Alumni Spotlight | Fall 2020

Meet the alumnus leading Thunder Bay’s COVID-19 response

“You never really get a break from COVID-19,” Stewart says. “Since we started on March 6, there has been very little time off to regroup and refocus. I’ve carried on the normal business at the hospital as well as keeping my family practice going.”

Dr. Stewart Kennedy is the Incident Manager of COVID-19 at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

Before becoming a doctor, Stewart earned his first degree – a Bachelor of Science in Nursing – at Lakehead University.

He explains how challenging it has been leading the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre’s response to COVID-19, with new information about the virus coming out daily.

“The team and I have had to continually adapt our policies and processes to make sure we keep patients safe and keep staff at the hospital safe, as well as staff in Northwestern Ontario,” he says.

It’s been a humbling experience to deal with the explosion of knowledge in such a short period of time.

Stewart, who is an assistant professor at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and past president of the Ontario Medical Association, helped put the right protocols in place to keep everyone as safe as possible. As of early September, there have been just over 100 COVID-19 cases in the region, and none of them are active.

Stewart credits his university education with enabling him to see the big picture as an interconnected system.

Not only did he attend Lakehead, Stewart also earned a Master in Hospital Administration from the University of Ottawa, and a medical degree from McMaster University. He did his medical residency at the University of Calgary, but his love of Thunder Bay brought him back.

During the month of March and the first part of April, there were many unknowns about how aggressively COVID-19 would spread and how much exposure they might experience at the hospital.

“We had to ask all staff to take additional risks to continue to work in a hospital that could have gotten overwhelmed by COVID-19,” he says.

Staff have stepped up to work longer hours away from their families.

“The way they understood their mission and understood the need to take care of the sick was quite impressive,” Stewart says.Dr. Stewart Kennedy (BScN’77)

Lakehead’s nursing program not only taught him how to treat patients, but also how to communicate effectively with them, their family members, and with his team.

“The main thing I took away from the program, besides scientific knowledge, is the ability to communicate effectively,” he says.

Stewart says one Lakehead course, Exercise Physiology, taught by the late Dr. Norm LaVoie, piqued his interest in studying medicine. 

“Norm’s teaching style – with enthusiasm and passion – was very contagious and demonstrated excitement in all of us who attended his course, which provided a foundation to wanting to learn more about the human body,” Stewart says.

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