Toronto, ON – “What would Shamek do?” Dr. Speranza Dolgetta had to ask herself, when she was offered the position of Medical Director at Bellwood Health Services.
As the Director of Medical Care at EHN Canada’s Sandstone facility in Calgary at the time, she had been instrumental in its opening, development, and day-to-day operations.
Of her tenure there, Dr. Dolgetta says, “I had been at Sandstone since we opened. I have such a profound attachment to Sandstone. It’s the little rehab centre that could. We faced challenge after challenge. We built this amazing thing in Calgary. I really love building and fixing. I am an Italian peasant girl at heart. My dad was a contractor. That’s what we did: we built and we fixed.”
Prior to Sandstone, she worked in her private medical practice, specializing in complex care, minor surgery, mental health, and addictions. Dr. Dolgetta had completed her medical degree and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Calgary. She was also a Philosophy professor at Mount Royal University teaching healthcare ethics. But Shamek was not a philosopher, at least not one she lectured about in her classroom. He was, in fact, Dr. Dolgetta’s best friend. Przemyslaw Shamek Pietucha, a doctor himself at Toronto’s CAMH facility, a Canadian Olympic swim team member, and accomplished poet, tragically passed away in 2015 at the age of 39. Shamek had long been an inspiration for the kind of compassionate care Dr. Dolgetta was offering to her patients, often challenging cases that no other doctor wanted to treat. She says, “For me, it all starts from a place of compassion and lack of judgement. This is inspired by Shamek. He was the sort of person who knew you, or made an effort to know you, from the inside out. And I think we translate that into care. And, as a result, we get much better outcomes.”
Across EHN Canada’s treatment centres, this holistic, whole-body approach to care, and a collaborative team of caregivers, has been a big part of their success with recovery. It’s an aspect that drew Dr. Dolgetta in the first place. “It has to be a whole person approach,” she emphasizes. “Towards that end, I’m very collaborative, I’m very humble in my approach. Everybody on the team—from the support workers, to the nurses, to the clinicians, to the security—they all have something to contribute to understanding an illness and helping a person heal.”
Which brings us back to her offer from Bellwood and the question: What would Shamek do?
“My best friend, my kindred spirit, my platonic soulmate begged me for years to move to Toronto,” Dr. Dolgetta remembers. “He was all about the moment, and all about experience. So when this opportunity presented itself, I knew he would’ve said: ‘Speranza, it’s time.’ ”
Last week, Dr. Dolgetta arrived in Toronto and began her new role as Bellwood Health Services’ Medical Director, a position she is approaching with her signature enthusiasm, spirit, and energy.
What does she hope to bring to Bellwood in this new capacity? “I have some exciting new ideas, new treatment modalities, ways that we can keep up with what’s happening in the world of addiction. And I want to create a team, to foster an environment where everybody feels professionally fulfilled, and we’re offering world-class medical care to people who so desperately need it.”
She breaks from her solemn tone, before letting out a smile, and laughs: “I am so excited!”
And so is everyone at Bellwood Health Services.
ABOUT EHN CANADA
EHN Canada is the nation’s largest network of industry-leading mental health, trauma, and addiction treatment facilities, each with a passion for providing quality treatment for Canadians. We are committed to both caring for our patients and supporting their loved ones. With over 75 years of collective experience, our inpatient, outpatient, and online programs are offered across the country, providing essential compassionate care to patients wherever they are.