Proust questionnaire: Dr Bonnie Henry

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 60, No. 8, October 2018, Page 418 Proust for Physicians
Dr Bonnie Henry
Dr Bonnie Henry

What profession might you have pursued, if not medicine?
I was really keen on marine biology in undergrad and would have pursued that if I hadn’t gotten into medical school. Thankfully I did get into med school because I later found out I get really seasick, which would have made marine biology a poor career choice!

Which talent would you most like to have?
I would love to be able to sing but am constantly reminded that it is not my strength.

Which living physician do you most admire?
I have been so fortunate to have worked with a number of wonderful physician mentors and leaders including my predecessor, Dr Perry Kendall, whom I admire tremendously.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Mentoring and supporting many brilliant young women and hopefully being a positive role model.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A glass of wine, a good book, and jazz in the background. That and those exceedingly rare moments during a long run when the pain disappears and I feel the flow; unfortunately those moments are fleeting!

What is your greatest fear?
Personally, developing Alzheimer disease. Professionally, I fear antimicrobial resistance and that we will never find a way to stem the tragedy of overdose deaths we are currently experiencing.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

What is your favorite activity?
Running, for my mental and emotional health along with the physical. And more recently, yoga.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
This too shall pass.

Where would you most like to practise?
I have the best job in the country and am happy right where I am, based in Victoria but with responsibility for the province.

What technological medical advance do you most anticipate?
A cure for Alzheimer disease or, better yet, effective prevention.

What is your most marked characteristic?
I am not very tall! People most often tell me I am always calm (even in a crisis) and talk softly.

What do you most value in your colleagues?
Patience and kindness.

Who are your favorite writers?
Milan Kundera, Ian McEwan, and Madeleine Thien.

What is your greatest regret?
Not being a better communicator to my patients, colleagues, family, and friends.

How would you like to die?
I once worked with the search and rescue team in Comox and we were called to attend someone on the glacier. It was a beautiful, sunny Saturday and an older woman had been out on the mountain hiking with friends. They had just finished a nice lunch and she collapsed and died just as they started down. I have often thought that was a lovely way to go.

What is your motto?
In patience lies wisdom.


Dr Henry is a public health and preventive medicine specialist who has worked across Canada and internationally on myriad public health issues from Ebola to SARS to the current overdose crisis. She is the author of Soap and Water & Common Sense and was appointed to the position of Provincial Health Officer for BC in February 2018.

. Proust questionnaire: Dr Bonnie Henry. BCMJ, Vol. 60, No. 8, October, 2018, Page(s) 418 - Proust for Physicians.

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Jacqueline M Er... says: reply

All I can say is Thank You, a great Big Thank You. Your calm, no-nonsense reporting and advice is very much appreciated as is your stead fast support during this most disturbing time.

Michele Martin says: reply

Dr. Henry you have been such a calming influence for all of us in BC during this pandemic. On TV you are always very well dressed, well informed, well spoken and this is appreciated by all. You deserve a medal after this pandemic is over.

Thank you so much.

Val Biffert says: reply

Thank you hardly seems sufficient, but it must be said. You make me feel far less stressed and I feel you communicate very well!

Jean Diecksmeier says: reply

I know I am speaking for so many, when I say thank you! Thank you for all your knowledge, wisdom, calmness and determination during this time. You are greatly appreciated. Makes me think you may be a Scorpio ♏️

Michael Radano says: reply

Thank you for your leadership in this pandemic. We are all very fortunate to have you at the helm.

Graham Stevens says: reply

You set an incredibly high standard for those who follow you into your position. Thank you for being there when we need you, Doctor.

Greg P says: reply

Thank you for your intelligence, pragmatism and precision while navigating this pandemic. Your work has been superlative and you deserve the highest honour that British Columbia can bestow upon you.

Karen Cain says: reply

My husband and I greatly appreciate the communications that we receive nightly from you during this pandemic.
This is harsh information that is difficult to hear and could cause distress, yet you deliver this message very calmly and effectively. Thank you for your hard work in keeping on top of this changing information for us. Take good care of yourself.

Patricia Bell says: reply

I got to know you well during the Pandemic. Thank you for all you are doing. You are amazing and I can't wait to hear you each day and to see what you're wearing. Fabulous work!!

María Elena says: reply

Dear Dr. Henry, thank you very much for the wonderful job you are doing in this pandemic.
God bless you and your family

Mary Wold says: reply

You are doing a terrific job. I believe you are from or near my hometown. Saint John NB. Love the area. My Dad was RCAF so we were stationed in Richmond. I flew as a FSD for Air Canada for 40 years. Flew Shanghai to yvr during SARS. Pax on flight came down with it. We were all checked out ok. Keep up your great work. With thanks MaryHir

Ken Reid says: reply

Your way about yourself is very interesting with your soft and quiet voice. As a previous Master Instructor within a Police Force I found that being extremely knowledgeable in all aspects new and old of each lesson is one of my best assets as yours is to you. I also vary the pitch of my voice up and down in areas of the course that is of most importance.
Another great way of keeping your class of students interested for the better part is to teach to the lowest denominator in the class with the K.I.S.S. method, "Keep It Simple Students ". No big fancy words. This will keep most students attention as the whole class moves along at the same pace. Another asset is to keep yourself moving slowly from one side of the classroom to the other as the students have to move with you instead of being just static in their seats. last but not least, get them up off their butts for a few short minutes to stretch and of course a few will have questions for you. If I cannot give them the answer correctly at that time, I would say, I will get back to you with the correct answer sometime today or tomorrow before class to which I will make note of the question.
Lastly, those few females on TV that made the comment of your hair being untidy. I found that very insulting and disgusting to you as some individuals have no class given the knowledge, experience, and devoted time you've given to the severity of the medical field your in to which is the severe end of certain diseases and others. You've been there and done that !
Ps. You have beautiful hair and a smile. And, you really care for people as I read your watering eyes.
Ken Reid.

Phillip Sigmund says: reply

Dr. Henry.
My wife and I watch you each time you come on internet-TV. We are in our seventies, and anxious with the pandemic. We find your calm discussion and subtle humour just wonderful. You diffuse the sometimes overreaction of some groups in a very effective and humane way. God bless!

Jim Morris says: reply

I watch you on the news each and every day
and I'm counting on you to show us the way
Your delivery soft, and your voice always calm
not a cure, but a very soothing balm
I saw you falter that day and stifle your pain
then rise above it and carry on again
I cried with you then on that difficult day
and our tears helped to wash some of the pain away
The only thing now that I'm able to do
to make a difference in this world is to listen to you
But my goal when I finally grow up is to "foller"
you but be just a little bit taller

76 years old and still growing up

Lee says: reply

Dr. Bonnie Henry, is eloquently spoken, possesses a calm demeanor and has alot of knowledge which has been very influential and effective to all citizens. Indeed she deserves a medal!

Sylvia Fane says: reply

Thank you Dr. Bonnie.....just thank you so much! I wake each day and hear your kind and calm! I practice this every day.

Irene Wedge says: reply

Thank You Dr. Henry, I just wanted to tell you my Mom has been doing yoga for 62 years, ever since I was born. We joke with her that she will outlive all 5 of us. She lives on her own and does all her own work.

Ingrid Catz says: reply

I realize that you're most likely getting too many letters but I wanted to put my feelings for you in writing. I am impressed with the content of your press releases (clear, concised and complete), with the way you communicate the news (calm, knowledgeable, to the point, showing determination and creating the proper path to navigate this impossible issue called 'novel coronavirus) ) and with how you answer questions. You are the BEST, and we are soooo lucky to have you as our PHO. Thank you Dr. Bonnie Henry!!

Pamela says: reply

I think your calm and gentle communication skills are certainly a strength as you are navigating us through this peril.

Brenda Rich says: reply

Dearest Dr. Bonnie Henry,
British Columbians are truly blessed to have you working on our behalf, you’re a lifesaver❣️ Thank you for your dedication, and kind, compassionate, calm, reassuring, encouraging and factual delivery of health information, recommendations and requirements. Personally I have more ease during this COVID-19 pandemic thanks to you and your leadership. Much faith, hope and love is required to carry us through until a vaccine is developed. Please take good care of yourself and stay the course continuing your much appreciated tireless job you have done to date...
Respectfully Brenda Rich

Keith Robinson says: reply

'An overnight success', 'A star is born'.
Joking aside, Doctor you are doing an exemplary job, thank you!
I especially loved your reply to the sensationalist reporter that asked you a few weeks ago if you would estimate how many people might die? You paused gave him a stern look and said NO!
Your kind, intelligent, firm manner is very much appreciated.

Bonnie says: reply

I have been wanting to thank you Dr Henry for your professionalism, knowledge and calm during this pandemic. With all the chaos in other parts of the world, we are all very fortunate to have you at the helm and that is proven by how well we are doing here in B.C.
I was also wanting you to know that you are impacting the younger generation as well, a generation who often feel they are invincible. My name is also Bonnie and my 27 year-old son texted me the other day “I’m going to compare you to her (Dr Henry) all the time now! Haha JK Mom” They’ve noticed your necklaces and designer shoes, and that’s OK, because they’ve also noticed your message. And that is huge! Well done Dr Henry!

Iris vlake says: reply

Over the months you’ve been in our living room daily, with your calm reassurance that we are all going to be ok. Enjoyed your sincerity, and expertise on the Coronavirus. Watched for your shoes, and how you were dressed. Saw your hair get longer, without cutting it, like the rest of us. Tried to find out how old you are? Am curious, God Bless You Iris

Harvey Wenschlag says: reply

Hello Doctor Henry, The tone of your voice is very lovely, soft and calm, which makes you very easy to listen to and understand. I am 83 years old with some problems and I probably would die if I contacted the Coronavirus. I nearly died from influenza 2 years ago in the hospital and I am very much afraid of the Coronavirus. Thank you for your compassion and kindness and all your work.
Harvey Wenschlag

Pam Mason says: reply

I've been watching you for almost eight weeks now and I can't thank you enough for your guidance and thoughtful updates. I cheered and raised my hand when you didn't allow the reporter to corner you into a 'body count', you said "No" and I cheered from my living room. You have so much class and determination, we here in BC will remember you forever. Keep running!

Lana Brands says: reply

We here in BC are fortunate having you at the helm.
Like you always say, be calm and kind, I like to also add to that be generous.

Joyce Harris ssa says: reply

I am a senior Roman Catholic Sister who has worked professionally as a psychologist, spiritual director and social justice advocate. I do believe that "relationship" to Creator, people and our universe is bound in love. I so appreciate your thoughtful reflections, discerning wisdom and immense compassion, patience and respect you model everyday.
Keep safe and well. Many blessings and much peace as you meet the challenges of each day. Joyce, ssa

Mari says: reply

What is your greatest regret?
Not being a better communicator to my patients, colleagues, family, and friends.

Really? I am so glad that you communicate so well - I can't imagine the last few months without your kindness and calmness!

Nicole Pizzolon says: reply

Dr Henry you are amazing in possessing such a gentle way and being able to transfer that to the many British Columbians who eagerly await their daily moment with you. You have managed to keep us all calm and give us that much needed hope that our world that we have temporarily lost will be ours again one day. Thank you The Pizzolons.

Heather says: reply

Hi Dr Henry,

Your calmness is infectious and I believe it is helping the rest of us maintain a level of calmness.
We love you Dr Henry ❤

Sharon Townsend says: reply

Dr. Henry, thank you for being our steady Rock of Gibraltar. I would follow you anywhere... even off a cliff.

Geraldine Swayze says: reply

If ever the right person was in the right place, at the right time, for the right reason, it is you Dr Henry. As if we weren’t already the most fortunate people in the world to live in this country and especially in this part of it, now we have also the best person to lead us out of a difficult, challenging problem. We are stopping a determined virus from having its way with us thanks to your superb leadership. Your calm manner and your confidence that we “can do this together” is giving us the resolve to put aside our fears and carry on patiently. Thank you for all you do and just for being ‘you’.

Margaret says: reply

Many many thanks to Dr. Bonnie for her wisdom, kindness, gentle manner and mostly her knowledge which she imparts to us so well daily. I listen daily and feel after listening that she is right - we WILL get through this and hopefully be better people.

Lexe Hainsworth says: reply

My husband and I watch and listen to you each and every day during this horrible pandemic. We are blessed as so many others are in this neck of the woods are, that you, Adrian Dix and John Horgan, among many others to be sure, have commandeered such an outstanding response to an extremely difficult life changing dilemma. By prioritizing humanity, human lives and potential needless suffering over all else you got it right. Thank you!

Irene Holz says: reply

The people of British Columbia have been blessed to have you for all your support during this time of COVID 19.
You are a kind, loving, and peaceful human being.
Wishing you a time soon when you can relax & believe you did your best.
Thank You
Irene here in Osoyoos, B.C.

SZ says: reply

Hi Dr. Henry’s I too love Marin biology but like you, have seasickness! I also love to have good music and a glass of calm. Thank you for your calm, wisdom and genuineness. We appreciate you and would love to take you out for a meal after all this! We love you!

Beverley Hyson says: reply

Dr. Henry you are amazing and an answer to our prayers. Thank you so much.
God Bless you.

Bev. (Retired from BC Gov't

Barbara Williams says: reply

My daughter's name is Bonnie. She was born in December of 1991 and in her youth lamented about having been given an 'old fashioned name." Today, as a fully accredited Biologist and Environmentalist for a provincial corporation, she wears her name proudly. She too is soft spoken and patient, but with an iron fist in a velvet glove.
In your interview, you speak of being a role model to young women. Dr. Henry, you are a living inspiration to young women aspiring to one day be leaders.
Sidebar: You & I (and my family) share a common fear, the development of Alzheimer's disease.
Dr. Henry, thank you for you for the sacrifices you make, both personal and professional, while keeping all of us safe in B.C. during this terrible pandemic.
I am unsure of whether you have the time to read responses to your interview, but I do hope that one day you will see the accolades and appreciation posted by me and others.
In support and with appreciation, Barb Williams.

Sylvia Wedge says: reply

Dr Bonnie Henry's knowledge and help in this challenging time is not just appreciated in British Columbia. I live in Quebec, a province badly affected by the virus, and follow the news internationally. BC's Health Officer calmly conveys her expert knowledge and inspires all to follow her advice. Politicians world wide want to open their country. Heed the health advice of this great communicator and keep the variants at bay. A round of applause for Dr Bonnie Henry.

Oona Whelan says: reply

Dr. Henry, in reading these many comments filled with admiration about your work you might be tempted to think enough already I do not need to read another one. I beg to differ. We want this pandemic to end especially for you so you can stop worrying about us and get on with your own life. We cannot thank you enough so be nicely shocked that you alone had such a positive effect on the lives of so many people. You are respected and loved.

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