Job title: Director of Health and Wellness, The Mustard Seed
Why Samantha Lowe is a 2021 Top 40 Under 40: Occupational therapist Samantha Lowe is changing the scope of her profession and the lives of Calgary’s most vulnerable through innovative wellness programs.
Samantha Lowe describes occupational therapists, or “OTs” as they’re known, as the “the Swiss Army knives of health care.” Put another way: “OTs are uniquely positioned to help people in all walks of life.” While many work in hospitals or outpatient rehab, Lowe makes a strong case that OTs can also change the lives of people experiencing homelessness.
Lowe is director of health and wellness at The Mustard Seed, a non-profit organization for people experiencing homelessness. Under her directorship, the Seed’s Wellness Centre serves more than 12,000 clients each year — up from 8,292 in 2019. Among her innovative programs, Lowe co-created a service to offer free functional cognitive assessments for clients, many of whom can’t afford the testing fees (which can be in the range of $1,200) but need the results to access supports.
Lowe believes the key to making change is working within a larger community. “We all have to work together if we’re going to get something done,” she says. In March 2020, Lowe was part of an ad hoc collective that came together to create safe spaces for people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic. Over 13 months, the Mustard Seed’s isolation unit provided beds for 679 people.
Lowe initially set out to work in global health, but the time she spent working on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory changed her life trajectory. “I felt called to work alongside vulnerable populations in Canada and help those who needed advocacy,” she says. Lowe founded the Occupational Therapists for Social Justice network and is a sessional instructor at the University of Alberta and a clinical educator, earning national teaching awards.
A single parent, Lowe says work-life balance can be a struggle, but she is motivated to keep going. “I’m inspired by this incredible community of support where people have dedicated their lives to serving the most vulnerable,” she says.
“I would like to thank my mother Gale McNabb and father Robert Lowe, Jennifer Hill, Dr. Djenana Jalovcic, Leaders at The Mustard Seed, my Health and Wellness Teammates, The University of Alberta Department of Occupational Therapy, and the overall community of clients that we serve and those who work alongside them in Calgary.” – Samantha Lowe