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2021 University Staff Excellence Awards Winner: Carrie Verishagen

The University Staff Excellence Award recognizes staff members who have achieved excellence while demonstrating dedication and commitment to the university’s Mission, Vision and Values and support of the University Plan 2025. In 2021, the program gave special recognition to those individuals who made exceptional contributions through the unexpected challenges of the pandemic, enabling the university to succeed through these extraordinary times.

 

In her role as director of the Eat Well Saskatchewan (EWS) service in the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, Carrie Verishagen took a small pilot project and turned it into a vital resource for Saskatchewan residents, in particular Indigenous peoples, through her initiative and innovation.

Eat Well Saskatchewan is a dietitian contact centre that services the province with free, credible nutrition advice. It is a partnership between the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition and Indigenous Services Canada. In response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action to close gaps in health outcomes for Indigenous communities, EWS aims to decrease health inequalities and the burden of chronic disease.

Verishagen, a registered dietitian, exemplifies the university’s vision of reconciliation and the inclusion of Indigenous peoples and communities. To take an inclusive approach to deliver quality nutrition education, she develops innovative methods to capture the importance of Indigenous peoples’ knowledge by sharing their personal stories about food and nutrition. By utilizing Indigenous storytelling, Verishagen responded to the unique needs of Indigenous people, positioning the program and the university as a trusted community partner, and motivating people to make positive healthy eating changes.

As part of the University Plan 2025’s commitment to courageous curiosity, Verishagen emerged as a leader in seeking solutions during the pandemic. When the pandemic took hold in March 2020, social media was overwhelmed with harmful nutrition misinformation. Verishagen took a collaborative approach by forming a dietitian’s support group with Indigenous partners to help address these issues. She engaged the community by utilizing social media to combat misinformation surrounding COVID-19 and, as a result, her team was awarded a Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation COVID-19 rapid response grant, which was used to develop a social media campaign that reached more than 130,000 people. As part of this #eatwellcovid19 campaign, she collected personal stories from residents and highlighted how they coped with the challenges of COVID-19.

Verishagen’s leadership has captured provincial and national attention. She has conducted several radio and television interviews, increasing the exposure of this essential health care issue. She has also appeared in the House of Commons before the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs to present information about food insecurity in northern communities and the value of the EWS service. Her witness statement embodies USask’s values of innovation, creativity, diversity and integrity and inspired dietitians across the country.

In addition to the commitment and dedication to the EWS program, Carrie provides experiential learning opportunities for nutrition students. She mentors students on research projects, through internship placements, student projects and as a guest lecturer. She is constantly providing learning opportunities, support, and feedback, to elevate future dietitians in her profession. Her contributions are significant, lasting enhancements to the nutrition and dietetics program. These achievements demonstrate the university’s mission to prepare students for enriching careers.

The full list of award winners can be found on the USask news website.

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