When she is not teaching at George Brown College, Kavitha Siva works to fill the gaps in a strained healthcare system by connecting healthcare workers to clients in the community. She also supports internationally educated nurses to get a foothold in the Canadian workforce.
Siva brings her vast experience as a biotech expert, researcher, scientist and entrepreneur to the classroom at George Brown, where she teaches biology and develops curriculum at the School of Work and College Preparation and the School of Liberal Arts and Science (LAS). She is a 2019 graduate of George Brown's College Teachers Training Program — an experience she credits with helping her gain confidence in the Canadian setting for learning and teaching. (She thanks Alex Irwin and Valerie Scovill at the Centre for Preparatory and Liberal Studies and Susan Heximer, Chair at the School of LAS, for their continuous support throughout her teaching career.)
Providing health care services and employment opportunities
As the founder and executive director of Trillium Med Village, an organization she launched in 2017 shortly after arriving in Canada, Siva offers healthcare services, including home care support, and provides employment opportunities for caregivers, personal support workers and nurses, around 90 per cent of whom are women, she says.
"After coming to Canada as an immigrant myself, I said one of the gap areas for us to focus on is bridging the employer and the employee," she said. "We might have thousands of people who are amazing at what they do. But, unfortunately, not all the employers can see them, so we are the bridge to connect these two poles."
Immigrant healthcare workers must complete a lengthy process to have their experience and credentials recognized in Canada. Siva said sometimes the process could take years.
"It takes ages, especially if you don't have an organization to help you do the training," she says. "That's where organizations like ours come into play. We support the nurses through this process by providing them with the required training and professional development experience to integrate into the healthcare system in Ontario. And, in the end, we have a well-trained professional nurse to serve the province."
What drives Siva in all her professional pursuits is supporting people with ailments, including neurodegenerative disorders. She completed her doctoral research at the University of Trento in Italy to explore molecular therapies for a subtype of Parkinson's disease called FTDP-17 (frontotemporal dementia and parkinsonism linked to chromosome 17).
"I think we often underestimate the benefit of having a fully functional brain. And when people lose parts of it, you start to lose a part of yourself," she said.
"What I'm doing now is providing these patients with much-required support services for a quality life in their old age."
Siva's advice for success
Define your goals.
"First, have a vision for yourself. What do you want to be? What do you want to accomplish? When you answer those two questions, everything else will follow."
"Time management is my number one priority. Juggling tasks is one thing. Doing them right is another.
Ask for help.
"Identify your support systems and leverage them. Maybe you have mentors, teachers and professors to help you climb the ladder. Seeking help is a strength and it helps you grow."
Establish a timeline for yourself.
“Set career goals and attach a timeline to establish those goals. Time is a depreciating asset."