Meet the 2020 Aurum Award winners—a group of Dalhousie alumni recognized for their outstanding successes in innovation, community engagement and leadership.
Denise Pothier (BEng’93) has distinguished herself through her advocacy for inclusion and diversity. For 20 years, she has been advancing inclusivity in the engineering field, motivated as much by her own experiences in a male-dominated profession as by her Acadian and Mi’kmaq heritage. Currently she is the vice-president of practice services and Indigenous relations at Stantec.
What is the best way to encourage people to make a difference? “By appealing to their hearts and minds. It could be something they are impacted by, or something they imagine coming true, but when you touch hearts and minds, that’s where it all begins.”
What is the biggest challenge you face in what you do? “Balancing the Eurocentric or western way of knowing and learning with the traditional Indigenous ways of knowing, or ‘two-eyed seeing,’ a term Mi’kmaw elder Albert Marshall came up with 15 years ago.”
What is the best part of what you do for a living? “It’s the ability to connect with the global community. Stantec has operations around the world and that has exposed me to invaluable perspectives and knowledge that I can draw on.”
For 20 years, neurologist and chemist Sultan Darvesh (MD’88) has searched for a key to unlocking the mystery of Alzheimer’s disease, leading a team of researchers at Dalhousie in groundbreaking work that could be a gamechanger for millions of people living with the disease.
Probing Alzheimer’s mysteries
How do you know if an idea is worth pursuing? “I first thought butyrylcholinesterase [an enzyme] had potential as a therapeutic target for Alzheimer’s disease about 25 years ago. But it took ten years of background work just to determine that it was worth pursuing. So, reflection and research are how I know.”
What is the first thing you do every day? “I plan out my day, writing it down when I get to my lab. When I go home, I check to see how well I did. If I accomplished six things out of a list of 10, I feel pretty good.”
What is the best part of what you do for a living? “I particularly enjoy the clinical teaching and research. To see that spark in the eyes of the graduate students and young people I work with is worth everything to me. Sometimes it’s also the ways that they inspire me.”
As the chair and ceo of Triangle Strategies, Robert Zed (MHSA’86) has helped connect companies that specialize in innovative health-care technologies with health industry decision-makers.As a community leader, he’s a passionate advocate for mental health and a mentor to students in Dalhousie’s Faculty of Health.
What is the one piece of advice you like to pass along to others? “You have two ears, two eyes and one mouth, so watch and listen closely before you make a decision or offer your opinion on something.”
How do ideas come to you? “Usually it’s eureka moments, but those moments are based on watching trends and having a gut reaction, or just thinking about what a better future could look like.”
What is the first thing you do every day? The last? “The first thing I do is say good morning to my wife, or text her good morning because I travel a lot. As for the last thing, I am now in the habit of being mindful, so I put my devices away and think about what I am grateful for from my day.”
For more than 35 years, Doug Reid (BComm’82) has been helping entrepreneurs future-proof their businesses. That experience has made him a vital ally in community building, not just raising funds for health care and culture, but also developing the next generation of leaders.
What are the most important things to encourage in a community? “Caring, a love for one another and equality. I also like to see an ambition to be better, or an intent to enrich everyone’s life and well-being. Those are top of mind for me.”
What’s the best advice you ever received? “My dad used to say, ‘Always wear really good shoes and always have really good tires on your car.’ Bad footwear leads to bad posture, leg and back issues, among other health problems. Bad tires will land you in a ditch or an accident. It was his way of saying stay connected, and well grounded. My daughter is driving now, so those words come to mind.”
What is the best part of what you do for a living? “Helping others. It’s not just the work I do as a public accountant; it’s also the fact that I get to mentor and develop talent as a partner in the firm. It’s one of the most rewarding things I do.”