Tyler Pretty, who recently graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Laurentian University (LU), is discovering his best self on a well-thought-out journey of higher learning and career aspirations, and with a strong focus on community.
All three components are critical to achieving his goal of becoming a physician and operating a medical practice here in the North.
“I want to stay close to home,” said Tyler. “It’s my passion to advocate for and help improve health-care services for our Francophone community.”
Pretty, 22, is the son of Jody and Anne. His dad, whose own father enjoyed a lengthy mining career, is a supervisor at Glencore’s Falconbridge Smelter. His mom is employed in administration at Health Sciences North (HSN).
With a grandmother who was a nurse, and mother and older sister currently working in the health-care field, Pretty decided quite young that he would pursue a career in medicine.
A graduate of École Ste-Thérèse Accueil - École Ste-Thérèse (nouvelon.ca) and École L’Horizon Accueil - É.s.c. l'Horizon (nouvelon.ca) in Valley East, Pretty grew up in a family that loves being outdoors, participating in activities like camping, fishing, hunting and a myriad of sports. After a long day of studying and volunteer work, Pretty likes to unwind with a strenuous game of hockey or a relaxing round of golf.
His love for sports and mentoring other youth started in earnest while he was still in high school and volunteering as an assistant volleyball coach. It led to a summer job as a junior playground supervisor with the City of Greater Sudbury, as well as his role as a referee with the Sudbury Ladies Volleyball Association.
“My biggest inspiration to become a community volunteer came from my exposure to HSN,” said Pretty. “As a child, I was often a patient there. The times I spent in hospital gave me personal insight into the intriguing field of medicine and it fuelled my interest in becoming a physician. I started volunteering at HSN in my early teens. It felt good to greet and assist patients and visitors, especially those who communicated better — or solely — in French.”
As part of his nursing program at LU, Pretty also completed multiple placements at the hospital.
Thanks to those experiences, Pretty designed a strategy to achieve his dream of helping others and making health care more accessible to the Francophone community.
“Sadly, many services are just not available in the French language.”
Pretty pointed out how debilitating it is for people whose mother tongue is not English.
“They have a difficult time understanding medical terms and advice, and are often too embarrassed to say anything to their health-care professionals. Health care needs to be more accessible to Francophones and I’m committed to make that happen.”
All his courses at LU were conducted en français.
“Continuing my post-secondary education in French ensured I can provide the best care and connection to our Francophone community.”
Having attended only French-language schools all through life, Pretty believes the bilingual communication skills he has developed will be invaluable throughout his career.
In Grade 12, Pretty had a big decision to make. “I always knew I wanted to work in the health-care field. I knew in my heart, I wanted to become a doctor.”
Pursuing a degree in nursing was a viable start. That profession would also assure Pretty had a career to fall back on, should medical school not be in his future. It turns out, both goals have come to fruition.
Pretty graduated from LU’s nursing program this spring and has been accepted into the undergraduate medical education program at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) NOSM | Northern Ontario School of Medicine. He will be studying at NOSM’s East Campus beginning this September.
In the meantime, Pretty also landed a job at Public Health Sudbury & Districts (PHSD).
“As a new nursing graduate, my role in PHSD’s COVID-19 division focuses on preventable diseases and vaccines,” he said.
“Once I have graduated as a physician, I’m determined to remain in the North. Having spent so much time on Manitoulin Island and in Sturgeon Falls and Sudbury, practising medicine in Northern Ontario would be a dream come true, a natural extension of my personal experiences.”
Pretty is not certain if he will eventually pursue a specialized field, but a family practice is currently top-of-mind.
When the COVID-19 pandemic first took hold of the world last year, Pretty’s university courses pivoted to online classes. He was spending most of his days doing homework. “But I needed more in my life and so I contemplated how I could pitch in to support the community.”
Pretty’s dad advised him that Glencore was seeking to hire ‘active screeners’, a timely opportunity for his son to contribute to the health and safety of this essential business.
“For the next five months, I screened workers and visitors for COVID symptoms and took their temperatures. It felt good to be of service and I also gained hands-on career-related experience.”
During his time with Glencore, Pretty also researched government sources and provided suggestions as to how the mining company could further enhance communication of safety policies and procedures during the pandemic.
Pretty’s passion is medicine, and he believes that volunteering in that field is an important way to develop oneself professionally and personally.
Volunteering has, in fact, been an important part of his life since childhood. He started volunteering with HSN at 14 and, although it felt daunting at first, he was soon in his comfort zone and enjoyed a positive learning experience he has carried into adulthood.
Giving back continues to be at the forefront of his commitment. “In order to become a well-rounded health-care professional, I also want to make a difference in the community-at-large and be a role model to other millennials.”
In the summer of 2020, Pretty joined forces with the Greater Sudbury Community COVID-19 Response & Relief as part of a team of 20 volunteers delivering groceries and essential items to the elderly and those who are housebound or experiencing food insecurities.
“I really encourage others to look out for their vulnerable neighbours and make their lives a little easier in these challenging times. And always, really, and in whatever small way you can help. It will have a positive impact and the relationships you will build are so meaningful.”
As vice-president of l'Association des étudiants et des étudiantes en Sciences infirmières de l’Université Laurentienne , Pretty’s advocacy efforts emphasize the importance of service and community to becoming a successful, caring health-care professional.
And, as a university student and ambassador with Consortium national de formation en santé (CNFS), he has helped connect Francophone health-care students and their community.
Student members of CNFS represent a variety of health-care-related fields, including nursing, social work, midwifery and speech pathology.
“They will all inevitably collaborate with one another in some aspect of their future careers. To inform students about career opportunities for bilingual graduates and enlighten them about different disciplines and perspectives, guest speakers have been invited to share their experiences, and the open discussion that follows encourages students to ‘stay the course’ and maintain ties with their Francophone culture and language.”
In the fall of 2020, Pretty participated in “Let’s Talk about COVID-19 / Parlons de la COVID-19”, a bilingual speaker series hosted by Laurentian and Science North. The conversation was livestreamed via Facebook and the science centre’s website.
“I can relate to other youth who are dealing with life in a pandemic. Young people are very social. We’re discovering lots of interests and we want to enjoy activities together. At this stage of emotional growth and change, it’s incredibly difficult to forego social interaction that helps shape our personalities into adulthood. The message conveyed at Let’s Talk was abundantly clear: We must all do our very best to stay safe and act responsibly. A combined effort is the only way to beat this pandemic.”
Pretty is also dedicated to improving services for the homeless and vulnerable. That commitment is best exemplified by his long-standing involvement in a health-promotion organization led by NOSM East Campus students and LU students.
In conjunction with community agencies like the Corner Clinic / Clinique Ducoin, Reach Accès Zhibbi (RAZ) takes a holistic approach to offering workshops and services to the homeless and vulnerable. RAZ supports marginalized populations.
“I jumped at the opportunity to become involved as a volunteer and ambassador of the Corner Clinic where health promotion and other services are available to those in need.”
Pretty has worked directly with the drop-in clinic’s director to develop their annual needs assessment to help meet the socio-economic challenges of Greater Sudbury’s less fortunate.
“We listen to their concerns and create programs to help reduce the difficult conditions they face.”
Along with two other volunteers, Pretty helped design a job interview preparation workshop which they conducted in collaboration with the clinic.
“Vulnerable people face so many barriers. We helped guide clients who are seeking employment but have no resources, like a computer or knowledge of how to prepare a resume. They came away with interview skills, more self-confidence, a hard-copy resume and hope for the future.”
Tyler Pretty is an empowering role model for other youth who are pursuing careers in the health-care field. There is no doubt that he will realize his goals to practise medicine and advocate for positive change in the North’s francophone community and in our community-at-large.
Tyler Pretty’s Words of Inspiration
For many people, especially kids, volunteering can be a scary proposition, or it can feel out of reach, but it’s important to just put yourself out there and give it a try. There’s really nothing to lose, and you might well discover your passion in life. Giving back to your community will inspire you. The best advice for anyone is to volunteer in a domain or area they’re interested in. That not only makes volunteering more engaging and encourages you to be more committed, but you will get so much satisfaction out of helping others. The experience will expand your horizons and develop you personally and professionally.
Marlene Holkko Moore is a local communications professional and regular contributor to Sudbury.com.