A long-time Orillia nurse has received this year's prestigious Ontario Medical Association Community Service Award.
Cheryl Behan's nursing career began at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto in 1968 where she served in the neuro unit. After becoming the clinical instructor in neurosciences for George Brown and Central Registry Nurses, Behan moved back home to Orillia in 1985 to become the co-coordinator of the infection control unit at Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital.
Behan later joined the communicable disease and infection control team with the Simcoe District Health Unit and led the SARS team in 2003. She again faced a pandemic in 2020 when she joined the Mariposa House Hospice COVID team.
Behan, 76, says she is "shocked and overwhelmed" to be recognized for her medical career.
“I didn’t know I was being nominated,” she said. “I only found out that Dr. Richard Johnston nominated me when I was notified that I will be the recipient of the award. I was quite emotional when I got the email.
“It’s very meaningful to me and a fine honour.”
While she is happy to be accepting the award, Behan admits she feels a little embarrassed.
“I know so many people who are more deserving of this award than I,” she said. “There have been a lot of people around me who have been role models in the community in terms of their volunteer work and their leadership abilities.”
Outside of her nursing career, the now-retired Behan is a member of the Orillia Concert Band, an active member of St. James' Anglican Church, a committee member of the Champlain Sailing Club, a member of the Orillia Legion and helps with the poppy campaign, and serves as a volunteer with Champlain Services Club.
That is just to name some of the many initiatives Behan is a part of. Behan says volunteering is important to her because without volunteers, the community could never function at a high level.
“There are a lot of people behind the scenes who are the unsung heroes that we don’t hear about,” she said. “There are many people out there who deserve this award as well.”
Behan says it was her late parents who instilled a sense of community in her from a young age. She says they would be proud of her for receiving the award.
“My parents were very community-minded,” she said. “We were taught at a young age to do our part and help all of the time.”
Behan plans on continuing her volunteer efforts for as long as she is able.
“There will always be a role for people in the community to help,” she said. “There will always be a need for volunteers in some capacity.”