Delia Cooper’s passion for redesigning health care is deeply rooted in her experiences living with rheumatoid arthritis from the age of 12. After years learning how to manage the chronic condition, she became a patient volunteer to share her experience and help improve the health care system. Her dedicated volunteerism has resulted in meaningful changes, and her courage and determination inspire everyone around her.
Delia began volunteering in 1983, when she became a founding member of her local Arthritis Community Support Group. After retiring from a career in education, she decided it was time to give back by becoming fully involved as a volunteer with the Arthritis Society, where she taught self-management programs and sessions such as “Understanding Arthritis” and “Tips, Tricks and Tools for Joint Protection.”
Delia was one of the first two patients in the Patient Voices Network to volunteer for the Shared Care Committee, which is a joint initiative of the BC Ministry of Health, Doctors of BC and Vancouver Coastal Health. The goal of the committee is to facilitate collaboration between specialists, family physicians and patients in order to transform care for patients with complex chronic conditions. Delia has played a key role in developing projects and planning for their sustainability, always advocating that a patient-centred approach could make the system safer for everyone.
Delia has advanced the patient voice in numerous avenues, including patients’ rights to request a copy of their specialist consults and enabling specialty clinics to book appointments directly with patients. She has participated on several advisory and working groups, delivered lectures and workshop presentations, and held high-level administrative roles in various groups. Additional organizations with which she has collaborated include the Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance, Providence Health Care, and the Canadian Arthritis Network Center for Excellence. She also sits on Fraser Health’s Patient Advisory Committee.
Projects in which Delia has participated have won numerous awards, including the Quality Awards’ Living with Illness category in 2014, and the Health Employers Association of British Columbia’s “Golden Apple” award for Top Innovation Affiliate in 2011.
Despite physical limitations related to her condition, Delia perseveres and works uncompromisingly in her many roles as a patient volunteer. She regularly speaks to groups provincially, nationally and internationally about the importance of engaging patients and families in health care redesign – and often receives a standing ovation when she finishes. Through these presentations as well as her other work, she puts her mantra “nothing about me without me” into action, bringing the patient voice to countless health care initiatives.