Diane Manii

Recipient: March 2012 

Diane Manii is constantly inspired by the motto: "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and lead a trail." Diane is the Ottawa Regional Lead for Psychosocial Oncology, Clinical Manager of the Psychosocial Oncology Program at the Ottawa Hospital, Clinical Investigator in Psychosocial Oncology at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and Adjunct Research Professor in Social Work at Carleton University. Previously, she worked as Social Worker/Social Work Leader/ Professional Practice Leader at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Centre, Social Worker at theOttawa Regional Women's Breast Health Centre and Coordinator of Discharge Planning at Ottawa Civic Hospital.She is being recognized by OASW as an Inspirational Leader during Social Work Week, which is celebrated March 5-12, 2012, under the theme: "Social Workers Help People Get Back on Track".  

Diane is very proud of the clinical work she has done with persons affected by cancer, the patient education tools and coping interventions she developed, as well as the quality improvement initiatives and research she leads. However a position of leadership has given her the opportunity to ensure that this work is continued by others: "I think my primary achievement is the development of the Psychosocial Oncology Program, because the combined effort of the group has become much stronger than each individual. I aspire to foster an environment where individuals can risk and step forward and follow their own professional interests and dreams. I am delighted to say that we have future leaders in Social Work as well as Psychosocial Oncology within the program." She further notes that her program sees some of the highest volumes of patients compared to any other cancer centres in Ontario: "Our expertise is sought locally, provincially, nationally as well as internationally. In a relatively short period of time, we have become a leader in Psychosocial Oncology and will host the Canadian Association of Psychosocial Oncology in Ottawa next year." 

When the Ottawa Hospital was looking for opportunities for cost avoidance as well as cost savings, Diane made the case with a well-researched business plan that providing psychosocial services from a team of inter-professional health care providers was not only the right thing to do but was also cost-effective. She stresses: "As Social Workers, we help individuals move towards self-awareness and growth; as leaders we must help organizations do the same, but in order to do this we must understand their values and motivations." 

One skill that has been of particular importance to Diane as a leader has been negotiation. She explains: "In order to negotiate, you must listen, validate, reframe and be creative. As Social Workers we have all encountered challenging barriers. Leadership is finding a way over, under, around or through in order to meet the needs of the people we are working with." 

Diane emphasizes that for Social Workers to move forward they must develop stronger research skills: "Social Workers provide excellent clinical work but the outcomes are not always clearly articulated, validated and published. In the Psychosocial Oncology Program, there are opportunities to draw on the expertise of others and work collaboratively to move this agenda forward as well as access research funding. Social Work Programs in Universities need to be much more engaged in promoting and financially supporting this agenda in health care as hospitals are one of the biggest employers of Social Workers in Canada." 

Diane maintains that her sense of passion has been easily sustained by the people she has met who have been affected by cancer: "They are looking for a way forward, but often need new skills, new resources and to make connections that will restore their well-being. The five key words highlighted by OASW for Social Work Week 2012 - hope, connection, choices, well-being and balance - have been a daily aspect of my working life as well as my personal life for many years. A few weeks ago I met a woman, who had come to a support group I had facilitated over 15 years ago. The group went on to meet together independently for many years. She is now over 80 and in a wheelchair. She held my hands and said: 'You were the first one who brought us together and helped us to be quiet and heal'. How can one not be inspired?" 

Hope has played an integral part in Diane's work: "As a Clinical Social Worker in Oncology, I have walked with persons affected by cancer through their experience and understood the impact on their lives.  With a cancer diagnosis, hope is like a prism. At the bottom of the prism, what a person hopes is for a cure and a good life, return to work and to see grandchildren. If the illness progresses, a person hopes for changes along the illness trajectory. For those at the end of life, hope is for a good death. Social Workers have the privilege of supporting and engendering hope in a way that is meaningful." 

When asked about the characteristics of a leader, Diane answered: "I think as a leader you must be truly authentic and believe in what you are doing and be ready to defend your actions as well as those of your team. You must look for opportunities for those that you lead and actively encourage their development and success. You must have the willingness to address injustice as well as take on difficult tasks. It takes courage to be in a position of leadership; one question that always helps me in my decision-making is questioning the consequences of not taking on a challenge." 

Diane believes that succession planning is an essential aspect of professional leadership: "Without this leadership, Social Work or Psychosocial Oncology will not move forward. I am most proud of the individual members of the Psychosocial Oncology Program, I see the wonderful work they do and how much it is appreciated by those affected by cancer as well as other health care professionals. The inter-professional nature of the team has provided balance, opportunity and strength. I see a strong team with a strong sense of their own identity, purpose and accountability." 

Diane Manii is an inspirational leader in the social work community - motivating, risk-taking, and dedicated to collaboration.  During Social Work Week, March 5-11, 2012, and throughout the year, take the time to acknowledge social workers who make a difference.