Jonathan Fetros, Program Director at St. Michael’s Hospital
Name: Jonathan Fetros
Place of Birth: Manila, Philippines
Elementary School: Our Lady of Fatima
High School: Cardinal Newman Catholic High School
1. Could you please describe how you came to be in Canada?
My immediate family (parents and younger sister) immigrated to Canada in 1990. I was 7 years old at the time. We were sponsored by my grandparents who’ve been living in Canada since the late 70s. I remember feeling a sense of loss as I had to say goodbye to my large extended family in the Philippines, along with a sense of excitement of coming to Canada. My parents had engrained in both my sister and I that Canada was a country where we would have a better life with endless possibilities if we were willing to work for it. We came to Canada in January in the middle of a cold winter, so it was quite an adjustment coming from a tropical country.
Jonathan as a child in the Philippines.
2. Describe your experience of growing up, living, and/or working in Canada?
There were many highs and lows but it’s been very positive overall. We moved around a lot in the first couple of years we were Canada, which was tough for a kid new to the country and trying to make friends. We eventually settled in east Toronto and over time started to feel like we fit in. Both of my parents had to work full-time, more than one job at times, to support my sister and me. While at the time I wished that my parents spent more time with me at home, I understand now that they did everything they could to provide me with a wonderful childhood.
I started working at an early age; I was 15 years old when I landed a part-time job in McDonalds. That experience reinforced the value of money and hard work. However, it wasn’t until I finished university and started working as a Registered Nurse at St. Michael’s Hospital that I came to realize that while being a hard worker is important, it’s not going to separate you from the rest of pack. I came to terms that if I wanted to move forward in my career, I needed to be more strategic and work smart. I became very thoughtful on what graduate studies to pursue while taking on additional projects at work that aligned with my career goals. Eventually the right opportunity came up and I transitioned to a health leadership/management position and haven’t looked back.
3. What are some of your major accomplishments? What were/are some of your major struggles?
On a personal level, fatherhood has been my biggest accomplishment (I have three amazing children). I know that sounds clichéd but it’s true. In terms of my career, being given the opportunity to successfully lead, motivate, and inspire groups of healthcare professionals over the years has been some of my proudest moments. Healthcare is a pillar of Canadian society and I’ve been privileged to have been involved in some complex change initiatives at an organizational and systems level that’s resulted in meaningful outcomes for patients and healthcare providers.
In terms of my biggest challenge, it’s related to the fact that I moved in to a management position at a very early stage in my career (I first became a hospital manager at age 26). It’s hard to build credibility as a healthcare leader when the clinicians reporting to you have been practicing before you were born! It’s been a good lesson for me but also reaffirmed my belief that leadership is all about relationships. If you can’t effectively engage and inspire your people, it doesn’t matter if you’re the most seasoned expert in your industry.
4. What are some of future goals that you envision for yourself and for the Filipino community in Canada?
I’d like to continue to contribute and play a bigger role in the transformation of our healthcare system, particularly in how services are delivered to individuals living with chronic disease such as diabetes and kidney disease.
For the Filipino community, I’d like us to be more visible as leaders and change agents in all industries. Over the years stereotypes and prejudices have developed about Filipinos in Canada and I think we need to break that. On a positive note, I do see this change slowly happening. We have so many young, bright, and talented Filipinos. The potential is there but I think we need to figure out we can better support each other and be a more cohesive community.