Profile with Sara Kreindler

Sara Kreindler (Manitoba & Pembroke 1999) is a researcher at the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba. She has previously served as a research consultant for the Manitoba Institute for Patient Safety and as an instructor of Psychology at both the University of Manitoba and the University of Oxford. Sara holds a DPhil in Social Psychology from the University of Oxford and a BA in Psychology from the University of Manitoba.  

Rhodes Project: What is your favorite thing to do in Winnipeg?

Sara Kreindler: A Winnipegger’s favorite thing to do is complain about Winnipeg. It’s sort of an aspect of civic identity. We complain about our weather, our mosquitoes, our pretensions to cosmopolitan grandeur – really, there are two kinds of Winnipeggers: those who complain about Winnipeg and those who complain about the Winnipeggers who complain about Winnipeg, which is really just complaining about Winnipeg!  I think the Fringe Festival is what I most look forward to. It’s the time of year when we have beautiful weather and we create a little bit of Europe. People actually come out in the street and interact.

Rhodes Project: Who is your favorite author? 

Sara Kreindler: George Orwell – not just for 1984 but for his essays and also for Homage to Catalonia, which is perhaps his most personal work. That portrayal of inter- and intra-group strife on the left is part of what inspired me to study the internal dynamics of political parties in my thesis. 

Rhodes Project: When you were a kid, what did you aspire to be when you grew up?

Sara Kreindler: As a very young kid, I seemed to be preoccupied with questions of social responsibility. I know this because when I was four, I attempted to write a novel called Society Aid. It was about two twins who were turning twenty. One decided to be a musician and play in a band – I had artistic aspirations even then – and the other, to set up some program that did good for orphans. That’s the sort of morally earnest endeavor that had my approbation at the time. Throughout my life there’s been that Arnold-esque tension between two paths – on the one hand, the desire to pursue my passion for music; on the other, the drive to dedicate myself to something more conventionally socially responsible. Sometimes the two happily converge, especially since a lot of my artistic output is satire.  While at Oxford, I wrote a musical comedy, Charity, which basically portrayed the endless internal divisions in a philanthropic club.  People would ask me what my musical was about, and I’d say, “my thesis.” When they’d ask me to explain my thesis, I’d say, “See my musical.” I don’t think I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. In fact, I don’t think I know that now.

Rhodes Project: When did you first become passionate about healthcare?

Sara Kreindler: It was natural to gravitate to a field with a social services mandate, and preferably in the public sector. But at the time the job came up, I was at something of a crossroads. I had left a position teaching undergrad Psychology at the U of M, a role about which I’d come to feel increasingly cynical.  I had a line that pretty well captured my alienation by the end of my two-year stint: “We pretend to teach them and they pretend to learn a lot of non-knowledge in order to get a meaningless credential so they can qualify for non-existent jobs.” So I shook the dust off my feet, without a clear vision of where to go next. Serendipitously, someone I knew through music offered me a research contract with the Manitoba Institute for Patient Safety preparing a guide to online health resources. This proved a really good introduction to the healthcare field, so when a posting came up for a Research Associate at the WRHA, I was able to apply.  It turned out to be a mini oasis. We had a very progressive founding director who was hiring people by skill set rather than background. Not only was there very strong research rigor, but we worked very closely with decision-makers. It was obvious that I was really fired up about my job, although I also would get intensely frustrated about the glacial pace of change and the difficulty of changing the world. When a friend remarked, “I can see you love your job,” my response was, “Is passion love?”  As time progressed though, it turned into love as well as passion, and I am still here after seven years.

Rhodes Project: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Sara Kreindler: There are two rewarding parts, one is being able to synthesize ideas, and the other is being able to use that to make a difference in the system.  What’s really exciting about this job is the marriage of theory and practice. What I think I bring to the organization is the ability to bring together an array of information from diverse sources – the literature or quantitative or qualitative findings – and conceive a conceptual frame that brings it into coherence. It’s also being able to translate that into something that the organization can use –to inform and guide action and change.

Rhodes Project: What is the most challenging part of your job?

Sara Kreindler: The difficulty of change in large organizations. We all know that change is arduous, slow, and political, and that becomes frustrating. There’s a quote that goes, “A critic is a dog who knows the way but can’t drive the car.” Sometimes as a researcher embedded in the organization, I do feel like that dog. My part is to achieve the greatest possible clarity and understanding about an issue, to provide that information and ensure by vigorous participation that it’s brought to bear in the discourse.

Rhodes Project: If you had unlimited resources to address any issue, local or global, what would it be?

Sara Kreindler: I always am torn between poverty and the environment. The environment has the obvious claim to preeminence because it’s foundational. But piecemeal recycling initiatives or mild, half-hearted policies will not solve the crisis. What’s more, we also have got to have an equity lens. Certainly we can enact all sorts of policies to penalize consumers for environmentally-unsound choices, but in doing so we have to ask whether we may be further disadvantaging people who are already disadvantaged. 

I think that we have to reject the spurious “environment-or-poverty” dichotomy. Globally, we have enough resources: We could feed everyone. We could create a decent standard of living for everyone and still do it in a sustainable way. If I had unlimited resources, I would try to create a functional local and global democracy, so that people have both the education and the ability to meaningfully participate in long-range decisions. When people make decisions collectively and deliberatively, they aren’t as swayed by short-term gain. They don’t focus as much on personal advantage and the quick fix, but on what will serve the needs of the group as a whole and be the best choice for the future.

Rhodes Project: What would your ideal day look like?

Sara Kreindler: I would be out in nature doing a lot of walking, just taking in the beauty and the peacefulness, watching birds and animals. In the afternoon, I would sit down and write a song.

Rhodes Project: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and why?

Sara Kreindler: For quite a while I’ve wanted to see Australia and New Zealand, just for the natural beauty -- plus I love sheep!  I’ve had the opportunity to travel recently for work to various places in Canada and the States. I’ve perfected what I call ‘micro-tourism’, which is squeezing as much as you can into the few hours before or after a conference.

Rhodes Project: What is something you are looking forward to right now?

Sara Kreindler: I’ve just completed one of these epic boil-the-ocean projects that I tend to come up with – this time taking on the issue of patient flow – so I’m really looking forward to some holiday. I think it will be very simple. I don’t have plans to leave town. One thing about getting very deeply and passionately connected to work is you do start to lose some vision. I’m hoping to have time to really get abreast of some political issues, start playing with ideas, write more satirical songs for YouTube and just be able to think creatively in ways that don’t have to do with the healthcare system. At this rate, if I write another musical, it will be about patient flow, and the audience for that is likely to be highly limited.  

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