Though visibly disappointed that she was pregnant at age 18 shortly after becoming the first in her family to complete high school, Camille Orridge’s family didn’t turn their back on her.
“I clearly remember my mother saying it’s not about this pregnancy and this child but rather about what you are going to do with the rest of your life,” said Orridge. “While it was not the end of the world, what she was really saying was that I would have to make sacrifices at a young age and work harder to achieve my goals while being a single parent.”
Orridge went on to become the first in her family to attend university and she’s the holder of a Master’s degree in Health Administration from the University of Toronto. She’s also a long-standing member of the Canadian College of Health Services Executives.
The recognized and respected health care executive and social change advocate has been named one of the Top 25 Women of Influence, highlighted for their achievements in business, health sciences, non-governmental organizations, professional services and the public sector.
Orridge attributes her success and passion for advocating for social change to her family and teachers at Camperdown High School.
“My mom (Lillian Orridge passed away a few years ago) and my aunt (Beryl Nelson, who is 89 and resides in Jamaica) always gave us a sense of security,” said Orridge. “I always knew that I could go home…Back in the day, not much was expected from us as the first group of Black kids to get scholarships. But we had some great teachers like Winifred Smith and Pamela Mordecai who told us we could do it. They said we could make a difference and that it was not only what you do but how you used what you do to make a difference for others. That inspired my community engagement.”
Last Monday marked 45 years since Orridge migrated from Jamaica to join her mother and an aunt, Sylvia Morgan, who is also deceased. Starting her employment career in Canada as a ward clerk at Toronto General Hospital, she cofounded Pathways to Education and led the development of a code of ethics for care in the community while working as a member of the Joint Centre for Bioethics.
She was also a member of the provincial Emergency Room/Alternate-Level-of-Care expert panel, the business lead for the Resource Matching and Referral project and co-chair of the Aging at Home Council and the Integrated Care for Complex Populations Task Force at the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network (LHIN).
As the chief executive officer of the Toronto Central LHIN for the past two years, Orridge is responsible for providing health care to one of the largest regions in the country. Her agency plans, coordinates and funds 173 health care service providers that offer key services to a local community of 1.14 million residents as well as to a large number of Ontarians who live in other LHINs.
Orridge said her primary focus in the next 12 months is the restructuring of the 177 health care agencies across the city that would make it easy for users to interact with as few hubs as possible and the digital future of health care.
“We need to ensure that all of our people have access to health care and that the doctors we choose to go to are connected to specialists so that we can get through the system to the right place of care,” said Orridge. “The way the system is now organized is based on relationships. If you go to school with a certain doctor and he knows this doctor, you get the referral and you get through. I am arguing that all of that should be automated and so it becomes invisible and you get to the right specialist when you need it regardless of who your doctor is and all your information is there.”
Orridge was honoured with a Health Equity Council Woman of Distinction Award to mark the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day last year.