JuicyLesson 239: Fear and a Loathing at Toolbox: Names are Named … It’s Friday the 13th …


People often ask me if I’m superstitious and I say no cuz it brings bad luck.

Look down … not way down, just down a bit … down to the date, to the date on the letter to Dr. Lorig, written by me, the date in question being July 30, 2013, almost a full year ago and still no answer.

Not only that but if one focuses on the following high-light extracted from the letter’s first paragraph, one is able to understand that we are talking years here, since October 2011, taking into account “lost time” caused by the pneumonia and by the recovery period from same.

This letter is a follow-up to a telephone conversation between us, which occurred more than a year ago, just prior to my being stricken with a severe case of pneumonia, which put me in the hospital for more than three months … End of extract from the letter

What is the Toolbox?

Toolbox is a chronic pain self-management workshop. Sessions are led by people like me, people who suffer chronic pain due to a disease like the one I have, Scleroderma, or because of a car or other kind of accident like a fall.

Each set of sessions is blocked out as six different classes, taught in teams. To make a long story short, I was unceremoniously let go, that is I was relieved of my position, with little in the way of explanation offered as to why, and this occurred in the midst of my fourth set of classes. In other words, I, with a different partner or partners each time (see letter), had completed three sets of classes – in other words, I co-led 18 classes and had also finished leading four of the six classes scheduled for what would have been my fourth full session of classes had I had the chance to finish it, when I was summarily terminated.

As for the rest of the story to this point, the following letter pretty much speaks for itself.

Dr. Kate Lorig
Stanford Patient Education Research Centre
1000 Welch Road, Suite 204
Palo Alto, CA, 94304

Email: lorig@stanford.edu

RE. Jerry Cohen, Montreal

July 30, 2013

Dear Dr. Lorig,

This letter is a follow-up to a telephone conversation between us, which occurred more than a year ago, just prior to my being stricken with a severe case of pneumonia, which put me in the hospital for more than three months, including two different stints in the ICU, the second one lasting a total of three weeks. I was in recovery for a good six months following my return home, thanks in large part to the efforts of my lovely wife, Lee.

I am writing to protest the treatment I have received by Deborah Radcliffe-Branch, coordinator of theToolbox, at McGill University, in Montreal.

I was removed from my leadership role in Toolbox after four classes (out of six) in October, 2011, after three previous completed sessions leading Toolbox workshops, including one working with Ms Tracy Williams, a Master Trainer. Tracy actually complimented my performance specifically related to a particular session which I conducted solo after the break to the end due to the fact that Tracy had to deal with a depressed participant during that period of time.

I also worked with the ex-assistant coordinator of the program, Jessica Vutriano, who has since left for greener pastures, again with no complaints. This was for the final three sessions of the six, after the removal of my previous partner for inappropriate behaviour. (I did not like my treatment in this case either, but that’s another story.) As a matter of fact, Jessica actually complimented me at one point for some good ideas. Before proceeding, it is important to note that I was a high school teacher for thirty-four years before the onset of Scleroderma which forced me to retire from the classroom in 2008.

One reason for my enrolment and training to be a leader in the context of the Toolbox, was the fact that I missed the classroom and felt that I could do some good by helping others deal with their health and spin-off issues. Needless to say, after such a long and successful teaching career, I believed I knew what I was doing. After attending My Toolbox as a participant I applied for a leadership role and underwent training to to become one, successfully I might add.

Imagine my surprise when I received a telephone call from Ms. Radcliffe-Branch, telling me that I was being removed from the programme and would be replaced for the final two “classes”. The only reason given was that I was not “teaching the programme as it is meant to be taught”. I was also told by Radcliffe-Branch at the same time that I had great potential and that we would meet to discuss my removal and the need for further training. That was almost two years ago! In the interim I had emailed Radcliffe-Branch, reminding her of my situation and asking for the meeting which she had stated would happen during the aforementioned phone interaction between us in October, 2011. Not all of my emails were answered and I eventually phoned Deborah to find out what was going on and was shocked at the response I got to the question of why our meeting had, in fact, never occurred.

Rather than responding appropriately, Ms. Radcliffe-Branch insisted that we had indeed met and that she had notes to prove it. All I said to her at that point in our conversation was that the promised meeting between us had never taken place, and all I received as an answer was the following question: Why are you calling me, Jerry, or something to that effect. My response to her query revolved around my anger over two issues, the fact that I had been removed without either a meeting or a satisfactory reason being given for my firing, as well as Deborah’s insistence that we had met when I know full well that we hadn’t and still haven’t. I am still upset by this whole situation which provides part of my rationale for writing this missive.

Jerry (Gerald) Cohen, BA, MA, Dip. Ed, MLS (Library Science)
Address Provided
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Tel. (Xxx)xxx-xxxx

C. Deborah Radcliffe-Branch
Tracy Williams
Jessica Vutriano

And finally to end off the week, I must say that I am not crazy about cops (constables on patrol is what C.O.P. stands for, by the way) but still I am upset by the cold-blooded murders of three Mounties in Moncton, New Brunswick.
May the officers rest in peace and may their young families including kids be spared further sorrow; may their sadness pass quickly.

Have an excellent weekend.


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