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Raise Her Up: Shelley Spaner

6-minute read

Shelley is a woman of all trades: radiologist, partner, board director, health program founder, country music fan and tennis enthusiast (the list goes on!) Find out how she’s empowering women to close the gender gap when it comes to health and wellness.

Raise Her Up - Shelley Spaner - Poppy Barley
Raise Her Up - Shelley Spaner - Poppy Barley Raise Her Up - Shelley Spaner - Poppy Barley

“I think recognizing that we are all human and we all make mistakes is crucial. ”

“I think recognizing that we are all human and we all make mistakes is crucial. ”

Raise Her Up - Shelley Spaner - Poppy Barley

Day job:

Partner and Radiologist at Mayfair Diagnostics

What I'm reading:

A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt.

What I'm listening to:

Country Music, The Fan 960 and Justin Termine on NBA Sirius radio.

Workout of choice:


What I'm doing when I'm not at work:

Tennis, hiking with my beautiful dog, Otis, and writing my first novel.

Unpopular opinion:

I’m a native Albertan who really believes strongly in social justice—an opinion that has been at odds with many friends and colleagues. I’m learning to voice my “unpopular thoughts” in a positive, thoughtful manner.

Raise Her Up - Shelley Spaner - Poppy Barley

The What

What is “Women for Men’s Health”? What inspired you to start it?

The Women for Men’s Health Initiative was established in late 2015 with the goal to make a true change in the very real health care discrepancies that currently exist for men in Alberta. Men’s health lags behind women’s health noticeably. In Canada the life expectancy for women is 84 years, 79 years for men. Men lead women in twelve out of the thirteen primary causes of death in Canada.

The inspiration behind the WFMH initiative stems back to my days as a medical student. One of my first patients in Internal Medicine was a single man in his late seventies. He had been very successful in business but was single, with no wife or children. He rarely went to the doctor even when he was sick and as a result, he had several preventable health problems that had gone untreated. He presented in renal failure and died a preventable death. I got to know him well over the time I looked after him and remember asking him why he hadn't sought medical care earlier. His answer has always haunted me. He looked at me with the saddest eyes and said, “I have no one.”

Where do you see the most opportunity for women in the healthcare system?

There are literally opportunities everywhere for women in healthcare—physicians, nurses, administrators, dieticians, wellness workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, coaches, compassionate caregivers aiding people in every stage of life. The current President and CEO of Alberta Health Services is a woman and one of my former teachers, Dr Verna Yiu. I honestly don’t think gender is a barrier to work in the health care system. I do however believe that it is up to women to help men learn how to make healthy choices that will help to change the current discrepancies that exist in gender health!

Raise Her Up - Shelley Spaner - Poppy Barley

If you hadn’t taken the medical career path, where do you think you’d be now?

Of course I would love to have been on the WTA tour, playing tennis around the world, but unfortunately, I didn’t have that talent! Seriously, I think I would have been working in health care in some capacity. I have always wanted to care for others.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your career thus far?

From my first day and to this day, the most rewarding part of radiology is doing something that makes a difference in a patient’s care. My favourite part of work is getting a request from a clinical colleague asking for an opinion on a complex case. Working in concert with clinical colleagues to solve challenging diagnostic problems that change the course of a patient’s illness is truly rewarding.

Have you ever felt defeated in your career? How did you overcome it?

To be honest there is rarely a week or sometimes even a day where I don’t feel at least partially defeated. There are obstacles and challenges in every part of my work—from the economics to the personalities, to the sometimes overwhelming workloads. I think recognizing that we are all human and we all make mistakes is crucial. Medicine can be very stressful, and the potential for conflict is very high. Acknowledging my many mistakes and trying to learn from them, has helped me quite a bit in this regard.

Raise Her Up - Shelley Spaner - Poppy Barley

If you could give our readers one piece of advice when it comes to managing yours and your partner's health, what would it be?

I think remembering that we each have only one body and one mind. It’s up to every one of us to cherish the amazing physical and mental gifts that we each have. We have to learn to nourish our bodies with food that strengthens us, support our minds and bodies with thoughts and movements that make us feel positive. I have learned to be so grateful for what my body can do—and even more grateful for what a positive attitude can overcome.

What is the best advice you've been given (personally or professionally)?

Honestly, the best advice I have ever been given came from one of my partners just a few months ago. It’s simple—you can only control what you can control. If you truly do the best the that you can do, and you are proud of yourself and of your efforts, that is enough. You simply can’t worry about how others perceive you, your efforts or your outcomes.

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