Although the pandemic has had tragic consequences for some of us, thankfully for most it has mainly been a disruption to our lives. But for Danielle Southern, pandemic monitoring is an essential element of her day-to-day job.
Danielle is a Senior Researcher in the Centre for Health Informatics (CHI) at the University of Calgary. Along with its other work, the Centre has developed a comprehensive interactive tool consolidating the data on COVID-19, locally, nationally, and internationally. This publicly available tracking system aids government decision-making. The Centre has worked with the City of Calgary to better understand the dynamics of the pandemic, and hosts the data collected on the testing of the Calgary water system to determine levels of the virus in our wastewater. Go to chi-csm.ca to have a look at their work.
Danielle arrived at her current vocation in Calgary somewhat by chance. She was raised in Winnipeg (although she was born in France during her dad’s post-doctoral placement, and then spent a “great year” there in grade five while her father was on sabbatical). She started university in Engineering, but found it was not a good fit for her. She had always been good at math, and a student job piqued her interest in biostatistics. As she relates, “I had no plans on coming to Calgary. But two close friends going to school in Alberta begged me to come and look into graduate school here.” She took their advice and arrived here in 1989, eventually earning her Master of Science degree in Biostatistics.
Danielle has been at CHI for the past 20 years. While many of us may consider statistics to be a dry subject, Danielle considers it a form of “storytelling—looking further into the data to understand what is happening.” Pre-COVID, she travelled quite a bit for work, as she has collaborated with the World Health Organization on the latest version (the 11th) of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases (ICD). The ICD is the global standard for reporting and collecting data on diseases and health conditions.
Lest you think that Danielle is solely occupied with high-minded pursuits, she is, in fact, down-to-earth and actively involved in our community. She worked alongside Rachel Robinson on organizing the Paint the Pavement project in 2015. She has co-ordinated the Halloween Party in the past, assisted her daughter with volunteering at the Glam Shack, and served for two years as a Director on the Community Association board. At Glamorgan Elementary School, she serves on the communications committee of Parent Council, and helps maintain the school’s outdoor learning area.
Danielle has lived in Glamorgan since 2003. She and her husband-to-be at the time, Ernest, were living in Bankview, and were looking for a house close to the centre of town. They warned their real estate agent that “this (Glamorgan) is the farthest we will go from downtown. We didn’t think we would stay here for long.” In fact, they have owned two homes in Glamorgan, and now wouldn’t think of moving. As Danielle says, “There is something special about Glamorgan. I know people who grew up here and came back to live here as adults. People are super-friendly, not pretentious. We have friends of all different ages. The homes are sturdily-built, and we are close to everything, including a dog park.”
Danielle and Ernest’s children attend local schools, 14 year old Kiersten at AE Cross Junior High School and 12 year old William at Glamorgan Elementary. They share their home with golden retriever Banksy. Danielle appreciates our safe neighbourhood, where children from several families can play together with oversight from one parent or another.
The family enjoys cross-country skiing in the winter and camping in the summer. Danielle laughs as she says, “We finally gave in to Alberta and bought a trailer. I didn’t understand how cold nights could be when camping!” They take road trips every few years to visit Ernest’s family in Newfoundland and travel regularly to Winnipeg. All year long, the family enjoys working on projects in their crafts room. During the pandemic, Danielle has joined a book club and tried her hand at knitting with the Glamorgan group. The family has reserved several campsites in Alberta for the coming summer.
Thank you, Danielle, for your contributions to Glamorgan, and for your work to optimize the use of pandemic data during this trying time.
Do you know an individual or organization that you would like to see in this feature?
Contact Loretta Biasutti at [email protected] or 403-249-5945 or drop off a suggestion at the community centre. We need your input!
I am sorry to report the death of Dorothy Boothman, who was profiled in the February 2016 issue of Focus on Glamorgan. She lived to 98, feisty to nearly the end.