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Anna Tersigni – How Health Law Programs Have Advanced My Career

March 2, 2022

Evelyn Shaller-Auslander

Anna Tersigni is the Director of Quality & Risk, Chief Privacy Officer at the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in Waterloo-Wellington. Anna is a passionate and lifelong learner, having taken 10 health and elder law programs at Osgoode Professional Development, including: two half-day sessions, four one-day sessions and four Certificate programs. Given her vast experience at CMHA Waterloo-Wellington, she has also participated as faculty on a few programs.

Here she shares how Osgoode Professional Development Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programs in the area of health law have helped her professionally and have guided her succession plan.

What led you to work in the health field, and what has your education journey looked like?

As a young student working my way through university to become a language teacher, I worked at my local hospital for 10 years: part-time, weekends, holidays and nights to pay for my education. I dropped out of Teacher’s College when I realized that I didn’t feel value of teaching Italian to students who only saw it as a credit they needed to fulfill their curriculum.

I then took a medical secretarial course and landed a job at the local community mental health clinic, where I fell in love with all that is quality and risk management, health information management and privacy and security. I worked as an Office Manager for the Arbors Day Therapy Program and left in 1986 for a position as a Supervisor at Cambridge Memorial Hospital Medical Records Department. In 1988, CMHC leadership asked me to return to become the Manager of Health Records and Privacy Officer.

During my career, I have upgraded my BA with the CHIMA program, and years of participating in healthcare-focused Osgoode Professional Development programs.

What was the first program you took at OsgoodePD, and how did it help you in your job? How many have you done since?

I can’t remember the exact first program, but I do know that for at least the last 10 years I have regularly attended and have presented at OsgoodePD health programs. I first heard of it through our legal retainer DDO – MJ Dykeman and Kate Dewhirst who are regular presenters.

Every single one-day and certificate program I took at OsgoodePD inspired me and kept me current in whatever was happening legislatively; policy, ministry and mental health service delivery. It has become my go-to in order to crystalize complicated concepts and changing legislation, but especially strategies on how to APPLY them. Again, I have never added them up – likely too many to count – and they are all my favourites because I ALWAYS LEARN and take back to my role and apply – and then I use extensively as reference when a situation arises that does not have a black and white answer. I can truly say I have become much better at my role because of the OsgoodePD courses, as they have cutting-edge new information, techniques and strategies on how to navigate a very complicated, ever-changing legal and policy environment.

These programs enable me to be confident and knowledgeable in my very critical role at CMHA WW – which speaks to mitigation of risk across all CMHA WW and shared external programs we partner in. I often get calls from partner organizations asking for my advice and/or help to navigate unique, complex medico-legal and risk scenarios. Inevitably, I go to the OsgoodePD materials and have always found a way to solve the issue. My reliance on a privacy/mental health legal retainer has subsided over the years – the more I accessed the OsgoodePD programs.

What is your advice for others looking to navigate a career in health?

Well, I’m walking the talk… I have a two-year succession plan and the Osgoode Certificate programs in health are being embedded by design for my two successors to take – they have already taken two each this year and will continue each year to take at minimum one of them. Their feedback to date is that the programs are invaluable in this rapidly changing healthcare landscape (increased liability due to virtual care, heightened risk in the mental health and addictions system to provision of timely services to the most vulnerable in the community; increased overdoses, tragedies happening with our youth as consequences of pandemic, increases in sentinel events, etc.).

For my colleagues in other similar organizations – I say, this is an opportunity you can not afford to lose. If you truly want to be an informed quality/risk/health information management/privacy professional, the OsgoodePD curriculum will not only help you in your role in any healthcare organization – it will lead to much better outcomes for the vulnerable people we support; trust me I have seen this happen. I am grateful to have learned so much over the years.

The Osgoode Certificate in Elder Law takes place live online (5 days over 5 weeks) March 24, 30 & April 7, 13 & 20, 2022.

Want to learn more about our current and upcoming health law programs?