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spring 2012 | vol 5 issue 1 | www.ulethbridge.ca/healthsciences

snapshot UNIVERSITY OF LETHBRIDGE FACULTY OF HEALTH SCIENCES

Emmy and Tom Droog in 2007.

Droog (centre) tours Faculty of Health Sciences facilities.

Dr. Tom Droog was awarded an honourary degree from the U of L in 2006.

Dr. Tom Droog (LLD ’06)

A Personal Connection Southern Alberta businessman Dr. Tom Droog honours his late wife through a gift to the U of L Faculty of Health Sciences. For southern Alberta businessman Dr. Tom Droog (LLD ’06), there is no secret to success – it is simply the result of hard work and determination. Droog, along with his wife and business partner Emmy, vaulted to the forefront of consumer snacking success in 1990 when they introduced Spitz, a line of roasted sunflower seed snacks. The couple worked together to build their business while raising two children, daughter Christy Strom (BN ’03) and son Randy. In 2008, the Droogs sold Spitz to PepsiCo. On March 15, 2012, the University of Lethbridge Faculty of Health Sciences announced a $2-million endowment enabled by a $1 million donation from Droog. The gift is in honour of his late wife Emmy, who lost a long battle with cancer in 2010. “When doctors mention the word cancer, people stop listening,” says Droog, who was devastated by his wife’s diagnosis in 2006. Over the next several years, the couple worked together investigating various health-care options that would help improve Emmy’s quality of life as she battled her illness. “Emmy really believed in the alternatives,” says Droog, who was Emmy’s strongest advocate. “All she ever asked for was that I lovingly support her decisions. I didn’t always do it lovingly, but I always supported her.”

Droog’s donation will allow the U of L to establish the Emmy Droog Professorship in Complementary and Alternative Health Care, enabling evidence-based research to explore the issues and care practices associated with complementary and alternative medicine. “I believe in education and alternative healing and I’m happy to be able to support them both through this gift,” says Droog. “I believe that ideas come from ideas and I think this has awesome potential.” Mark Pijl Zieber, a Faculty of Health Sciences nursing researcher, says that complementary and alternative health hasn’t always been complementary or alternative – at one time it was the norm. Even today, statistics show that more than 75 per cent of Canadians access complementary and alternative health care. “Humans have been delivering health care throughout history, and before western medicine, these were the therapies people used,” says Pijl Zieber. “It’s only since the development of western medicine that traditional beliefs have been labeled alternative. While we certainly do benefit from the advances made by western medicine, we’ve lost many of the other options.” Pijl Zieber says that providing effective health care is not always about a cure, especially when considering chronic diseases

like diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. “Sometimes these diseases can’t be beaten, but they can, and need to be, managed – it’s about maximizing a person’s quality of life. This is at the heart of the Droog gift. It’s not about abandoning the institution of western medicine, it’s about facilitating a broader approach to health care.” Dr. Christopher Hosgood, the dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, is looking forward to the opportunities afforded by this significant gift, which will benefit all programs in the Faculty. He adds that, as the largest individual donation to health sciences programming at the U of L, Droog’s gift represents a vote of confidence in the Faculty and helps set the stage for future growth. “It is very encouraging for our Faculty to know that we have such a strong, committed individual working alongside us. We are honoured to have been chosen as the recipient of this gift and are committed to using the resources we’ve been entrusted with wisely,” says Hosgood. The U of L will look to hire someone for the Professorship position in 2014. In the meantime, the funds will be used to support the creation of research partnerships between scholars and practitioners in the field of complementary and alternative health.

“I believe in education and alternative healing and I’m happy to be able to support them both through this gift.” Dr. Tom Droog


A Year in Review

Dear friends of the Faculty of Health Sciences,

Dr. Christopher Hosgood

I am delighted to report on another successful year for the faculty, staff and students in the Faculty of Health Sciences. It has been an extremely busy year with many highlights. Our students continue to provide us with remarkable stories. This past fall saw the graduation of the first cohort of after-degree bachelor of nursing students. I think we all agree that the after-degree program has quickly become integral to the Nursing Education in Southwestern Alberta (NESA) partnership with Lethbridge College; it was a delight to witness the family celebrations at the reception after the convocation ceremony. It is exciting for us to recognize the impact of our graduates, from all of our programs, on health care and policy in the province and beyond. Congratulations to Alisa Takahashi, B.N. with Great Distinction, who was the recipient of our Faculty of Health Sciences Gold Medal for 2011. We continue to develop new opportunities for students at the undergraduate and graduate level. For example, we have partnered with the Faculty of Management to offer a new Bachelor of Health Sciences – Public Health/Bachelor of Management combined degrees program, beginning in the fall of 2012. We have also recently approved a new major in Aboriginal health that we hope to bring forward within the next few years. At the graduate level,

we are working on an innovative master of nursing program and have entered into a new partnership with the Faculty of Education to offer a stream within the masters of education counselling program, in mental health and addictions. We have a full complement of students starting this program in the summer of 2012. Congratulations to Dr. Gary Nixon and his colleagues for developing this important educational opportunity. This fall we celebrated Dr. david Gregory’s time with us by presenting him with our annual Friends of Health Sciences Award. david is now Dean of Nursing at the University of Regina, but he left behind a legacy of excellence in graduate studies – and many friends. We also inaugurated a program to recognize our practice partners who support our students by acting as preceptors, supervisors and mentors. Our programming could not operate so successfully without their investment in our students and we look forward to recognizing more of these friends in the future. This year we welcomed Dr. Shannon Spenceley and Dr. Cheryl Currie. Dr. Spenceley was appointed as an assistant professor in the nursing program. As a U of L alumna, she has occupied a number of senior positions in Alberta Health Services and is very well known in the community. More recently, Dr. Currie was appointed as an assistant

professor in public health. She joins us from the University of Alberta where she recently completed her studies. Finally, I am delighted to report that on March 15, 2012 we announced the creation of our first endowed chair as a result of the generosity of Dr. Tom Droog (LLD ’06). To be known as the Emmy Droog Professorship in Complementary and Alternative Health Care, our goal is to support research and integrate knowledge of such treatment into our various curricula. In order to build partnerships with the practice community, we have initiated a research competition to create opportunities to develop research and practice teams in the field. We anticipate appointing our first Emmy Droog Chair in 2014. We remain busy! We are currently developing a Faculty Strategic Plan, which will align us closely with the strategic goals of the university. My colleagues are active in their research and professional practice, developing partnerships that demonstrate our health leadership role.

Best wishes, Christopher Hosgood, PhD Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences University of Lethbridge

Program Updates Master of Science in Health Sciences The master of science in health sciences (nursing, addictions and public health) continues to remain a popular and successful program. Currently, we have approximately 25 health sciences graduate students, from a wide variety of backgrounds, conducting research in a number of interesting applied health areas. Several students have received prestigious awards and/or scholarships, a number are presenting (or have presented) the results of their master’s research at various conferences, and a few have been accepted for doctoral studies in the fall. There are also a number of exciting changes in graduate studies that are taking place in the Faculty of Health Sciences. In conjunction with the Faculty of Education, we are very excited that our very first cohort of students in the master of counselling psychology (specializing in addictions and mental health counselling) will be starting this program in July 2012. This three-year part-time master’s program is an exciting opportunity for people with addictions and mental health degrees or backgrounds to obtain further experience and knowledge in their field, and we anticipate this being a very popular and successful program. In addition, a hard working planning committee within the Faculty of Health Sciences – with considerable support from the School of Graduate Studies – has now submitted (for approval) a proposal for a

masters in nursing degree. This proposed program would offer nurses an accessible and flexible master’s degree – using a blended approach of electronic and face-to-face course offerings – and allow students to specialize in either nursing education or clinical nursing practice. While the approval process may take a while to complete, we are remaining hopeful that we can start offering this program in Fall 2014. Finally, the Faculty of Health Sciences, in collaboration with the Prentice Institute for Global Population and Economy and the School of Graduate Studies, has recently submitted (for approval) a proposal for a PhD in population studies and health. This program would allow doctoral students to study health-related topics at the population level, and we anticipate there being considerable demand and employment opportunities for graduates of this program. As usual, this is a very exciting time for graduate studies in the Faculty of Health Sciences, and we look forward to continuing to work with our students, collaborating colleagues and community partners.

Nursing (NESA BN Programs) Demonstrating our commitment to excellence in nursing education, over the past year the Nursing Education for Southwestern Alberta Bachelor of Nursing programs (NESA BN programs) embarked on an Academic Quality Assurance Review process. Integral to this process was a systematic evaluation to monitor and review performance, identify quality outcomes and recommend improvement of the academic units and programs at the University of Lethbridge. Review findings indicate that the NESA BN programs are “of top quality” in that “they meet or exceed the recognized benchmarks established for nursing education” in this country. In addition, faculty, staff, students, alumni and practice partners are currently working on several initiatives including: reconstituting our Program Advisory Committee, undertaking a review of our current curriculum and aligning our strategic plan with the institutional strategic goals. Currently, more than 600 students are enrolled in the NESA BN programs. These programs remain in high demand and the footprint that is being created by these BN student cohorts, no doubt, will lead the way for others who are interested in pursuing these leading edge degrees. NESA BN students continue to make substantial contributions within our community and beyond. For example, community health students work

collaboratively with community agencies and businesses to address a variety of population health issues. Students have worked with numerous groups including the vascular risk assessment programs at the City of Lethbridge and the University of Lethbridge, the “Do Bugs Needs Drugs” and “Teaming Up for Tobacco Free Kids” programs in local schools, and the annual mass influenza clinics with public health, as well as various agencies and stakeholders that provide support for seniors’ health and the homeless population. Our students are also making a difference within local, provincial and national arenas. For example, Indrah Kerrison, a third-year NESA BN student, became the director of career and leadership development with the Canadian Nursing Student Association (CNSA). The CNSA represents the voice of 30,000 nursing students across Canada. Working at the national level, Indrah will be helping nursing students gain access to resources and supports that will enable them to develop leadership skills. Our faculty continues to lead the way as they bring new knowledge and innovative teaching practices to the teaching and learning environment. The enthusiasm for teaching and learning that has been generated by both nursing students and faculty is palpable. Indeed, we are excited about future prospects for attaining our preferred nursing education future within our University community and beyond.


Program Updates continued Public Health Starting with three students in the fall of 2008, the public health program has now grown to 55 students. Our undergraduate health science degree in public health is unique in Canada, as most programs in public health are taught at the graduate level. The Faculty of Health Sciences undergraduate degree is designed to provide students the flexibility to pursue public health practice, graduate studies or a professional degree upon graduation by bringing together three distinct perspectives on public health: epidemiology, health promotion and the social sciences. The public health degree is a course-based program, with practicum or thesis options. To date, students have had the opportunity to take part in many interesting practicum placements, focusing on areas such as health promotion, injury prevention, infection control and Aboriginal health among others. Moving forward, students will also have the opportunity to explore new areas of focus, including mental health promotion and community development. Our program works with provincial and national health organizations, municipal governments and non-governmental organizations to offer students opportunities to learn skills within real-life settings. “A number of our students have been hired straight out of practicum placements into jobs within their area of focus,” says Sharon Yanicki, co-ordinator of the Bachelor of Health Sciences in Public Health degree program. “Employers are taking note of our students and have told us that our students ‘get it’.” In addition to the many successful practicum placements, in the summer of 2011, our first student completed an undergraduate thesis based on research conducted in Malawi. With such a breadth of experience at the undergraduate level, public health graduates are easily transitioning – not only into the workplace, but also into graduate programs. Students have expressed interest in pursuing graduate studies in public health, global health, health policy and public health law. Starting in Fall 2012, the Faculty of Health Sciences will also offer a new combined degree with the Faculty of Management. This is one of very few degree programs in Canada to blend public health and the Faculty of Management, and the only one to offer the degree at an undergraduate level. The program combines public health theory and practice with organizational behaviour, information technology, accounting, marketing, management policy and human resources management. We are very excited with the continuing development of new courses and new options within the public health program. We appreciate the support of both faculty partners and our colleagues in practice.

Supportive Services for Aboriginal Students in Health Sciences It has been another remarkable year for Support Services for Aboriginal Students in Health Sciences (SSASHS). The Faculty of Health Sciences’ commitment to First Nations, Métis and Inuit students remains a central feature of our programming. The Faculty strives to maintain relationships that are positive, mutually respectful, culturally appropriate and productive. SSASHS continues to support students as they navigate their post-secondary experience. Our goal is, not only to support students in pursuit of successful completion of their degrees, but also to improve cultural sensitivity and cross-cultural education which complements the growing interest in the ways that traditional protocols influence contemporary practices. This past year, many of our students have received scholarships, from organizations, such as Canadian Nurses Foundation, AADAC, Alberta Health and Wellness, RBC, AstraZeneca, Treaty 7 Health Management Corporation and the University of Lethbridge. At the Spring 2012 Convocation, a total of 10 Blackfoot and Métis nursing students received their bachelor of nursing degrees and five Blackfoot, Cree, Métis and Inuit students received their bachelor of health sciences addictions counselling degrees. After graduation, many students intend to work within their home communities. Marcia White Quills, a U of L nursing alumna says she is looking “forward to being a role model for all mothers, especially the young mothers. I want to help them create their own opportunities by continuing their education. I feel the only way our Aboriginal communities are going to gain strength is through healthy child development and education.” In addition, Marilyn Lamb (learning facilitator) recently received national recognition for her work with SSASHS and its impact on First Nations, Métis and Inuit learning at the Ashoka Changemakers Summit in Gatineau, QC. Education is a critical factor in ensuring that First Nations, Métis and Inuit people are successful in the workforce. This new generation of health care professionals will address health issues and provide health services to families living on the nation’s reserves and in its urban centres. Increasing the number of Aboriginal health care professionals is crucial to enhancing the capacity of communities, and positively influencing effective and efficient health care delivery. We are so proud of the students and their achievements and look forward to celebrating their continued successes.

Addictions Counselling We are very excited for our first cohort of master’s students in counselling with an addictions and mental health specialization starting this July. This is an innovative collaborative program between the Faculties of Health Sciences and Education in which students will receive a master of education degree after completing a three-year part-time 12-course program, which will give them the graduate courses they need for registration as a psychologist. This program is specifically designed to focus on the interplay between addictions and mental health issues and will have a strong clinical focus incorporating evidence informed theoretical perspectives and interventions. As part of their training, students in the program will be taking advantage of the state-of-the-art counselling lab facilities in Markin Hall. As expected, demand for admission was high. The undergraduate program in addictions counselling continues to produce students who can make an impact in the addictions field after graduation. A pivotal part of the program is the full-term senior internship in the students’ fourth year. In the fall of 2011, a program record total of 40 senior students were placed locally, nationally and internationally. Within Canada, students enjoyed training opportunities in addictions treatment centres, community-based counselling agencies, mental health services and prevention programs. Furthermore, students received experience and training towards serving youths, adults and specialized at-risk populations. Sites were located in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario. Notably, on a national level, our students were placed at a number of innovative and renowned treatment centres including Edgewood Treatment Centre in Nanaimo and the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto. Internationally, students had the unique opportunity to be placed in some particularly dynamic locations, including the Goldbridge Rehabilitative Services on the gold coast of Australia, which offers a residential therapeutic community approach to the treatment of addictions. Additionally, several students completed their internship at the Priory Hospital in Glasgow, Scotland, which offered experiences in three major treatment areas, including eating disorders, mental health and addictions from a medical context. The feedback from many of the site supervisors has indicated that the U of L students are well-prepared and ready for career entry. Overall, it is evident that these national and international internships offer students a groundbreaking, lifechanging opportunity to experience different cultural and theoretical perspectives, while accelerating their own personal and professional development.

2012 Western and North-Western Region Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing Conference: Winds of Change: Diversity and Divergence On February 22, 2012, the University of Lethbridge’s Nursing Education in Southern Alberta (NESA) program hosted the Western and North-Western Region Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing (WNRCASN) Conference. More than 100 nurse educators, registered nurses and students gathered for a two-day conference devoted to sharing and discussing nursing education research and teaching innovations.

This year’s conference theme was Winds of Change: Diversity and Divergence. Dr. david Gregory launched the conference by exploring the challenges nurse educators and programs have and continue to face within complex educational and health service environments. Dr. Barbara Paterson ended the conference by providing the delegates with some tools for surviving the hurricane of change. More than 30 presentations were

offered – many by U of L faculty and students. Topics that were presented and discussed ranged from classroom teaching strategies (like using the Prezi program) to supporting students, preceptors and faculty in the clinical setting. Many of the presenters challenged the audience to critically analyze teaching strategies and how they influence the student learning experience. Poster presentations helped to round off this rich experience of dialogue and

sharing. While all of these presentations were spectacular, the highlight of the conference was the opportunity to connect with old friends and to meet new aquaintances. The conference reinforced that as nursing education continues to change, nursing educators must continue to work together to advance the profession.


Faculty Review

The Faculty of Health Sciences proudly welcomes three new faculty members.

Dr. Cheryl Currie

Exploring protective factors for Aboriginal health in cities More than half of all Aboriginal Canadians live in cities. Little is known about factors that promote or detract from their health and well-being. Dr. Cheryl Currie, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Lethbridge, recently completed a project that examined several social and cultural factors that might predict addictive disorders in this population. To conduct this work collaboratively, Currie organized an urban Aboriginal Advisory Committee to set study priorities and provide oversight on how the study would be conducted. Data collection then took place using in-person surveys and interviews with 441 urban Aboriginal and Métis adults in Alberta. Aboriginal and Métis cultural practices were key factors that protected urban Aboriginal peoples against alcohol, illicit drug and prescription drug problems. Currie reports the empirical findings were statistically significant and the protective effects were large. Urban Aboriginal peoples described cultural practice as participating in Aboriginal ceremonies and cultural events; smudging; sharing what one has with others; valuing spirituality and family; and respecting oneself, others, and the earth. As stated by one participant in the study: “When I engage in ceremony I find balance in life, in school. Ceremonies connect you to your culture. You feel comfortable there with your own people all trying to unite and become healthier in the traditional way.” Interestingly, this was not the case for Canadian acculturation, which is the degree to which Aboriginals identified with, felt a sense of pride

for, and integrated the values and practices of mainstream Canadian culture into their lives. “The research suggests negative treatment from mainstream society made it difficult for urban Aboriginal peoples to feel they were part of Canadian culture and society; which may explain why Canadian acculturation had no protective effects for them,” says Currie. She is currently in the process of bringing these findings back to the urban Aboriginal community in Alberta for interpretation and dissemination. “These results support the growth of programs and services that enable Aboriginal peoples to maintain their cultural traditions within the urban setting,” she says. Currie is also planning for her next study. “The research results suggest participating in Aboriginal culture increased the self-esteem of urban Aboriginal peoples. This helped to explain why engaging in Aboriginal cultural traditions was protective. But statistically, increased self-esteem did not explain the protective effect entirely. Aboriginal culture was also protecting urban Aboriginal peoples through additional mechanisms that remain unknown. Determining what these additional mechanisms are, in collaboration and partnership with urban Aboriginal communities in Alberta, will be a key focus of my future research. To improve urban Aboriginal health, we need to start asking different questions, and to start looking for different answers that are grounded in the knowledge of the community itself. “

Dr. Cheryl Currie

James Sanders

Providing a new voice in the diagnosis of FASD James Sanders (BA ’05) came to realize the need for greater research in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) by interacting directly with people affected by the disorder. As a behavioural consultant who provided strategies and resources to parents of young children with disabilities, he began to notice complex challenges in working with those parents. “My research interest in FASD began in the context of these parents’ experiences, and I wondered about the complex dynamics between non-birthparents (adoptive, foster, extended family) and birth mothers. FASD is unique from other neuro-developmental disorders because the cause of the disability can be attributed to birth mothers drinking during pregnancy. This can create a great deal of tension amongst non-birth parents and community members, particularly when the complex social challenges that many of these mothers experience are not recognized or acknowledged,” says Sanders. As a researcher, that translated to an interest in improving the diagnostic process for FASD, as well as prevention and intervention. Sanders is also interested in aspects of other neuro-developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Sanders, who joined the University of Lethbridge Faculty of Health Sciences in 2011, is about to complete a PhD in educational psychology at the University of Alberta. He is also a registered psychologist in Alberta, and has a master’s degree in educational psychology from the University of Alberta and a bachelor of arts

from the University of Lethbridge. In addition, he serves as the psychologist with the Lethbridge FASD Diagnostic Clinic. Sanders says being in Lethbridge positions him to enhance his community connections. “Working at the University of Lethbridge allows me to work with community agencies and groups, including those involved in FASD service provision, so that my research here can contribute directly to the lives of those affected by the disorder,” says Sanders. “There are many FASD-related services offered throughout Alberta, thanks in part to the creation of the Alberta FASD Cross-Ministry Committee, formed from a partnership of government ministries and provincial and community organizations.” In the Lethbridge area there is now a diagnostic clinic team, partnerships with youth and adult justice, coaching and mentoring for individuals with FASD, outreach support for at-risk moms and an FASD certificate program at Lethbridge College. Going forward, Sanders intends to continue his research into FASD and its diagnosis. “Currently, our diagnostic guidelines speak very little to how an individual client will function day-to-day and convey limited focus as to the client-specific strengths and weaknesses,” says Sanders. “These aspects of functioning are critical when informing recommendations and intervention efforts. Taking a functional approach to diagnosis may also help to clarify the neurocognitive profile associated with FASD, which is currently not well understood.”

“Taking a functional approach to diagnosis may also help to clarify the neurocognitive profile associated with FASD, which is currently not well understood.” James Sanders


Dr. Shannon Spenceley

Returning to the classroom provides new opportunities Dr. Shannon Spenceley (BN ’84) loves everything about the start of a new school year: the freshly sharpened pencils, the falling leaves, the longing for cozy sweaters and the anticipation that comes with a new group of students. So, last fall when she returned to teaching at the University of Lethbridge after being away for 18 years, accepting the role as an assistant professor of nursing in the Faculty of Health Sciences felt like a homecoming. “I love new beginnings. New challenges to face, new puzzles to unravel, new people to meet that are dreaming of better futures,” says Spenceley. “It’s been so much fun coming back. It’s a really vibrant, dynamic environment. The faculty at the University is wonderfully supportive, and has created a welcoming, diverse and scholarly community that I feel honoured to join. Add to that the opportunity to interact with our wonderful students, and you have the makings, I think, of the best job in the world.” Spenceley has spent most of her career working in health services. She most recently served as executive director, system redesign for Alberta Health Services in the primary care/chronic disease portfolio and is currently president-elect of the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (with a membership of almost 34,000 RNs). Now, with a return to the classroom, Spenceley is also turning to new research endeavours. “In my experience, registered nurses tend to be very divergent, big-scale thinkers. Sometimes, that makes it hard to focus, but I’ve tried to focus on the things I’m most passionate about,” she says. One of the issues close to her heart is the relationship between registered nurses caring for those living with dementia, as well as access to primary care and the necessary supportive services.

For Spenceley it’s a very personal topic as her own mother suffers from Lewy Body dementia. “I couldn’t even hazard a guess how many times we needed prompt primary care for mom, but even though they are working hard to try and make it more accessible, there were always delays in getting her the care she needed,” recalls Spenceley. “We have a lot more work to do in making care accessible for some of our most vulnerable folks. Our population is aging and the incidences are only increasing.” As part of her research, Spenceley hopes to look at the morale of nurses who care for people living with dementia in residential care environments. Also in the area of primary care, Spenceley is embarking on a separate study with a team that is looking back at the Taber Integrated Primary Care Project that took place a decade ago. As one of the first big pockets of reform in primary care in Alberta, it involved a restructuring of the primary care system in the southern Alberta town. Spenceley’s research team is looking at what the critical factors were for achieving and maintaining the success of the project over the past decade. “Our hope is to better inform primary care renewal as we move forward in Alberta. We want progress to be as well informed as possible, and we think there are important lessons from the past that have not received the attention they deserve.” With the combination of community involvement, teaching and research, Spenceley has a lot on her plate, but it doesn’t seem to faze her. “As registered nurses, we thrive on challenges that would topple the fainter-of-heart,” she says. “I have a full life. I’m very lucky.” Dr. Shannon Spenceley

Research Update: Understanding Resiliency

Dr. Judith Kulig

“The notion of resiliency describes the ability of a community to not just bounce back but to actually function at a higher level, despite the adversity they faced.” Dr. Judith Kulig

It has been more than a year since fires ravaged the Slave Lake region of northern Alberta and while many wonder how the community is coping with the devastation, Dr. Judith Kulig, a University of Lethbridge researcher, believes the answer lies in the resiliency of the community itself. “The notion of resiliency describes the ability of a community to not just bounce back but to actually function at a higher level, despite the adversity they faced,” says Kulig, a former public health nurse who

has spent the last decade examining what happens in rural communities when disaster strikes. “Understanding what this community goes through will be informative for other communities that experience wildfires and other disasters.” Approached by the former Assistant Deputy Minister, Research and Innovation, Dr. Ron Dyck, to work on the project, Kulig is the only academic researcher commissioned by the province to investigate how the people of Slave Lake are recovering. Her work is funded by the

Government of Alberta, Advanced Education and Technology. The information Kulig and her team gather will be published independently and will be freely available to communities conducting disaster planning, communities that have experienced a major adverse event or community members interested in learning more about helping their community recover from a disaster. For more information on Kulig’s work in Slave Lake, visit www.ruralwildfire.ca.


Student Success

The Start of a Healthy Career “Class sizes are small – everyone gets to know each other, and there’s a lot of personal attention from professors. They do everything they can to help you succeed and give you unique opportunities to learn.” Megan Heroux

Megan Heroux (BHSc ’12) loves her job as a Health Promotion Facilitator with Alberta Health Services in Lethbridge. She’s doing exactly the kind of work she’s always wanted to do, and says she wouldn’t be where she is if not for the public health program at the University of Lethbridge. Heroux transferred into public health after completing two years in the nursing program at the University of Saskatchewan. She quickly discovered that her interests lay more in the way of prevention as opposed to treatment. Once in public health, Heroux knew immediately that she’d made a great move. “There’s a sense of camaraderie among faculty and students,” says Heroux of the U of L’s program. “Class sizes are small – everyone gets to know each other, and there’s a lot of personal attention from professors. They do everything they can to help you succeed and give you unique opportunities to learn.” Heroux’s degree program included an applied study with the South West Alberta Community Loan Fund, which sparked an interest in assisting low-income families. In the fall of 2011, Heroux began a full-time, fourmonth practicum with Alberta Health Services Population Health in Medicine Hat, Alta. Among her duties were food security projects and helping with Project Homeless Connect.

Megan Heroux

“It was a totally invaluable experience,” says Heroux of the practicum. “I learned so many things that you can’t learn in school. It definitely helped me to get the position I’m working in now. I’m so thankful to Sharon Yanicki, the program co-ordinator, for finding that placement for me. Sharon goes above and beyond to make sure students always land in places that will be a great fit and benefit them most in the long run.” Heroux served as co-president of the Public Health Students’ Association for 2010/2011, an opportunity that she says allowed her to generate awareness and excitement for a program that she feels incredibly lucky to have been a part of. “My education in public health gave me all the tools I needed to create the career I truly wanted. The U of L was very accommodating with my transfer, giving me as much credit as possible for all the education that I’d already completed. I always felt fully supported in the program and I felt completely prepared to enter the workplace after graduation.” Heroux’s focus at Alberta Health Services in Lethbridge includes smoking cessation and injury prevention programs for populations across southern Alberta.

Caring for the Community “With community health, it is hard to see immediate results from the work you do, but just the thought of preventing a fall, a heart attack or an abusive situation is very rewarding.” Sarah McElravy

(l-r) Jordan Smart, Penni Wilson, Timothy Wells, Laurie Koopmans, Sarah McElravy, Rianne Vanderburg, Simone McKay, Lorna Marshalsay, Karly Frank and Shane Burton.

When most people think of nursing, images of scrubs, stethoscopes, charts and sterile examining rooms spring forward. A place where seniors gather to socialize, play games, listen to music, work out and socialize seems like an unlikely training ground for the next generation of nurses. However, as our health system has evolved, the University of Lethbridge nursing program has kept pace. While nursing graduates remain equipped to work in traditional practice settings, the classroom has expanded to also prepare students for a variety of roles related to health promotion, prevention and protection – many of them in unexpected locations like senior centres. As part of a practice rotation in community health, nine third-year U of L nursing students spent a large portion of their fall semester at the Nord-Bridge Senior Centre in Lethbridge.

Initially, Sarah McElravy, one of the students assigned to work at the centre, was skeptical. “When I first heard about my placement, I wondered how it would relate to anything we were learning in the classroom. I have to admit, none of us knew what to expect. We had a fear of the unknown, I guess,” recalls McElravy. However, as the semester progressed, the students gained clarity and confidence as they spent time with the seniors at the Nord-Bridge Senior Centre. They also worked with the seniors to identify potential learning needs: topics ranging from elder abuse and brain fitness to blood pressure and fall prevention were identified as priorities. Recognizing the opportunity to provide health promotion, prevention and protection education, the nursing students developed and delivered information sessions which were all very well attended.

“Once we started talking to the people at the centre, we realized they really wanted to learn, and we actually had a lot of information to offer them,” says McElravy. In addition to the education sessions, the students organized a full-scale health fair that was free of charge and open to the public. Several organizations geared toward the senior population participated, including Building Healthy Lifestyles, Population Health, the Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Network and the Alzheimer’s Society; as well as a denturist, a hearing specialist and a personal trainer specializing in seniors’ wellness. Also available were other U of L nursing students, who provided information on hand washing and influenza, as well as student massage therapists from Lethbridge College. “The students really nailed the health fair on the head. There was something for everyone,”

says David Ng, Seniors Programmer at NordBridge Senior Centre. “What’s more, the students really meshed well with our culture, atmosphere and members. You could see they had formed real relationships with the seniors. It was an awesome experience for us.” For McElravy and the other students, the feelings were mutual. “We learned a lot about teaching strategies for older adults and effective communication and organization of time and resources,” she says. “With community health, it is hard to see immediate results from the work you do, but just the thought of preventing a fall, a heart attack or an abusive situation is very rewarding.”


A Journey of Learning and Self-Discovery “Professors and supervisors are totally hands on. They keep you on the right track so you’re ready to work with people when you graduate.” Madison Holtner

A lot of people that know Madison Holtner (BHSc ’12) will tell you that she was born to be a counsellor. Holtner tends to agree, but she’s quick to point out that the addictions counselling program at the University of Lethbridge gave her the skills and experience she needed to turn a natural ability to help others into a rewarding profession. “Being in the addictions counselling program has been the most incredible and valuable experience of my life,” says Holtner, who entered the program in the fall of 2008. “I started with the intention of learning how to help others, but in the process I also learned how to help myself.” Originally Holtner thought earning a degree in addictions counselling would be very much the same as earning a degree in any other discipline: go to classes, study, write exams and graduate. While practical study is an important component of the program, what Holtner discovered is that learning to be a good counsellor also involves a lot of self-reflection. “You can’t expect someone to bare their soul to you when you haven’t dealt with your own issues,” says Holtner. “The program doesn’t let you slide by. You have

to work on yourself. Even if I never work a single day as a professional counsellor, what I learned about myself and what I gained as a person made the program worthwhile.” Holtner says that the program’s labs and practicum placements are also highly effective in preparing students for clients in the real world. “You train in sessions with real people,” says Holtner. “It’s very raw, and exactly what you’re going to experience when you begin your career. Professors and supervisors are totally hands on. They keep you on the right track so you’re ready to work with people when you graduate.” Holtner graduated this spring and hopes to find work in Lethbridge. She plans to earn a master’s in counselling psychology, and dreams of one day of opening a holistic counselling centre in the Rocky Mountains. “The addictions counselling program has helped me flourish as a professional and an individual,” says Holtner. “It’s given me the confidence and ability to follow my passion, and create a life and career that is truly fulfilling.”

Madison Holtner

CNSA Conference 2012 “We think it’s vitally important that our opinions are heard and that the next generation of nurses has a united voice.” Indrah Kerrison

Standing (l-r): Meghan Holman, Olunike Ajayi, Daniel Kerrison, Indrah Kerrison, Ally Kopp and Brooke Govrley. Seated (l-r): Clair Tolton, Tammy Wong, Danny Christie, Mandie Reamer, Jasmine Clark, Sandra Dickie, Kayla Williams and Nicole Gunning.

A group of University of Lethbridge nursing students came back from the Canadian Nursing Students’ Association (CNSA) annual conference all fired up. “It’s an overwhelming feeling to be there,” says Indrah Kerrison, a third-year nursing student. “Conferences make what you’re learning seem more real and give you new focus and energy. You meet nursing students from all over the country – people that are energetic and passionate about what they’re doing; people that want to give back; people just like you. There’s an amazing sense of community.” It wasn’t the first time she attended the event, but by all accounts this year’s conference was every bit as exciting and enriching for Kerrison as the last. As the official U of L CNSA delegate, Kerrison had a vested interest in getting as much

out of the 2012 conference (held January 25-28 in Saskatoon, Sask.) as she could. It was a task that she was happy to undertake. “There was so much going on. I was able to gather a ton of timely information and bring it back to the U of L.” The theme of the 2012 CNSA Conference was Overcoming Challenges, Harmonizing Our Voices – a fitting premise, given that one of the hottest topics was the transition of the Canadian Registered Nurse Examination to an online exam handled by an American company. Kerrison says the theme gave the more than 500 attendees motivation to voice their concerns. “We think it’s vitally important that our opinions are heard and that the next generation of nurses has a united voice,” says Kerrison.

Kerrison was one of 14 U of L nursing students that attended this year’s conference, largely thanks to sponsorship through the Faculty of Health Sciences Annual Fund. The fund covered each student’s $170 registration fee and provided $1,500 toward accommodation. “If it weren’t for funding, a lot of students wouldn’t have been able to go,” says Kerrison. “With everything we learn and all the inspiration we get from being there, it’s worth it. It’s not paying the way, it’s investing in the future of better caregivers.” To learn more about the Faculty of Health Sciences Annual Fund or to make a gift, visit www.uleth.ca/giving/annual-funds or call 1-866-552-2582.


UNA RIDLEY

“Giving new nurses the opportunity to seamlessly transfer into an academic degree program benefits everyone in the long run.”

SUPPORTIVE Una Ridley had a lot on her plate when she accepted the position as director and dean of the former University of Lethbridge School of Nursing in 1989. She didn’t know it before she got there, but one of the first things that needed to be done was to get everyone and everything into a different location. “In those days the school was way down in the deep levels of University Hall,” recalls Ridley. “Everyone sat in cubicles and the faintest sounds reverberated loudly up and down the corridor. It wasn’t an environment conducive to learning or productivity. We had to relocate so the school could thrive.” Creating a positive learning environment was always at the top of Ridley’s priority list. She knew firsthand the difference that a supportive environment could make because she experienced one as a young nursing student at Kingston Public Hospital in Jamaica. “It wasn’t the kind of hospital you see today,” says Ridley. “It was the 1950s. There were long open wards back then with large sinks in the middle. Trainees like me would follow behind doctors on rounds, carrying a basin so they could wash up between patients.” Ridley accompanied a physician by the name of Dr. Wilson in those days, a man that she says was “a born teacher who inspired confidence and curiosity, and gave me every opportunity to learn.” Her experience at Kingston Public was in stark contrast to Ridley’s early days as a nursing instructor. “When I started teaching I saw practices that I didn’t care for very much,” says Ridley. “Students were often treated badly. I remember one colleague who used to shriek at students

and belittle them, and of course that isn’t good for anyone. You need to have a caring situation in health-care education. You can’t mishandle students and expect them to be caring practitioners. People tend to give what they get.” After graduating in Jamaica in 1954, Ridley moved to England and completed a midwifery program. From there she immigrated to Canada and earned a bachelor of nursing degree in 1963. She completed a master’s in education at Michigan State University in 1971, and began her administrative career as head of the Nursing Department at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ont. Ridley served as dean of the College of Nursing at the University of Saskatchewan from 1980-89 before accepting the position at the U of L. Once at the School of Nursing, Ridley immediately set about creating the Southern Alberta Collaborate Nursing Education program (SACNE). Developed in conjunction with Medicine Hat College and later with Lethbridge College, SACNE (now NESA – Nursing Education in Southwestern Alberta) offers a unique fouryear baccalaureate nursing program within an academic environment. It’s one of Canada’s most popular nursing degree programs to this day. “It just made sense,” says Ridley of establishing SACNE. “Giving new nurses the opportunity to seamlessly transfer into an academic degree program benefits everyone in the long run.” Creating new opportunities for healthcare students is an ongoing theme in Ridley’s career. In 1995 she led the development of

the addictions counselling program, which propelled the School of Nursing forward to become the School of Health Sciences in 1997, and in turn facilitated its transformation to a Faculty in 2009. Ridley also laid the groundwork for healthcare education initiatives for First Nations students across Canada, travelling to every nursing school in the country to establish a conglomerate of programs that would address the concerns and requirements standing in the way of getting native peoples into the field of health care. All in all, Ridley’s curriculum vitae reads like a what’s what of positive growth and change – a point that she takes characteristically in stride. “I just did what needed to be done to address the needs of students and the community,” says Ridley. “There’s no point in creating something if there isn’t any need for it.” Ridley retired in 1999, and is the longest serving dean and director of the Faculty to date. Reflecting on her time at the U of L, Ridley says she’s very proud of today’s Faculty of Health Sciences (now located in Markin Hall), and is particularly thrilled with the lecture series named in her honour that it hosts each year. “I’m very proud of what they’ve accomplished, and heartened by what it’s become,” says Ridley of the Faculty. “The lecture series is a highlight of what I envisioned all along – a place that allows the public to learn about health-care issues that impact us all.”

The 2012 Snapshot is produced by the Faculty of Health Sciences in conjunction with the Office of Communications at the University of Lethbridge. Editor: Katie Young Design: Sarah Novak Design Feature Writers: Suzanne Bowness Natasha Evdokimoff Jana McFarland Kali McKay Photography: Rob Olson Photography Contributors: Bob Cooney Asheley Cowie Trevor Kenney Correspondence should be addressed to: Faculty of Health Sciences University of Lethbridge 4401 University Drive W Lethbridge, AB T1K 3M4 Tel: 403-329-2699 | Fax: 403-329-2668 E-mail: health.sciences@uleth.ca

For more information on all the health sciences programs, visit: www.ulethbridge.ca/healthsciences To stay up-to-date on what’s happening with the U of L and the Faculty of Health Sciences, visit: www.ulethbridge.ca/unews Recycled paper containing 10% post-consumer fiber.

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Snapshot 2012  

Yearly newsletter from the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Lethbridge.

Snapshot 2012  

Yearly newsletter from the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Lethbridge.