Louise was born and raised in Inverness Co, completed secondary school at Whycocomagh High School (1968) and graduated from the Aberdeen Hospital School of Nursing with an RN diploma (1971). Ms. Gillis worked at the IWK Hospital for Children- Halifax, NS; St. Peter’s Hospital, Melville, Saskatchewan; St. Rita’s and the Cape Breton Regional Hospital – Sydney, NS.
Ms. Gillis holds a certificate in Institutional management, Intensive Care courses and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. The later completed in 1996, while working full time – six months prior to sight loss. Louise continues to stay up to date by attending various seminars and workshops, the most recent being Advocacy Boot Camp.
Louise contracted Polio in 1950 and Post Polio Syndrome in 1988. In 1997 became involved with the CNIB following sudden vision loss, and served on their Advisory Board, Sydney District for many years.
Volunteering began in 1998 when she became a member of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) Sydney Chapter and assisted in revitalizing the CCB’s Nova Scotia division. Ms. Gillis has served on the CCB at all levels on several committees advocating for accessibility for blind/vision impaired Canadians. In 2003, Louise became VP for NS Division of the CCB on the National Board. In 2006 was appointed to the position of 2nd VP of the National Board. Louise served as 1st VP for one year and in 2010 was elected to the position of National President and re-elected in 2014 and 2017.
Louise has served on committees such as: Library Committee; Accessible Media Inc.; Media Access Canada (MAC), Coalition of Blind Rights Holders (CBRH) – of Canada; – Consumer Access Group (CAG); WBU – World Blind Union; WBU – Women’s Committee, ILNS – Independent Living Nova Scotia; Society for Accessible Transportation – Sydney; Marine Atlantic Accessibility Advisory Committee; a Working Group to revise the NS Disabilities Act; and Best Medicines Coalition (BMC). She is also a member of Polio Nova Scotia. Louise represents the blind community at the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), Innovative Medicines Canada / Médicaments novateurs Canada, International Federation on Aging (IFA), Best Medicines Coalition (BMC), CADTH (Canadian Agency on Drugs & Technology in Health,
Louise was instrumental in getting Lucentis approved for the treatment of age related wet macular degeneration (AMD), diabetes macular edema (DME) and Retinal Vein Occlusion (RVO). For Nova Scotia she was instrumental in getting several eye clinics – Halifax 2010 and Glace Bay in 2012 which then resulted in four more provincial clinics in 2014.
As President, Louise has attended many of the various division meetings from coast to coast. She has submitted many Common Drug Review Patient Group Summaries in the hope that more drugs can be approved in the treatment of eye diseases. She always is looking to improve the lives of those living with vision loss and most importantly preventing loss of sight at any age.
Louise has meet with and made presentations to many other disability groups, organization of seniors, schools – including the Canadian Teachers “Seeing Beyond the Horizon” meeting, Ophthalmologists – individually as well as the Canadian Ophthalmology Society, and meet with many provincial & federal government offices. Most recent were two presentations to the International Ophthalmology Conference in Xingtai, China as well as working with a group doing a mobile eye clinic in remote areas of China.
Louise has won several advocacy awards and believes in improving the lives of all Canadians, especially those who cannot speak for themselves, those who may not realize how quickly life can change, and those who ask for assistance.
Through sitting on these committees working with others this can and is happening. Life is too short to not live it to the fullest. There is work to be done and by working together Canada will become stronger and CCB will prosper.
Louise formed the first curling team for persons with vision loss in Nova Scotia out of Sydney Curling Club. The team played in NS 55+ Games, Canada 55+ Games and AMI Canadian Vision Impaired Curling Championship (10 years). In her spare time she assists with Special Olympic athletes and plays on Monday & Wednesday night house league curling. A summer activities, for Louise is hiking, Dragon Boat paddling and is a member of the Sydney Harbour Dragon Boat Club.
Louise continues to be an active member of CCB local and NS division. She takes part in the annual CCB Atlantic Sports & Recreation Weekend. Living an active lifestyle, helping others and meeting new people are most important in her life.
Eye Health in Canada and CCB
Canada is in the need of development policies and strategies to promote eye health to prevent sight loss. The Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) has as one of the objectives to meet the mandate: ‘to promote measures for the conservation of sight and the prevention of blindness for all’.
Vision loss is a difficult condition to manage, as it has no boundaries with respect to gender, income, ethnicity, culture, ability level, or age. What is alarming to us is that in many instances, vision loss is easily preventable and sometimes is simply symptomatic of other health issues that can be controlled. This is why as an organization, CCB is committed to a proactive integrated health approach for early detection ─ improving the quality of life for all Canadians.
Vision loss is the most feared disability among Canadians, and it is expected to cost us more than $30 billion annually by 2032.
Patients receiving treatment for conditions such as Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), Diabetic Macular Edema (DME), Retinal Vein Occlusion (RVO), or Choroidal Neovascularization in Pathological Myopia (CNV) need to be fully informed of their choices in which drug to have injected. Treatment cost should not be the deciding factor.
Eye diseases can have a major impact on a person’s career, independence, family responsibilities, quality of life, and daily living. Early detection of disease process can potentially decrease the effects of vision loss on patients and their families.
The CCB Mobile Eye Clinic (MEC) provides on-site eye exams at retirement homes and schools. This increased access enables seniors to be assessed and referred for appropriate treatment. The evidence supports that Canadians do not currently have their vision at the forefront of their health.
Not only should patients have a choice in treatment but they should also have a choice in their quality of life. Creative and powerful ways to tackle the problem need to be found.
There are a variety of programs that aide in physical, social, mental well-being, and peer mentoring for seniors. CCB sponsors a program – Get Together With Technology (GTT) for people with sight loss of all ages to learn new technology so they can stay in touch with family.
The CCB’s offers other programs to assist people living with vision loss, increase accessibility in all areas of life and bring awareness of vision issues to the public and government.