Modest though she may be about her contributions, there’s no denying that there would be no Inuit Health Survey without Helga Saudny-Unterberger. The assistant to Project Leader Dr. Grace Egeland and Project Manager of the survey, Saudny-Unterberger has been with the survey since its inception.
‘When Grace in 2006 decided to submit a grant proposal to the government of Canada’s International Polar Year program, I was given the task to help with writing the proposal,’ Saudny-Unterberger said. With funding granted, Saudny-Unterberger’s next task was organizing logistics for the project, hiring staff, ordering supplies, and completing any other large and small thing that needed to get done.
Logistics for such a huge project would appear as a nightmare to most, but Saudny-Unterberger calls it simple ‘common sense.’
‘The good thing was that we were forced to be ready at a certain time, because the ship wasn’t going to wait for us. We knew we had deadlines to meet, and once you have deadlines, you work backwards,’ she said.
‘I wasn’t the only one, we had a team,’ she said. ‘I’m just one little peg in this team that helped bring this about.’
‘I think people were a little bit skeptical at first if the deed could be accomplished, because the manpower required is enormous. In all the communities you have to have people in place who travel ahead of the ship, who get the communities excited and ready. And you can’t do this without local people helping,’ she said.
She is most appreciative of the Inuit interviewers. ‘It couldn’t have been easy for some. Last year they were away for two months from their families and communities. It’s just a great testament to their willingness to do something for their people. Hopefully something really positive will come out of it,’ she said.
While for most the survey has come to an end, for Saudny-Unterberger the work continues. Upon returning to Montreal she will focus on the financials from the project and write activity reports. She is also hoping to do some analysis of the data collected. ‘I just do whatever needs to be done,’ she said.
How Helga stays healthy: ‘I like to run, I like to walk, I like to bike. I eat healthy.’