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From small-town beginnings to executive director: A conversation with PHSA+ recipient Angus Monaghan

BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services’ Angus Monaghan is calm, consistent and a true leader. This past year, his leadership skills and dedication were highlighted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which led him to receive a PHSA+ award.
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Angus Monaghan keeps his team on an even keel. In 2020, Angus held multiple roles at BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services (BCMHSUS), including interim executive director for Correctional Health Services and the Forensic Psychiatric Services Regional Clinics – all while maintaining his smile and sense of humour. 

Shortly after assuming the role of interim executive director, his work led him to a new level of responsibility as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded. To learn more about this PHSA+ award recipient, we were able to sit down for a virtual chat with Angus to ask him some questions.

Three decades of service

As a young adult, Angus grew up attending pancake breakfasts at Alberta Hospital, where his father worked as a psychiatric nurse. While attending university, Angus started working there himself and began to develop his passion for forensic services. His journey in health care has led him across two provinces, from a small town in northern Alberta, to Vancouver, Kamloops and eventually Nanaimo, where he currently resides.

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you enter the health care industry?

“I grew up north of Edmonton, Alberta in a small town called Carbondale. Growing up in a rural community meant access to health care was often challenging, especially in -30 C winters. My father was a psychiatric nurse for many years and I felt compelled to follow in his footsteps.

I moved to Vancouver Island to attend the University of Victoria, and on one fateful day during a practicum placement in Kamloops, I was invited to apply for a position with Forensic Psychiatric Services. I started working at the Forensic Clinic in Vancouver in 1991. This is my thirtieth year with Forensic Services."

What does your work look like today?

“Today, I'm the director for the Forensic Psychiatric Services Regional Clinics. Our teams work with individuals that have been found not criminally responsible, or are unfit to stand trial, or individuals that have been involved in the criminal justice system."

Over the years, Angus has had the opportunity to work on many notable initiatives, including the Anger Violence Treatment program and the Forensic Sexual Offence Program, where he took on role of clinical lead. Other initiatives to improve the care and services offered to forensic clients include the development of the downtown community court in Vancouver, housing programs, court assessment protocols, and concurrent disorders initiative.

As his career progressed, Angus continually stepped up when his expertise was needed.

When going above and beyond becomes habit

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Angus worked long days and weekends to coordinate the health care response in correctional centres and in Forensic Regional Clinics, working with key stakeholders and medical health officers. This is not the first time Angus has stepped up to cover vacancies, explains Michele Frame, administrative coordinator.

When BCMHSUS needed an interim executive director for Forensic Psychiatric Services, Angus took on the role and lived apart from his family for about two years to work out of the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in the Lower Mainland, returning home to Nanaimo on the weekends. “Angus is responsive and adaptive, while holding steady to get the job done", says Michele.

Along with his family, friends and exploring the outdoors, Angus finds his passion and motivation in seeing patients improve through treatment.

What motivates you about your work? What are you most proud of?

“I'm motivated by the commitment of the people I work with and seeing the difference in the clients that we serve.

“I'm incredibly proud of the service we provide. The individuals we work with are some of the most marginalized and stigmatized. We have a dual mandate of working with individuals that are court ordered for assessment or treatment, but we also have a responsibility to public safety."

How did you feel when you found out you were a PHSA+ recipient?

“I was overwhelmed to say the least. I still can't believe a small town person from Alberta could one day work for an incredible organization like PHSA. I absolutely see it as an honour. I felt very proud of my team. I'm really fortunate to work with an extremely skilled group of people across all of BCMHSUS."

As his work continues, Angus looks forward to adapting to the new normal after the pandemic, tackling the ongoing toxic drug crisis and going through accreditation next spring, which he considers a great opportunity to showcase his team's work.

Thank you for your dedication and service for the past 30 years and congratulations for all that you've accomplished, Angus!

About the PHSA+ Awards program
The PHSA+ Awards are part of an internal recognition program that celebrates teams and individuals who bring our PHSA values to life in the workplace. They go above and beyond to serve patients and families across B.C. Read about the other PHSA+ award recipients for 2021.

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