me, they have been so warm.
Q: What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Dr. Burey: I have to acknowledge the strong support network from my colleagues and pediatricians who have dedicated their life to service. I think of Dr. Mark Awuku, Dr. Edouard Armour; the list goes on over the years. The community partners, my wonderful staff who have been with me for decades. It takes a village to raise a child; I’m so used to ending so many medical talks with this caption. So, I’m proud of my ‘village Windsor’, for providing that safe and secure and nurturing place for me and my family where we could strive.
I think of the community’s response to children’s mental health in the 1990s, when the full community came together. And of course, ADHD Windsor, which is also a community partnership, which was supported by various stakeholders. And that changed the way the community viewed ADHD and expanded the resources available to the community and schools. And of course, my work with the Pediatricians Alliance of Ontario, which is the Ontario chapter of the APA (American Academy of Pediatrics) and the OMA. These ‘relationships’ This is part of my accomplishments because they have brought me here.
Q: What’s your message to everyone who has been part of your journey?
Dr. Burey: I’m just saying a big thank you. Thank you for your support. We can be celebrating a little bit, but we have a lot of work to do and that is why this has taken me to the Senate and I’m ready to get working.
I wanted to acknowledge the reason that I’m here today. And of course, it starts with my loving, nurturing and brilliant parents, who are no longer with us, Mary and Eric Burey. They created a safe, secure environment for me and my siblings to thrive and become resilient. And of course, my wonderful children who have supported and helped me in everything I’ve done.
This interview has been edited for length.