Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women: Dr. Denise Koh
Medicine Prof, Manitoba’s Chief Occupational Medical Officer named among Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women
Dr. Denise Koh’s recent impact with the province’s COVID-19 response may be in the forefront of her vision and leadership history, but her roots and her sustained commitment to strengthen and invest in local communities are a foundation worth knowing more about.
Although there are multiple people that supported and contributed to Koh’s win, she explains that she most often tries to emulate her recently deceased mentor and father, Dr. Eusebio “Killer Koh” Koh. A University of Regina professor emeritus and trailblazer in the Saskatchewan Filipino community, Dr. Eusebio Koh was known for his toughness, brilliance and advocacy work.
Following this example, Koh’s community involvement addresses the Filipino and BIPOC experience by working against racism and raising the profile of these communities, while supporting the most vulnerable.
This is seen through her contributions as a columnist, writing for The Filipino Journal, Safe Work Matters, and Urban NDN. She is also a member of the Philippine-Canadian Centre of Manitoba board, served as chairperson with the Manitoba Ethnocultural Advisory and Advocacy Council and is a mentor for youth and medical trainees.
Koh’s experience advocating for those underserved within the community influenced her approach to the COVID-19 pandemic response. While Koh created tools and resources for Manitoba’s employers and work environments, her focus was as the public health advisor for non-public facing, high-risk workplaces.
She assisted groups such as those in the food processing sector, temporary foreign workers, transportation workers and individuals in work camps. These highly racialized groups faced unique risks inside and outside the workplace.
Implementing her specialized testing program and her collaborative response model, she was able to streamline the management of COVID-19 cases in high-risk workers. It was this model which proved instrumental in preventing the outbreaks and shutdowns seen in other provinces and countries.
The adversity and stress she faced while working during the pandemic led to two watershed moments for Koh. The first was being nominated by her colleague for the Canadian Tire Community Impact category as one of WXN’s Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women.
“My colleague knew the struggles I faced being a vocal woman of colour who hasn’t always been given the privilege of realizing her true potential, in an environment that can be restrictive because it favours the status quo,” says Koh.
The second pivotal moment was when Koh recognized the need to improve the delivery of her successful but busy clinical hypnotherapy and life coaching practice. In response, she developed the MedResRx application, a first-of-its-kind program assisting individuals with their health and wellness issues, both within and outside of their jobs.
“The Burnout Blaster Bootcamp program is hypnotherapy-based, but also takes the worker through a work domain assessment to systematically address the contributors to that person’s burnout,” Koh explains.
Next, she is creating a corporate burnout course that springboards off the Burnout Blaster Bootcamp program. “Addressing burnout at the individual and workplace level should make a dent in this rising problem post-pandemic and maximize performance and engagement,” says Koh.
Koh’s advice to alumni and other young women starting in their careers to avoid burnout, is to celebrate their successes fully and unabashedly and take time for themselves.
“When things don’t go your way or outcomes don’t happen the way you’d hoped, , frame that as a time for growth and don’t let it paralyze you… our greatest successes often come out of our biggest failures,” Koh says.
Koh continues to develop more hypnotherapy and motivational recordings for different issues her patients are experiencing. This includes anxiety or stress, weight management, addictive behaviours and exam preparation.
Koh is also planning a book and a TED Talk, and moving forward with ways to be a force for change.