Ottawa nurse advocates for human and planetary health

Photo of Rob Samulack

Rob Samulack

From his community to nationwide efforts in Canada, Rob Samulack makes it his priority to care for people and advocate at all levels for environmental stewardship.

Rob Samulack is no stranger to advocacy and community action. He and his wife lost a son, Aaron, shortly after his birth, leading them to found Butterfly Run Ottawa to raise money for pediatric palliative care. Through Butterfly Run Ottawa, Samulack advocated at all levels of government for increased funding and support for pregnancy and infant loss programs.

Samulack’s advocacy extends to the natural world. In 2019, he worked with the Ottawa Water Study and Action Group to ban the sale of bottled water in City of Ottawa buildings, reducing plastic waste and reinforcing access to clean, public drinking water as a human right.

"I try to foster a love for nature and responsibility for environmental stewardship in my kids and others," Samulack shared.

Samulack and his wife also led a grassroots project to have the speed limit on their road lowered to 40 kilometers per hour and to have a speed limit sign installed, which involved surveying residents and a successful door-to-door petition campaign. Speed reduction features, including bulb-outs and speed bumps, have been added to their street. A raised intersection with a clearly marked pedestrian crossing will be added this fall.

"If people feel comfortable walking and biking to school, work, shopping, and public services, there will be less driving," Samulack said. "Active transportation makes people healthier, saves money, and increases the sense of community. It also reduces pollution, making a healthier planet for people to live on."

Samulack has worked as a registered nurse in the medicine and surgery hospital settings, as a COVID-19 vaccine immunizer with Ottawa Public Health, and as a summer camp nurse.

He currently serves as co-chair of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario's Ontario Nurses for the Environment Interest Group, and sits on the Canadian Association of Nurses for the Environment (CANE)'s environmental justice and reconciliation committee. An organizational partner of the Nurses Climate Challenge, CANE has amended Challenge resources to be relevant for a Canadian nursing audience. Nurses across Canada can access customized Nurses Climate Challenge materials for educating colleagues, students, and all health professionals about the health impacts of climate change.

In November 2021, Samulack joined the Christian Climate Observers Program at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, where he learned about climate justice – how the world's most economically disadvantaged people who contribute the least to climate change are disproportionately impacted by it, vulnerable to loss of homes, droughts, floods, increased disease, and conflict. "As a nurse, my job and calling is to care for people and advocate for them," Samulack notes. "I try to speak as often as I can about climate change and encourage others to do the same. Nurses need to talk more about climate change, because human health is intimately linked with planetary health."

Samulack currently lives in Ottawa, Ontario, is a father to two young boys, and teaches first aid courses. When not working or volunteering, he is often found canoeing, skiing, biking, hiking, or camping. Find him on Twitter @canoebikeski.

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