Written by: Nnamdi Chiekwe, Therapeutic Recreation Student
Interview with: Joy Chiekwe, Certified Exercise Physiologist
Promoting Leadership in health for African Nova Scotians (PLANS) is writing a monthly blog post highlighting “Faces of Black Health”. This post highlights Joy Chiekwe and her role as a Certified Exercise Physiologist. These profiles can also be found on our website in the Faces of Black Health Section.
What do you do?
I am a Certified Exercise Physiologist working with the Nova Scotia Health Authority. I am also a Personal trainer working at Blended Athletics but also take on private clients.
What’s your role in your health Profession?
As an Exercise Physiologist my main specialty is in the prescriptions and delivery of clinical exercise as medicine, but we also focus on behaviour change and lifestyle modification. A main role of our work focuses on dealing with persons who have chronic and complex health conditions, as well as those who are working on their fitness, to become healthier and more fit.
In my current role as an Exercise physiologist, I am working on a research project called Activating Cancer Communities through an Exercise Strategy (ACCESS) where I am the exercise lead (research coordinator). ACCESS is an exercise program for those who have been diagnosed with cancer and other chronic conditions. I also work with the Cardiology Research Team administering at-home exercise programs for people living with Atrial Fibrillation.
If you have/feel comfortable sharing, can you explain your experiences as a Black Health professional in your field?
As a recent graduate, my experience in my professional career is young and thus far is limited. Our community is small with about 300 certified exercise physiologists working throughout Canada. Although new in my profession, I believe I have a unique experience, because to my knowledge I am the only Black Exercise Physiologist in Nova Scotia, where there are around 15 practicing Exercise Physiologists, and perhaps even in Canada.
I can speak more to my journey so far in becoming an Exercise Physiologist. To become a Certified Exercise physiologist, you must get certification through the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology. There are a set of required courses and clinical hours that must be met in order for you to prepare to write the certification exam and practical component. Most schools offer the opportunity to obtain these requirements making it fairly accessible nationwide. I chose to pursue my studies at Acadia University in Wolfville Nova, Scotia. Throughout my studies I was one of two Black students studying kinesiology, and I was the only Black student pursuing the CSEP certification.
Since gaining my position, I have worked with a diverse set of individuals in the ACCESS program, however, I have noticed an evident lack and presence of Black patients being referred to me despite the prevalence of cancer and other chronic conditions that affect the Black population.
Can you explain your experiences and ability to access health services?
What went well and what could go better?
Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to access appropriate healthcare services when needed and have not experienced many issues. Unfortunately, I am aware and do acknowledge that my experiences are not the same with many people within the Black community who have not been as fortunate. Because I work with the chronic disease population, I have noticed a lack of Black people being referred to me for assistance. Those who have been referred to me have commented that they had to seek further treatment on their own because their physician overlooked many things or did not take the time to discuss it with them.
I see this as a major issue, and as a healthcare professional, we should put less burden on the patient being advocates for adequate and appropriate care, which is a responsibility we must uphold and required in our chosen healthcare profession.
How have you found/finding community in your profession?
Because a lot of my work is done solo, and there are only a few Exercise Physiologist in this area, finding my community has been difficult. I am also a certified personal training, so I combine both competencies in my professional pursuits. I have found most of my community through my personal training endeavors which has been exciting in my short time in a professional capacity.
In my role as an Exercise Physiologist working with the collaborative health team, as the oncologists and other physicians learn more about my role as an Exercise Physiologist, they are seeing the benefits of my work and have are referring more clients to me for personal training as well as health and guidance for physical well-being.
I’ve been very thankful for this opportunity, as it has been my goal to bridge the gap between exercise and traditional medicine, the prescription of drugs, and prescribe exercise as a complement and major form of treatment for individuals with chronic and complex conditions. With my involvement in programs like ACCESS I believe I am on the right path!
Where can we find you?
You can find me on social media where you can see a glimpse into my life of work and fitness!
Facebook: Joy Chiekwe