A conversation with WestJet’s first Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tammy McKnight

WestJet
By WestJet | | 3 min read

After a country-wide search, on April 5, 2021, WestJet welcomed its first Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tammy McKnight. The past year changed the world of aviation and brought physical and mental wellbeing to the forefront in a very different way. This led the airline to hire a dedicated Chief Medical Officer to bring what was previously being managed through multiple service providers, inhouse, under a highly accomplished, forward-thinking leader with demonstrated success in aviation, occupational and emergency medicine.

We sat down with Dr. McKnight to learn more about her role at WestJet. 

What drew you to WestJet?

I’ve lived in the Calgary area for the past 22 years. Like so many Calgarians, I’ve watched with pride as this local airline grew from a small carrier to an internationally renowned airline. I also have many friends and neighbours who are WestJetters, and I am always impressed with the genuine love and pride they have for the work they do. 

Dr. Tammy McKnight Dr. McKnight WestJet's first Chief Medical Officer
"Now is not the time to become complacent, it’s is the time to remain vigilant, continue following safety protocols and get vaccinated." 
- Dr. McKnight 
 

As a physician, I never thought I would work for a company like WestJet. So, when the opportunity presented itself, I knew I had to jump on it. Throughout the hiring process, I was struck by the collective dedication of the executive leadership team towards the safety of WestJetters and guests. This included a commitment to elevate mental wellbeing to the same importance as physical wellness. As someone who has a keen interest in aligning physical and mental safety, I knew I belonged here.

"I want to arm WestJetters with the accurate information they need to make decisions to keep themselves and our guests safe, including confidently getting vaccinated." 
- Dr. McKnight 
Dr. McKnight working for WestJet Dr. McKnight in her new position

How will you be guiding WestJet through the COVID-19 pandemic?

My first goal is to build relationships with WestJetters, and to be a source of truth. Knowing who to trust and making informed decisions can be incredibly hard. We continue to be inundated with information everywhere we turn, whether through social media, our friends and family, or news outlets. I want to arm WestJetters with the accurate information they need to make decisions to keep themselves and our guests safe, including confidently getting vaccinated. I also hope to provide a safe space to ask questions and get answers that are based on the most up-to-date scientific literature regarding COVID-19, testing and vaccinations. 

Why is the flying experience safe for WestJetters and Canadians?

Through my work with Transport Canada, I know firsthand the impeccable safety record Canadian aviation has maintained by implementing comprehensive safety measures. 

WestJet has also maintained an impeccable safety record by implementing additional COVID-measures and prioritizing the safety of guests and WestJetters. We will continue to make safety decisions based on science and data to ensure our guest experience is both safe and enjoyable. It’s worth noting that there have been no known cases of COVID-19 transmission onboard any Canadian aircraft. 

How will the vaccine rollout shape recovery?

Throughout the past 14 months, Canadians have been given the incredibly challenging task of trying to navigate their way through the pandemic. We now have four very safe and effective vaccines available to us. It’s because of these vaccines, exclusively, that the end of the pandemic is finally in sight.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 variants are on the rise throughout Canadian communities and hospitalizations continue to increase. Now is not the time to become complacent, it’s is the time to remain vigilant, continue following safety protocols and get vaccinated.  

Dr. McKnight receiving the COVID-19 vaccine Dr. McKnight receiving the COVID-19 vaccine
"It’s because of these vaccines, exclusively, that the end of the pandemic is finally in sight."
- Dr. McKnight