From as far back as I can remember, my dad always told me “if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” This was the best piece of advice anyone has ever given me because it not only inspired my career but it is the foundation of everything I do and believe in. - Mary-Lou MacDonald
With a formative grounding in the YMCA’s body, mind and spirit mission, I graduated from St Francis Xavier and Dalhousie Universities with a Bachelor of Science Physical Education and a Master of Science in Kinesiology. While at St.FXU with the help of my teammates, I spearheaded the first ever women's soccer team there that would eventually lead to the creation of the first ever ladies Atlantic University Athletic Association soccer league. This is certainly one of my proudest accomplishments to this day. This taught me a lot about initiative, opportunity and innovation. Playing for two university teams and being chosen as an all-star in the provincial league taught me a lot about myself and about teamwork.
In my first ‘real job’ as the Director of the Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Clinic of Nova Scotia’s High Performance Testing and Training Centre, I gained insight into high performance by analyzing, educating and training elite athletes and coaches as an exercise physiologist and biomechanics and wellness specialist. Follow that up with some serious face time with the professional golf tour and a five year stint as the Executive Director of Athletics Nova Scotia and you have a firm grounding in the world of high performance.
As my interest in high performance grew, it evolved to include high performing workplaces- what makes them so and how to sustain them. I cultivate to this day, a life-long love affair with inspiring personal and organizational transformation- taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary.
This keen interest in excellence led to my role as Executive Director of the National Quality Institute, Atlantic now know as Excellence Canada. While there, I collaborated on the development of several training tools and I continue to be asked to advise on initiatives such as their new ‘Healthy Workplace® Excellence in Physical and Psychological Health at Work frameworks. I particularly enjoyed serving as a trusted advisor to dozens of organizations on quality and healthy workplace management systems.
As a pioneer in the field of organizational health in Canada, I have spearheaded many ground-breaking projects that have paved the way for other colleagues in this community to understand, influence and adopt a healthy workplace business strategy and corporate culture.
Some professional highlights below illustrate my depth of expertise and innovation:
As the Director of Workplace Health, Wellness and Safety Research at the Conference Board of Canada, I established the first national benchmarking survey on organizational health in Canadian workplaces (publishing late 2017). This will allow us all to monitor our progress and identify trends in Canadian workplaces going forward.
As the founding CEO, I established and led the first Safety Association for Healthcare and Community Services in Nova Scotia, supporting the 50,000 employees that work in the industry today.
As Director of HealthWorks: A National Strategy for Comprehensive Workplace Health Promotion, funded by Health Canada and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia, I developed a national comprehensive workplace health promotion model that serves as a foundation for current understanding and utilization. It brought together government, industry and business leaders to understand their role and responsibility to not only create but incent healthy business cultures and people practices.
As faculty and member of the senior management team at the Nova Scotia Community College I envisioned, and developed a new business-The Truro Centre for Sport & Wellness. As General Manager, I oversaw the operation and led an extraordinary team of fifty staff.
As a consultant, I spearheaded, championed and coached the development and adoption of the Nova Scotia Government Public Service Commission’s provincial healthy workplace strategy for all departments and government employees.
I continued to influence culture in my home province by sitting on various boards and committees. My work with the Halifax Chamber of Commerce significantly increased awareness in the business community of the link between the health and well-being of employees and the bottom line success of business. This work also directly facilitated the development of their Healthy Business Award and ensured the inclusion of an employee health and engagement component to their annual business awards criteria. I am proud to have been recognized as an award finalist in 2007 for New Business Of the Year.
I sat on the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee to the Nova Scotia Minister of Labour and Advanced Education and as co-chair the Prevention subcommittee. My mission there was to keep worker health, safety and well-being on the provincial agenda with a particular interest in workplace psychological safety, having my own up front and personal experience with the subject.
I have been chosen as one of a small number of consultants to be certified by the Canadian Mental Health Association as a Workplace Psychological Safety Advisor for the new Canadian Standard for Psychological Safety in the Workplace.
I am a seasoned and passionate public speaker, who has authored several academic and industry publications in biomechanics, occupational health, safety and well-being. I speak and consult nationally and internationally on topics ranging from psychological workplace safety to personal transformation.