By Amy Robertson
Wylie Chan has often said that struggle leads to progress. It’s a piece of encouragement the disability management professional has shared with many clients, and a piece of wisdom he’s taken to heart in his own career.
He’s spent a lifetime helping people heal from physical ailments and return to the workplace, first as a kinesiologist, then as an exercise physiologist. He once held three different jobs, one of which included physical tests for the Canadian military.
He chose to move into disability management because of his dedication to helping people—it was another facet of the skill set he hoped to offer. “I wanted to exercise every ability that a kinesiologist can,” he says. “The outcome for clients will be so much better.”
When he made the jump, he took a pay cut, but his hard work has since paid off. Chan was recently promoted into a senior disability management position at one of Canada’s top health care organizations.
He attributes some of his success to his decision to go back to school in 2013. “This industry is growing,” he says. “You have to stay competitive.”
SFU Continuing Studies’ part-time Rehabilitation and Disability Management Diploma appealed to him because it offered certification opportunities and the chance to learn alongside other professionals in the classroom.
He describes his time in the program as very academically rich. He learned new ideas, processes and approaches while benefitting from the expertise of his classmates, who included occupational therapists, nurses, HR managers, WorkSafe B.C. professionals, social workers, people with disabilities and others. He relished being able to ask their perspectives, hear their stories, and have the kind of discussions he has every day in the workplace.
“What better opportunity is there to have an open conversation with stakeholders—to pick their minds?”
He also loved the camaraderie he experienced with his classmates. “People were getting jobs left, right and centre. We were all sharing these successes together,” he says. “The diploma itself was the icing on the cake.”
For Chan, education isn’t just about excelling in his work. It’s the very heart of it. “It’s about educating the individual I’m dealing with,” he says. “The client has to understand what they’re doing. Knowledge is power, and power is the ability to yield results.”
He considers helping people overcome obstacles a privilege. “The ability to reach that goal, to re-integrate someone back into their pre-injury state—that makes me happy. That’s my passion. That’s worth more than money.”