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Vireo Team Member Spotlight: Troy Bjerkness, Director of Patient Services

As Pride Month 2020 comes to end, we want to remind everyone to celebrate Pride every month of the year! It is important that we continue to support our LGBTQ+ family, friends, and communities around the country and the world. This year, Pride felt a little different as the COVID-19 outbreak cancelled many of the joyous events and parades that usually help us celebrate and observe this important month.

Vireo is proud to have many LGBTQ+ team members and patients. To help commemorate the end of the Pride Month and remind us to keeping working to honor and protect our LGBTQ+ communities, we interviewed a “rising star” in our Minnesota operations, Troy Bjerkness, our Director of Patient Services in Minneapolis and a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community!

What made you interested in joining the cannabis industry?

I previously lived in California and Washington State where cannabis is legalized.  Through my personal experiences and interactions with others, I quickly understood the many benefits of the plant and the industry.  When I moved back to Minnesota, I got my master’s degree as a rehabilitation counselor and felt that my education and experience was a perfect fit for working with people who need medical cannabis to improve their quality of life.

What do you like about working at Vireo/MinnMed?

I like working with Vireo/MinnMed because of my fellow team members and the patients we serve.  Every day you come across a person or situation that gives you something to be proud of or feel blessed about.  Collectively, we have endured so much over the past few months with COVID-19.  Our employees and patients have adapted to so many changes with such amazing resilience and understanding.  They make our cannabis patient center feel less like work and more like family!

How does it make you feel to help patients find relief/help?

In all the jobs I have had, I am most drawn to positions where I can improve the quality of life for other people.  Working at Vireo is extra special because we get to help people that didn’t think there was any way for them to help improve their quality of life.  Many have through trials and treatments with no symptom relief until they tried medical cannabis.  It really opened my eyes to the importance of advocating for the expansion of medical cannabis programs and making sure that cannabis becomes more accessible to more people.

How have you been celebrating this Pride Month considering the limitations of COVID?

They just started to open local establishments that support the LGBTQ+ community for social gatherings.  We have been safely following rules and regulations while supporting our local businesses as much as possible to keep them in business through these challenging times.

My friends and I all got mopeds to enjoy some outdoor fun scooting around town and we have a lot more bonfires where we can keep a distance while being able to still hang out and have a good time.  It’s good to continue to be out and proud in the community even though it looks differently given our current challenges.  I most certainly think we are engaging in more conversations with people outside of our community because of COVID and I hope that we don’t limit our interactions with those different than us because of it. We don’t need to stop engaging with people, we just need to find ways to engage differently.

Any suggestions how people can help support their LGBTQ+ friends during Pride and year-round?

A way you can support all communities is through inclusivity.  There is so much going on right now with BLM and threats against the LGBTQ+ from our politicians and inclusivity encompasses all people.  It doesn’t matter what race, religion, or sex you are defined by.  The LGBTQ+ community exists in all communities.

Get to know people you wouldn’t normally know.  Treat people who are different with kindness.  Combat ignorance and anger with compassion and education.  Pride isn’t just about showing Pride for yourself but Pride for all people.  I once went to a protest in my hometown of Willmar in support of our Islamic community members who were under attack and one of the things that we chanted over and over was, “we are better together”.  As this incredibly diverse set of our community members chanted that slogan, I truly felt it and believed it.  Practice being better together!

Any other quotes or stories you want to share? Friends or co-workers to shout out?

“Either the day runs you or you run the day” – Jim Rohn.

This was posted on our communication board by my fellow team member Stacey Hansen.  I find this quote to be helpful on so many levels.  Pride is really about running your day and living your best life.  When you don’t run your own day, you let politicians and uneducated people make decisions that impact your rights.

Pride helps us remember where we are at and where we are going, in order to keep us moving in the right direction.  It’s a very important time to celebrate our victories, but also remember the hardships that the LGBTQ+ has endured and remember those who fought to change those rights for us.

Want to share your story with the Vireo Health community? Contact us via email here!

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