A life influenced by tragedy, Sherri di Lallo has used her painful memories to make a difference in the world by working to address issues around health equity.
Inspired as a youth by the passing of her three-year-old sister, Sherri has spent the last 22 years working hard to improve Indigenous health care by building partnerships between remote communities, and the health-care system.
“I always was interested Indigenous Health, just to see the health disparities within the community where I came from, and the struggles that Indigenous people were having it became a passion of mine,” di Lallo explains.
Originally from a remote community in northern Saskatchewan, today Sherri works in Edmonton at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, where she serves as the Indigenous Child Nurse Coordinator, a role that supports physicians, staff, patients and families between home, hospital and community.
The Awasisak Indigenous Health Program supports Indigenous families, helping them feel welcomed into the hospital. As an Indigenous person, she uses her culture and experiences to help those in need of support, whether they’re the families she sees through the Awasisak Indigenous Health Program, or any other person facing challenging times.
For Sherri, being able to assist families going through the challenges of having a sick child is one of the most rewarding parts of her job.
“[These families are] from a small community and they’ve never been in a big hospital and there’s a lot of fear associated with that, a lot of doubt, a lot of shyness, and so our program is there to help them feel safe, to show them around, to give them the support, the emotional support and the spiritual support, that they need to feel comfortable within the hospital.”
Having published articles and developed multiple programs around Indigenous health, Sherri has become a wealth of knowledge that health-care organizations go to when they need information, or a different perspective.
This unique view on culture and health care is just one of the reasons she was invited to join the RhPAP Board of Directors in 2018, as a representative for the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA).
“I feel quite honoured to be on the board… and having the opportunity to represent registered nurses is a huge honour for me. The board is amazing, they’re so welcoming and supportive of me being there. I feel very valued, and I feel like I’m an expert, they see me as an expert and that means a lot to me,” di Lallo adds.
Having lived in both small and large communities, she knows the benefits and challenges that can come with both.
Now residing in the town of Millet, about 40 km south of Edmonton, for Sherri and her family, rural is the best place they could be.
“When we moved to Millet we fell in love with the place right away, because it’s beautiful here. We [had] heard the schools were amazing and that’s the kind of environment I wanted to bring my son up,” says di Lallo.
“It’s just so peaceful, and joyful, and it slows down our lives to enjoy who we are and what we are a lot better.”
According to Sherri, working in rural communities also allows health practitioners to know their patients better, and be given the opportunity to see the true outcome of their work.
“Relationships are so important in my personal life, and in my professional life, and here we are able to build those true friendship and be connected to community and serve our community and see the results of our service.”
For Sherri, it’s an honour to be in rural Alberta.
“I feel honoured to serve our communities because I know that when I run into somebody, they’re always so grateful for the services that we provide, and it’s that connectedness again, a health-care professional, and patient, and community, and how we all work together to enjoy living.”