When it comes to the health and welfare of the thousands of athletes descending on Toronto for the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games next month, Western alumna Karin Hohenadel will need to be on the top of her game.
The Public Health Ontario epidemiologist has been named public health coordinator for the games and will be part of thousands of staff and volunteers ensuring the health and safety of athletes from 40 countries in Toronto July 10-26 for the Pan Am, followed by the Parapan Am Games Aug. 7-15.
Hohenadel, who earned her Master of Science (Epidemiology and Biostatistics) in 2009, will be the link between Pan Am organizers and the public health system, including the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, Public Health Ontario and 36 public health units in the Greater Toronto Area.
“The organizing committee is essentially constructing a mini health-care system,” Hohenadel said. The games will have one central and five satellite facilities, plus locations at each venue, where they will also provide medical services.
“They (the organizing committee) are doing a ton of work to set up this system. As Public Health Ontario, we have been helping them develop such things as infection prevention and control procedures, as well as helping them in how they will participate, as a new player, in the situation of an outbreak,” Hohenadel said.
Since Toronto is used to a consistent and huge influx of tourists and people from different countries, organizers have been able tap into existing infrastructure and see how it can be enhanced – if it needs to be.
In her role since February, Hohenadel said Public Health Ontario has been preparing the games for a couple of years. Just in a short-but-busy few months, she has learned so much about the behind-the-scenes planning for such a major sporting event.
“I had no idea what went into it,” she said. “There are tons of different players in different sectors dedicating a lot of time to ensure that the province is prepared for this.”
More than 2,000 medical volunteers will be delivering services through the games, which is the largest sporting event in terms of raw numbers of athletes and events that Canada has ever hosted – even bigger than the Vancouver Olympic Games in 2010.
“And it’s more complicated from a planning perspective in that the Vancouver Games only involved one health region. Our footprint is wide and requires a lot of cooperation across all the health units,” Hohenadel said. “We’re now switching from a preparational mode to an operational mode. We’re taking all the planning done over these last few years and putting it into action in the athletes village beginning July 1 when teams start to arrive.”
Despite the workload, Hohenadel will find some time to become a spectator at a couple events – diving and wheelchair basketball, to be exact – but the other 99 per cent of her time is going to be hectic.
“It’s going to be busy, but there’s a lot of excitement as well,” she said.