Honorary Naval Captain brings years of experience to CF Hlth Svcs C (A)
By Ryan Melanson,
While Dr. Alice Aiken may be brand new to her role as the Honorary Naval Captain attached to Canadian Forces Health Services Centre (Atlantic), she’s no stranger to the CAF community.
Before beginning her academic career – she’s now Dalhousie University’s Vice President of Innovation and Research – Hon Capt(N) Aiken served for 14 years in the RCN, first as a naval navigator and then as a physiotherapist. She also co-founded the Canadian Institute for Military and Veterans Health Research (CIMVHR) in 2010, which has grown to become a network of 41 Canadian universities and international partners that studies the health and well-being of Canadian military personnel, Veterans and their families.
“The military is where I really found a camaraderie, a home, and a way of being that spoke to me,” Hon Capt(N) Aiken said at her investiture ceremony on May 12 at the Naval Museum of Halifax.
She met her husband, a 27-year Army veteran, and many of her closest friends through the CAF, and remained close with the organization after releasing. She also previously held an Honorary Colonel position with 33 CF Hlth Svcs C in Kingston.
“We’re a military family and I’ve always felt at home in this environment. I’m happy to be back,” she said, after accepting the appointment and signing the official documents alongside LCol Rochelle Heudes, Commanding Officer of CF Hlth Svcs C (A), and RAdm Craig Baines, Commander MARLANT and JTFA.
RAdm Baines spoke about the importance of the Honorary Naval Captain and Honorary Colonel programs, which have existed since 1895, initially as a way for retired officers to stay connected to military life and give back. Today, the appointments are also open to individuals and community leaders who have no previous service experience, but for someone like Hon Capt(N) Aiken who does bring a CAF background, the position can be even more meaningful.
“It means that all the work she does as an Honorary Captain will be that much more nuanced and textured,” RAdm Baines said.
“I know she’s going to get a lot out of this appointment, but we will get so much more for having her.”
In welcoming Hon Capt(N) Aiken to CF Hlth Svcs C (A), LCol Heudes recalled her time working with 1st Canadian Field Hospital in Petawawa, when she was first introduced to CIMVHR and the wide network of academics and health professionals who contribute to the non-profit research group. As a young officer, she said the exposure to the Institute helped her recognize the importance of collaboration with academia to better understand the health care issues facing veterans and their family members.
With Hon Capt(N) Aiken, a co-founder and former scientific director of CIMVHR, now attached to her unit, it feels like that experience has come full circle, LCol Heudes said.
“She’s been a part of this family for a long time, and we’re thrilled to have her back home and serving once again with Canadian Forces Health Services.”
The CO added her hope to pursue a closer relationship with Dalhousie University in the coming years, including professional development opportunities or combined research efforts.
Hon Capt(N) Aiken thanked her many friends in the CAF community, along with colleagues from Dalhousie, for attending the investiture ceremony, and said she’s excited to get rolling on this new chapter of her ongoing relationship with the CAF. The position is a perfect way to bring her professional academic career together with her volunteer efforts that have focused on veterans and CAF families, she said.
“It’s something I’m very passionate about, and I hope this gives me even more opportunities to continue to give back.”