PowHERhouse Portrait | Shannon Waters

by Charlene SanJenko, April 30, 2017

Shannon Waters is a public health and preventative medicine specialist who has been on a journey of her own healing.

Shannon is Coast Salish from Stz’uminus First Nation, with many family connections in Cowichan, on her mother’s side and Swedish/Hungarian/Scottish on her father’s side.  She is a wife, a mother of two beautiful girls, an auntie, a sister and a friend.  She loves to move her body through dance and to spend time outdoors, especially beside the ocean and among the amazing Indigenous healing plants that grow in her home territory.PowHERhouse Portrait | Shannon Waters

Shannon was honored to work as a family doctor in my her community but became frustrated by seeing people most often after they were already sick, so she went back to do further training to help transform the whole health system and keep people healthy in the first place.  She is currently honored to do that work on contracts – as a Medical Director with Island Health Authority and the Acting Aboriginal Physician Advisor at the Provincial Health Officer’s Office.  Shannon works in the areas of health information, cultural safety and humility and maternal care for Aboriginal women, children and families.

“I know that with our approaches and teachings as Indigenous people and our perspective on wellness, we can live healthy and vibrant lives.  I want to bring forward our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual strength and our stories to help transform the health system and create better health for all.  My own unique journey, my training, the death of both my parents and birth of my two daughters, and the many wonderful teachers I have had, have allowed me to know who I am, find my purpose, and use my gifts to work with others, including women in my home community to create a better life for our future generations.”

Describe your Mission.  What’s it all about for you?

Collaboratively creating tangible positive changes for Indigenous women in my home community which thus spurs positive changes for women across the country and worldwide.

What is your ultimate dream for your role, and where you’d like to take it? 

I want to be able to travel the world and connect with others to talk about how we were able to work together, in Cowichan, on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia and beyond, to create better health for future generations and inspire others that they can do the same.

Describe what success looks like – complete fruition. 

Success is my family being spacious, safe, happy and peaceful, accessing the things that bring us joy in life with the ability to share that access and joy with others.

Describe your success strategy in one sentence. 

I remind myself daily that I know my purpose and that I have the gifts and support to fulfill it.

Biggest highlight in your career/journey thus far? 

Being privileged and honored to lead a group of physicians dedicated to First Nations health.

One thing that you feel has been most pivotal or useful thus far in your career/journey? 

Taking a very unexpected and painful fall/pause in my career, it caused me to take a needed rest, look at what was important to me personally and professionally and realize all the amazing support that I had.

How would you describe what brings you the greatest joy in your current role?

 When I get to spend time in my “sweet spot”… that is when I am able to speak and “tell story” or “give context” to a process of people working together to improve health.  When I feel that I am truly aligned with what I am speaking about, I feel powHERful, and people can sense that resonance and connections are made.

Best advice you ever received?

Best advice I ever received was from my dear mother who has passed away, it was “Be kind to yourself.”PowHERhouse Portrait | Shannon Waters

What would be your top three tips for women regarding a walking their talk and a courageously approaching to is most important to them.

  1. Be brave.
  2. Ask for support.
  3. Spend time on stuff that fills you each and every day.

How do you balance between being an impactful community leader, a busy professional, volunteer and so much more without dodging your own self-care?

Especially now, with being a mother to a 2-month-old as well as an energetic 6 year old, I really concentrate on being present and cherishing the different moments in the day.  An 8-minute meditation can feel luxurious if I really clear my mind and be present in the moment.  I let my 6-year-old and my husband know what is important for my self-care (yoga, walking, meditation) and ask them to support me in making sure that I get time to do those things.

You must have some pretty long days.  How do you keep your energy up and your focus consistent?  How you stay PowHERful and on the top of your game? 

I know I am in my “sweet spot” and doing things that are aligned with my higher purpose when my energy stays high and my focus is consistent even during long days.  I am getting less sleep now then I have in years, with my 2-month-old, but I have been able to actively take part in meetings, prepare and give presentations because I have support and because I believe strongly in what I am doing.  When I feel that what I am doing can make a difference in the life of my 2-month-old daughter that I am holding – when I am emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually aligned – I tap into the universal energy to help carry me along.

What would you say your Top 3 Excellence Habits are (ie. habits that ensure your success).

  1. Knowing where I came from and where I want to go (I am a history buff and love visioning!).
  2. Connecting with people (I do not have unopened emails in my inbox and always try to get back to people).
  3. Persistence (my family and ancestors have taught me the importance of not giving up).

Describe your Top 3 Time Management Tips as they relate to your Mission.

  1. Starting my day with self-care time (consciously cutting out social media scrolling at the beginning of
    my day!).
  2. Leaving time at the beginning of my day for the creative portion of my work (i.e. don’t answer routine emails when my creative energy is highest).
  3. Ensuring that I complete all necessary or urgent communications before the end of the work day, so that I have connected with those I need to, and can let that go and be fully present with my family in the evening.

Describe collaboration and what the looks like/feels like on the ground – how does it show up in your life?

Collaboration to me is people coming around a table as equals to contribute their gifts to a process.  Collaboration has shown up in my life at different times in different ways.  Earlier in my career I was more of a listener and brought my thoughtful, reflective energy.  As my career went on, I found my gifts being cultivated and had friends and colleagues asking me to take on more leadership positions.  Now I find my role is more around creating/ funding/facilitating the tables that people gather around, creating a vision for what we can achieve together and creating a supportive environment for everyone there (including the quiet, reflective people like I used to be!) to have a voice.

Describe a favourite hobby or adventure.

Doing “active” travelling with my family.  In 2014, my family went to Taiwan for the Pacific Region Indigenous Doctor’s Congress, and we took 5 days to cycle around the country afterward.  It was a wonderful way to meet people, spend time together and be active.

Favourite indulgence or treat.PowHERhouse Portrait | Shannon Waters

Dark organic chocolate

Top 3 things on your Bucket List.

  1. Bringing my older daughter Isis to Egypt to learn about her name.
  2. Bringing my younger daughter Atira to the Southeastern United States to learn about her name.
  3. Hiking the Camino de Santiago with my family and friends in my 50th year.

What does giving back (fulfillment) look like to you?

Bringing forward opportunities to other women that I am privileged to have.

I never leave home without my…….. 

Cell phone, currently I have 3!!!

What are the apps or online tools you most use?

My on-line banking apps…I am currently doing an online course about healing your relationship with money and a recommended practice was to look at your bank account balances every day and express gratitude for what you have.

Do you have a morning ritual? What is it?

Picking some meaningful items daily and arranging them beautifully on a tray with my supplements, taking a moment to center, express gratitude and then doing an 8-minute meditation.

If you could display a 1-line message in Times Square that would be televised to women around the world, what would it say?

“You are enough!”

Your thoughts on mentoring young women?  What do you feel your most valuable lessons to pass on are? 

We need to start really young, that is one of the reasons I am happy to be able to bring my 2-month-old to meetings.  I want to let women, including my own daughters, know that we all have unique gifts, things that we are especially talented at.  We can’t be small, we need to bring those gifts forward and let them shine.  All women claiming and utilizing their gifts is needed for the health of our communities and our environment.

Where do we go from here in terms of supporting and inspiring women to step-up and continue moving forward with their missions… regardless of how hard it may feel at times.  #confidence  #courage  #connections #capital

My “walk” is to be a role model and inspire positive, tangible change in my home community with the skills, gifts, and connections I have as an Indigenous public health and preventive medicine specialist.  I have recently had some ideas that I am excited to start discussing with women in my community.  I know there are many talented, inspiring and brilliant women in Cowichan and beyond, and we need to connect (providing support in good times and bad) and create!

Charlene SanJenko
Charlene SanJenko is the Founder and CEO of PowHERhouse, a social impact organization utilizing a multi-media platform to build strong women.

A vibrant entrepreneur who embodies lifestyle + leadership, Charlene finds her greatest joy bringing together powHERful women ready to make an impact and change the world, powHERfully – one woman, one family and one community at a time.

“We recognize that the change our world needs is us, and we’re stepping up, speaking up and showing up to take action, together. We recognize the importance of integrating lifestyle + leadership. PowHERful women require strength, energy, confidence and connections to realize and sustain their dreams.”

1 Comment


  • So great to hear about women doing what they do best and raising up others, especially in the area of Indigenous women! My favourite phrase from your interview is this: "I remind myself daily that I know my purpose and that I have the gifts and support to fulfill it." Thank you, Shannon!

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​Charlene SanJenko is the owner of PowHERhouse, a community of powerful women that promotes health, happiness, and heart. She intimately believes that strong women build strong families; strong families build strong communities; strong communities build a strong future.  I intimately believe in her. If you need someone in your life who will raise you up and