2021 Women Leaders in Digital Health: Sandra Cascadden

Sandra Cascadden, Former Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Health and Wellness, Province of Nova Scotia

Throughout the rollout and despite hugely aggressive timelines to stand up each delivery stream, Sandra set the tone for the project. She expected the best from the team, but when there were hiccups, there was no mention of blame, just trust and support. She knew that the team was doing their best in unprecedented times, and they, in turn, wanted to do their best for her.

Sandra consistently challenged her teams and stakeholders to think bigger, to look ahead, and to work smarter.

During the early days of this pandemic, she drove stakeholders to think about ALL of the technology enablement that could be required to meet the citizens’ needs – online scheduling, notifications, mass immunization supports, data standards, analytical tools, training, etc. Her early negotiation of broad Safe Restart Funding streamlined subsequent approval efforts within the government for all of these urgent initiatives.

In summer 2020, she secured federal Safe Restart funding to support enhancements to Public Health Information Systems (eg Panorama). By November, preliminary discussions with CANImmunize about their application pivoted to discussions on how their emerging ClinicFlow product could streamline mass immunizations.

Sandra’s vision, leadership, and direction were vital to the ClinicFlow initiative. In the very early days, Sandra provided the project team with the directive – the technology would not get in the way of “Needles in Arms.” The power of this simple, seemingly obvious statement defined the rollout strategy and ensured that contingency plans were always available to keep the vaccine rolling. Her consistent support helped the team address the operational reality of supporting the administration of 1.8 million vaccine doses.

Sandra has spent most of her career supporting advancements in health through the adoption and integration of digital health and virtual care. Even while she was the provincial CIO, she never really left health. She continued to support the needs of health at a strategic level (as evidenced by her leadership on taking Panorama to the Cloud to make it affordable for smaller jurisdictions) through to her ongoing support of provincial initiatives at the Health IMIT Steering Committee.

Sandra leaves a lasting legacy and while she has moved on, she continues to follow her passion for digital as a master’s student in the Digital Innovation program at Dalhousie University. We expect Sandra will continue to provide strong leadership in this area for years to come.

Learn more about the Women Leaders in Digital Health Award here.