A desire to make an impact at the community level propelled Austin Deck, an LPN, to enrol in the post-diploma Bachelor of Health Sciences offered at the University of Lethbridge Calgary campus. Even though he’s only a few months into the program, Deck is already making an impact by helping organize Calgary’s second Pop-Up Care Village on Jan. 24.
The first pop-up care village last September brought many services to the city’s most vulnerable, including health care, food, haircuts, massages and clothing. The event is modelled after a similar event in the San Francisco Bay Area and is coordinated by BeTheChangeYYC, a non-profit organization helping to end homelessness.
“I am the medical team lead and also the data collection coordinator,” says Deck. “As the medical team lead, I’m looking over the volunteers and teams, and the activities of our professionals who will be there. In terms of data collection, as team lead I’m using my education from my first term at ULethbridge. I’m using a lot of the health research methods to ensure we’re getting the best data possible from this event so we can better address the needs of the people we serve in future events.”
Based on the feedback from the first pop-up care village, organizers have added more services for people who are new to Canada and created an advisory committee to allow partners to have more input to the event. Deck chaired the community advisory sub-committee.
“I connected with community associations, student associations, business improvement association, the MLA’s and the MP’s offices and invited them to give feedback,” Deck says.
Even though Deck admits to being busy himself, he says the event managers, Hanna Woodward and Bill Zheng, deserve credit. Both are University of Calgary students, with Woodward studying social work and Zheng studying nursing.
The January pop-up care village will be held indoors at the Kerby Centre and will offer physical and mental health checkups, low-income transit applications, employment services, housing information and immigration services, to name a few.
In addition, Deck’s community involvement includes several other organizations. He is a member of the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing practical nursing school accreditation bureau and Bow Valley College’s Practical Nurse advisory program. In addition, Deck sits on the board of the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta and does outreach as a team lead with BeTheChangeYYC.
Deck didn’t picture himself as a nurse when he thought about possible careers. He was a dancer with the Young Canadians School of Performing Arts, a program supported by the Calgary Stampede and the Calgary Stampede Foundation. The program trains youth aged eight to 21 in performance, voice, ballet, jazz, tap and acrobatics. The Young Canadians perform in the Calgary Stampede’s Grandstand Show. Along with a love of performing, Deck also considered starting his own business.
“Then my dad passed away suddenly on my 19th birthday,” he says. “It gave me the kick I needed. I went back to school and upgraded my high school courses.”
He attended the U of C for a year studying biological sciences but soon realized it wasn’t for him. His volunteer work with No One Dies Alone, an Alberta Health Services program offering companionship for people close to death, inspired him to pursue nursing.
“I saw the nursing impact, especially in palliative care,” says Deck. “I realized that was something I really wanted to have the power to do and the impact I could have in that field.”
After completing his practical nursing diploma, Deck knew he still wanted to help people but to have an impact at the health-policy level.
“As someone who is openly gay, I come from a minority group. And I know there are plenty of intersections out there for other minorities,” he says “What inspires me is backing things that are close to my heart — equity, diversity and inclusion. Public health just comes naturally to me and it’s something that has been a focus for me.”