A L U M N I M A G A Z I N E
Simon Palfreyman's U of A research team is
developing and testing sensors embedded in wound
dressing to prevent amputations for people living
with diabetes | p. 7
The Faculty of Nursing is
dedicated to promoting health,
equity, and quality of life for the
public good by creating vibrant
and supportive environments,
advancing health science, and
developing nurse leaders.
07 Wound biosensors hope
to prevent 1,100 lower
limb amputations that
occur each year in
10 Unique cardiac
developed for high-risk
13 Five tips for health-care
professionals and others
to use when looking to be
23 We think you are U of A+:
community service and
innovation of nursing
graduates and faculty
Congratulations to our
27 Meet the student leaders
for the 2021-2022
U of A Nursing highlights
tremendous achievements in the
Faculty of Nursing community. It
is distributed to alumni, faculty,
staff, students, and donors.
Send your comments to:
The Editor, Nursing Alumni Magazine
Faculty of Nursing
Level 3, ECHA, University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 1C9
2 U A L B E R T A | N U R S I N G F A L L 2 0 2 1
MESSAGE FROM THE DEAN
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
I am delighted to connect with you for this year’s U of A
Nursing Alumni Magazine. For the next two years, I will be
acting dean in the Faculty of Nursing, and I’m looking
forward to getting to know more in our tight-knit nursing
Some may not know that I am truly green and gold through
and through. I received my undergraduate, master’s and
doctoral degrees from the University of Alberta. To know a
little more about me, there is a quick Q & A in the pages
More importantly, inside you will find a collection of stories
showcasing nurse innovators in our community who are
pushing the boundaries of science and compassion
through cutting-edge research. I hope you enjoy these
remarkable stories and share them with your friends,
family, and colleagues. The groundbreaking work being
accomplished by our alumni, faculty, and students is a feat
we must celebrate together.
This past year at the University of Alberta has been truly
unprecedented. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every
facet of our day-to-day activities — from how we conducted
research, to adapting to remote learning whenever
possible, and discovering how to effectively collaborate
from the safety of our own homes.
An institution-wide restructuring initiative developed in
response to financial pressures, the U of A for Tomorrow,
began last year and will continue well into the new year.
This brings many changes to the University of Alberta but
also to the Faculty of Nursing.
As of July 1, 2021, our faculty became part of the College
of Health Sciences alongside our colleagues in the Faculty
of Medicine and Dentistry; Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport,
and Recreation; Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical
Sciences; Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine; and the
School of Public Health.
This new model is an opportunity to do more of what we
already do so well in our core mandate of research and
teaching: demonstrate leadership for the common and vital
purpose of promoting health, equity, and quality of life for
the public good.
The new college will allow for deeper collaborations and
mutual growth while maintaining our respective identities
that make each of our faculties unique.
This opportunity poses new and exciting
opportunities for our faculty.
Despite the many changes and challenges of the
past year, the Faculty of Nursing continues to
thrive due to your support. Because of you, we
continue to provide world-class teaching and
learning opportunities for our students and conduct
innovative research that changes the world for the
As we move forward into this new year, we are
thankful to have the support of you — our alumni,
donors, and friends — alongside us.
Acting Dean, Faculty of Nursing
Photographer: John Ulan
3 U A L B E R T A | N U R S I N G F A L L 2 0 2 1
K A T E Y O U N G
A M e s s a g e f r o m A l u m n i B o a r d C h a i r
The Faculty of Nursing is extremely grateful for the work Kate Young has achieved as Alumni Board Chair over a two-year term. Young is a 2007
graduate of the BScN program who has cultivated a passion for bringing together health-systems and front-line lenses, first through her clinical
work, and later through her pursuit of an MBA and subsequent work as a consultant with KPMG.
"First and foremost, on behalf of the Board, I want to thank our U of A nursing alumni for their tremendous contributions to the health system. We
are continuing to talk about what alumni need and have been spending the summer discussing the needs of our nursing alumni and potential
avenues of support, after a tumultuous year. I am finishing my term in October and am looking forward to passing the torch to another skilled
nursing leader. It's been an honour to serve as the Chair and to be part of developing the Board," said Young.
Looking to the future, she hopes a strong emphasis on mentoring our nursing leaders of tomorrow is paramount.
"Across the world, the nursing workforce in crisis and we know that a number of seasoned and new alumni are working in challenging
circumstances. Mentorship is something that will need to be at the forefront, particularly for our newer grads who are entering the profession at a
very difficult time."
Interested in getting involved or attending University of Alberta Faculty of Nursing Alumni events? Please contact email@example.com
4 U A L B E R T A | N U R S I N G F A L L 2 0 2 1
H A V E Y O U M E T . . .
SD HI A N E NKO UN NSY CK O?
T T ?
On July 1st, 2021, Dr. Diane Kunyk stepped up to lead one of the top
nursing faculties in the world as Acting Dean of Nursing for a twoyear
term. Under her guidance — and as she notes, with the support
of the strong leadership team — the Faculty of Nursing will continue
to advance world-class research and teaching; reaffirm the
importance of equity, diversity, inclusion, and indigeneity strategies;
and draw attention to everyday ethical practices and interactions.
We sat down with Dr. Kunyk to discuss her new role, her nursing
journey, and her vision for the Faculty of Nursing:
Can you tell us about the focus of your research program?
I am interested in the applied aspects of ethics, particularly
relational ethics, as it relates to the health and well-being of
employees. How can we mitigate the moral suffering induced in the
workplace? Or by our colleagues? My research goals are to translate
my findings in ways that provide practical solutions for improving
What is your favourite course to teach?
Not surprisingly, INTD 570 (Healthcare Ethics) and INTD 670
(Research Ethics). I am passionate about the content of these
courses and truly value interdisciplinary learning at the graduate
If you were enrolling in one course, program or degree right now,
what would it be?
I valued every opportunity to take courses from other faculties as an
undergraduate, masters, and doctoral student. These gave me
important insights into my research and teaching. Going forward, I
want to take more courses in art, music, history, and languages.
What’s on your radar for your first year as acting dean?
The changes we have experienced this last year have been
unprecedented. We have learned new skills, deepened our
resiliency, and advanced our work. This is the optimal time to
evaluate our experiences and to determine when continuing with
remote activities makes sense for meeting our strategic priorities —
and when it does not.
There is great potential for deepening existing and developing new,
interdisciplinary learning and research activities in the new College
of Health Sciences.
5 U A L B E R T A | N U R S I N G F A L L 2 0 2 1
Photographer: John Ulan
Similarly, sharing and collaborating some global and EDI activities
at the College level makes sense. I see these as tremendous
opportunities for our students and faculty alike.
The Faculty of Nursing is outstanding on any measurement scale. I
am incredibly proud of our accomplishments and strive to continue
and advance these positive metrics. There is much for me to learn!
H A V E Y O U M E T . . .
S H A N N O N S C O T T ?
Dr. Shannon Scott is a well-known and highly valued member of the
nursing community, and she brings a wealth of experience with the Faculty
of Nursing to the position of Acting Vice Dean, effective July 1st, 2021, for
a two-year term.
Below, Dr. Scott shares her favourite memory at the U of A, her favourite
place on campus, and her vision for the future:
What is your first memory at the U of A?
Since the time of being an undergraduate student at the University of
Manitoba, I was impressed with the world-class research reputation at the
University of Alberta. As a result, I moved to Edmonton in 1999 (with a
newborn baby) to do my PhD at the University of Alberta. I remember
being blown away by the size of the graduate programs in the Faculty of
Nursing - this was back when we were still in the Clinical Sciences
What’s something that people might be surprised to learn about you?
I am a country girl through and through. I grew up on a small farm in rural
Manitoba where my family still resides. My rural upbringing has shaped
much of my nursing career, from working in the Outreach Program as a
new RN at the Manitoba Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation (now
CancerCare Manitoba) to researching the experiences of rural families
with a child with cancer in my Masters thesis to being a co-founding
Director of Translating Emergency Knowledge for Kids (TREKK) - a
national initiative that aims to ensure that Canadian children irrespective
of where they live get high-quality emergency care.
Where is your favourite place on campus?
I live close to campus so I am always walking or biking on campus in
the evenings. Before the pandemic, while I did love frequenting
Starbucks in ECHA, I would have to say right now my favourite place on
campus is watching the restoration of the Dent/Pharm building. The
transformation of this iconic building has been incredible to watch.
What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
Stay true to your values, work hard, be sure to have fun but don’t worry
What is the biggest strength or opportunity that you see for the
faculty over the next two years?
Our student body, our faculty members and our staff are our
biggest strengths. I am looking forward to working hard to create
a supportive environment where everyone can thrive.
6 U A L B E R T A | N U R S I N G F A L L 2 0 2 1
University of Alberta experts in engineering, nursing and
neurology have teamed up with an Edmonton-based data
analytics company to develop and test tiny biosensors
for foot wounds in people living with diabetes, with the
aim of improving treatment and preventing the 1,100
lower limb amputations that occur each year in Alberta.
7 U A L B E R T A | N U R S I N G F A L L 2 0 2 1 Photo: Supplied
The goal is to treat foot
wounds as early as possible
so they can be treated more
easily and effectively, says
Simon Palfreyman, an
assistant professor in the
Faculty of Nursing.
(Photo: Ryan Whitefield)
W o r d s b y G i l l i a n R u t h e r f o r d
It was sparked by a chance
Simon Palfreyman and Manisha Gupta
got to talking about their research after
a meeting. He’s an expert in wound care
and she’s a leader in making biosensors
that can be attached to the skin to
monitor things like temperature or the
presence of germs.
Palfreyman, an assistant professor in
the Faculty of Nursing, expressed
frustration that despite the best efforts
of health-care teams, more than a
thousand Albertans a year lose their
lower limbs to amputation due to
complications from foot ulcers in people
living with diabetes.
And that’s when inspiration struck:
Could the tiny sensors that Gupta’s team
in the Faculty of Engineering has
developed be used to detect and treat
foot wounds before they get bad enough
to require amputation?
8 U A L B E R T A | N U R S I N G F A L L 2 0 2 1
Gupta and Palfreyman reached out to
Douglas Zochodne, a neurologist and
neuroscientist in the Faculty of Medicine
& Dentistry, who has expertise on the
nerve damage that makes these specific
foot wounds dangerous. And a new
team was born.
Early intervention is
The goal of their new joint project is to
develop and test a new sensor that can
be embedded in a wound dressing or
used like a swab to analyze the wound.
The sensor will measure up to four
temperature, pressure and glucose
levels—so that clinicians can monitor
progress, detect complications and
determine precise treatments.
“The main thrust is customized
medicine tailored for each patient,” said
The idea is to get there early when wounds
are less complicated and cheaper and easier
to treat, rather than when the wound is
enlarged and not healing, and issues such
as infection are already established,” said
Palfreyman. “Urgent medical intervention is
needed with these foot wounds because
they can deteriorate quite quickly.”
Zochodne explained that diabetes causes
nerve damage known as diabetic
polyneuropathy, which means some people
may injure their skin or develop a severe
ulcer without realizing it. The lack of nerves
also slows healing.
“Treating these wounds is like working at
the back of a cave with no lights on,” said
Zochodne, who is director of the
Neuroscience & Mental Health Institute and
divisional director of neurology.
“We don’t know the basic biochemistry of
what’s going on in these wounds and why
they don’t heal, so this enabling technology
that Dr. Gupta has developed has fantastic
Device could help those in remote areas
Alberta Health Services’ Diabetes Foot Care Clinical Pathway
recommends regular foot screening for the estimated one in
four Albertans living with diabetes or pre-diabetes. More than
half of people living with diabetes will develop polyneuropathy
and 15 to 20 per cent will develop foot ulcers. Outcomes are
often poor—approximately three of four patients will die within
five years of a lower limb amputation, according to Diabetes
Existing technology does not allow for localized
measurements within wounds, Gupta said. “The novelty of this
is we’re going to monitor multiple parameters within the real
Gupta’s team has already developed biosensors to measure
pressure, glucose and ion levels. The transistor-based sensors
are 3-D printed using biocompatible materials such as gold
and organic semiconductors that work well in an aqueous
environment and will not be rejected by the body’s immune
system. The sensors can be as small as ten microns, about
one-seventh the width of a human hair.
The new sensors for foot wounds in people living with
diabetes will be developed and tested on diabetic animals,
and later, on human volunteers. The team is working with an
industry partner, Clinysis EMR, a local data analytics
“The main thrust is
tailored for each patient.”
— Manisha Gupta
Gupta envisions also developing an app that would allow
patients to monitor their own wound sensors. Palfreyman said
the system could be particularly valuable for people living in
remote communities who do not have access to in-person
The project was recently granted $250,000 through the Kaye
Competition, a partnership between the University Hospital
Foundation, the University of Alberta Hospital and the Kaye
9 U A L B E R T A | N U R S I N G F A L L 2 0 2 1
Six years later, it is now standard practice for patients from
Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute who have had autologous
transplants (using stem cells from their own bone marrow or
blood) to take part in cardiac rehabilitation, thanks to a
partnership with the Jim Pattison Centre for Heart Health within
the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute.
“We are the first to report not just the physical benefits but
psychological benefits of supportive rehabilitation in a very
high-risk cancer population,” said Pituskin.
“No such program exists anywhere else,” she noted. “This is
something that can change and improve people’s lives.”
A double whammy for the heart
More than 50,000 people around the world receive a stem cell
transplant each year. They face an increased risk of future heart
problems due not only to chemotherapy and radiation that can
be toxic to the heart, but also to being bedridden for weeks
following the transplant.
“We explain to patients, what we’re giving you is a chemo
attack, not a heart attack, enough that it will damage your
heart,” said Nanette Cox-Kennett, nurse practitioner and
autologous transplant program lead at the Cross Cancer
Institute. “To speed recovery and keep you healthy, we know
that exercise is beneficial.”
Patient fitness—including grip strength, gait speed, how long it
takes to get out of a chair (“timed up and go”) and how far they
can walk in six minutes—is assessed before transplant, after
transplant, at the outset of the rehab program and after
completion. The patients do eight weeks of supervised
moderate aerobic activities and resistance training, and also
attend classes about cardiac health topics such as diet, stress
and weight management.
Statistically significant improvements were found in grip
strength, gait speed and the six-minute walk test for the first 30
patients, the researchers reported in a 2018 paper published in
the Canadian Journal of Cardiology. Their attendance was 57
per cent, a number that can be as low as 30 per cent for regular
cardiac rehab patients. Ten of the patients were also
interviewed for a followup paper, which will soon be published
in the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and
“Overall, we found this program helped patients cope during the
recovery period,” said first author and nurse practitioner Derek
Rothe, who developed the project for his master’s thesis. “It
gave them goals to set, and motivation to get more active and
regain their functional status.”
Three themes emerged from the patient interviews, Rothe said.
For most of the patients, immediate recovery from their
transplant was more of a motivator than their risk of future
heart disease. Those who had been previously active made the
rehab program a priority. And observing the initial loss of
fitness following transplant and then the tangible improvements
during rehab motivated them to keep going.
Patients in the study reported how much they appreciated the
support and encouragement of the rehab program staff, a
multidisciplinary team of exercise physiologists, dietitians,
social workers, pharmacists, nurses and cardiologists.
“They were outstanding,” said Guenard. “Their positive attitude
Exercise as medicine
The research was supported by the Jim Pattison Foundation
and the University Hospital Foundation, and was made possible
by trainee awards for Rothe from the Elaine Antoniuk Graduate
Nursing Scholarship, Maurice and Edna Minton Endowment
Fund, Aplastic Anemia and Myelodysplasia Association of
Canada Scholarship, Canadian Nurses Foundation, Liz Lemire
Memorial Scholarship, Alberta Registered Nurses Education
Trust and the Dean’s Discretionary Fund at the U of A. Cox-
Kennett also received the Maurice and Edna Endowment Fund in
2004 when doing her master’s thesis. Pituskin is a member of
the Women’s and Children’s Health Research Institute.
Pituskin said the next step will be to follow patients long-term
to track their cardiac health outcomes. She also wants to offer
the rehab program to an even higher-risk group of cancer
transplant patients: those who receive stem cells from donors
(allogeneic), as they face higher doses of chemotherapy and
longer hospital stays.
“We are hoping to develop a pre-hab program so they can
receive careful exercise advice that’s personalized to them
while they are waiting for transplant,” explained Pituskin, who is
also a member of the Cancer Research Institute of Northern
As for Guenard, the former bush pilot, shop teacher and
McDonald’s restaurant franchisee usually enjoys cycling and
kayaking in Florida each winter. He got his commercial pilot’s
licence back, took up sailing, and over the COVID winter he
rebuilt the exercise room in his Peace River home.
“When you get this kind of diagnosis, and they tell you you’ll
have a bad heart on top of it all, it would be very easy to go
home and feel sorry for yourself and give up,” he said.
“I refuse to let it slow me down, so I run my life as though I’m
going to live for a hundred years.”
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“WE ARE THE FIRST TO
REPORT NOT JUST THE
PHYSICAL BENEFITS BUT
BENEFITS OF SUPPORTIVE
REHABILITATION IN A
VERY HIGH-RISK CANCER
POPULATION. NO SUCH
ANYWHERE ELSE. THIS IS
SOMETHING THAT CAN
CHANGE AND IMPROVE
— D R . E D I T H P I T U S K I N
A r e y o u i n t e r e s t e d i n c o n t r i b u t i n g t o i m p o r t a n t
r e s e a r c h l i k e D r . P i t u s k i n ' s ? P l e a s e c o n t a c t
n u g i v i n g @ u a l b e r t a . c a t o l e a r n h o w .
INNOVATIONS IN NURSING
HOW ADJUSTING PRONOUNS AND
OTHER LANGUAGE CAN IMPROVE
THE HEALTH OF LGBTQ+ PATIENTS
Pronouns are a matter of life or death for Keith
King, a registered nurse who identifies as twospirit
“When I greet a new patient I’ll say, ‘Hi, my
name’s Keith, I’m a registered nurse and my
pronouns are he/him. What can I do for you
today?’” King said. “And that just sets the
stage for the conversation in case that is an
That simple introduction has led some young
patients who came in for routine medical care
to open up about their gender dysphoria, King
said, so he could direct them to the right
medical and mental health supports.
A few have come back later to tell him it
literally saved their lives.
“If that door was just open for every one
of them, it could make a huge difference
in how long people struggle,” King said.
Seemingly small changes can
make a big difference
King, an assistant teaching professor in
the Faculty of Nursing, is also
completing his PhD and works in sexual
and mental health clinics in Edmonton.
Words by: Gillian Rutherford
Photos by: John Ulan
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“I always knew I was a healer—I became a nurse, my mum’s a
nurse, my grandmother was a nurse,” King said. “Accepting that
my gender and my sexuality are a part of that role was a really
transformative moment in my personal experience.”
Here are some of King’s top tips for health-care professionals
and others to use when looking to be inclusive:
Five tips for healthcare
1. AVOID HETERONORMATIVE ASSUMPTIONS.
“A prime example would be assuming that someone is straight
and asking them about their wife or girlfriend, husband or
boyfriend, while taking their medical history,” King said. “Or
assuming that I have HIV because I have sex with men.
“That’s not OK.”
2. AVOID MISGENDERING.
While Alberta Health Services has inclusive, patient-focused
guidelines for health-care providers, it can sometimes be hard to
adopt new practices, King said.
“I try to explain it from a relational lens, to build empathy,” King
explained. “How much does it cost you to change your language?
What might it cost the person who is misgendered? How might it
affect their health?”
“Usually for health-care professionals, when they realize that the
patient may not access care or may delay care, it helps the ball to
King has practised nursing in Australia, Great Britain and other
parts of Canada, but it was through exploring his Indigenous culture
at home in Alberta that he found his true calling, and he feels a
responsibility to share what he has learned with future healers.
“It was life-saving knowledge to learn from Elders about other
genders that have always been present and acceptable in my
culture,” said King, who is an Alberta Indigenous Mentorship in
Health Innovation Network mentee.
“Sometimes for trans folks, their medical record may not match
their gender identity,” King said. “A frank, kind and
compassionate conversation is much better than using
incorrect pronouns, or subjecting the patient to unnecessary
tests or examinations to try and determine their gender.”
3. STATE YOUR PRONOUNS AND INVITE OTHERS
TO SHARE THEIRS.
“It's about being open and giving patients permission to initiate
those conversations on their own,” King noted.
“I sometimes struggle when someone uses they/them, because
it’s hard to break those language patterns, so I just use their
name,” King said. “It helps me to not make that mistake.”
4. DON’T MAKE A BIG DEAL IF YOU DO MAKE A
“We all make mistakes; it’s very human,” King said. “Quietly and
quickly apologize and try not to do it again.”
5. EXAMINE YOUR OWN GENDER AND
“If you’re a cis-gendered heterosexual person, and you’re super
comfortable and you’ve thought about that position that you
occupy, it opens an opportunity to imagine how someone in a
different position might experience the world.
1 4 U A L B E R T A | N U R S I N G F A L L 2 0 2 1
INNOVATIONS IN NURSING
Photos by WCHRI
BLAZING NEW TRAILS IN DIGITAL
CHILD HEALTH: JAMES BENOIT
University of Alberta post-doctoral fellow James Benoit is tapping into
his training in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and digital
technologies to create the first mobile health app targeting acute
childhood illness for parents using Canadian-relevant research in
Digital health tools, such as mobile phone apps, offer a unique
opportunity for readily accessible, evidence-based information for
those seeking medical advice.
Benoit — Faculty of Nursing and Department of Pediatrics
Postdoctoral Fellow (PDF) — says there are different needs for how
digital health information is communicated, and this is especially true
for the diverse population of Canadian parents.
“Apps offer a uniquely accessible, scalable, and untapped solution for
giving parents access to high-quality, actionable health information
about their sick child,” explains Benoit, whose 2020 Postdoctoral
Fellow Award is funded by the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation
through the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute (WCHRI).
Dr. Benoit’s post-doctoral fellowship is jointly funded and supervised by
the Faculty of Nursing and the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry — an
interdisciplinary effort to learn more about and co-develop high-quality
evidence-based health resources for diverse groups of parents.
We spoke with Dr. Benoit about his passion for working at the
intersection of technology and health and his view on the potential power
digital health tools hold to empower Canadian parents with the bestavailable
How did your educational background prepare you for this project?
I did undergraduate training in honours integrated science at UBC,
focusing on behavioural neuroscience. My thesis explored whether
cognitive effort — the experience of effortful thinking — could be
reproduced in an animal model. I went on to do a Master’s in applied
ethics at UBC; this work focused on whether video games cause
aggression in children, and consequently, whether violent video game
sales to minors should be regulated. After working in sustainability
technology at Simon Fraser University,
1 5 U A L B E R T A | N U R S I N G F A L L 2 0 2 1
“APPS OFFER A UNIQUELY ACCESSIBLE,
SCALABLE, AND UNTAPPED SOLUTION
FOR GIVING PARENTS ACCESS TO HIGH-
QUALITY, ACTIONABLE HEALTH
INFORMATION ABOUT THEIR SICK CHILD"
I moved to Edmonton to start my doctorate at the U of A in
Psychiatry (graduating in 2019), where I worked on using
machine learning in personalized and precision medicine to
predict whether or not a patient’s depression would be
improved by treatment.
Can you explain more in-depth what your mobile health
app for parents entails?
This project — designed by Drs. Shannon Scott and Lisa
Hartling after five years of collaboration through their CIHR
Foundation Grant and funding through their Stollery
Science Lab Distinguished Researcher Awards — entails
making the first mobile health app for parents using
Canadian-relevant research about children’s acute illness.
To use the app, parents will verbally tell the app their
child’s symptoms (barky cough, runny nose, crying, etc.),
and this description will be matched to the correct health
resource using speech recognition. Health information will
be presented as a set of health resources (e.g. videos,
infographics) in the app.
These are based on best-available research evidence,
co-developed with Canadian parents and healthcare
professionals to ensure they resonate with parents.
Data from this app will help us build a picture of how
parents find and act on health information in apps,
and how parental identity (e.g. gender, race, and age)
influences app use and health decisions. These
insights will let us iteratively improve our app as we
gather more data.
How did you become involved in this
In a funny turn of events, Drs. Scott and Hartling
contacted me after reading a profile of my work from
a previous postdoctoral position on the Department
of Pediatrics website. They were interested in
improving health information access by integrating a
machine learning approach with their work in
pediatric knowledge translation and evidence
synthesis. I thought their idea was a prudent, highly
novel application of AI that addressed a very
frustrating aspect of family healthcare for many
parents: accessing reliable pediatric health
information on-demand. We began discussing how a
project like this would look, and ended up agreeing
that a postdoctoral fellowship would be the best way
to work together developing these tools.
Lisa Hartling (L) &
1 6 U A L B E R T A | N U R S I N G F A L L 2 0 2 1
strength | pg.3
How have Drs. Shannon Scott and Lisa
Hartling mentored and prepared you for your
Drs. Scott and Hartling have been preparing
me to pursue an academic tenure-track
career, and a key part of that has been
mentoring me through the early career
planning process. This involves connecting
me to other postdoctoral fellows who have
shared their experiences, guiding me through
the process of developing a research
program, and sharing opportunities for
professional development. Drs. Scott and Dr.
Hartling have also shared lessons learned
from their own careers developing a
nationally recognized research program.
How does it feel to work with an
interdisciplinary team? Is this something
you have a lot of experience with?
Working with an interdisciplinary team is
always a pleasure, and one of the reasons I
enjoy working in a field at the intersection of
medicine and technology; working on these
teams has been my norm on digital health
Interdisciplinary work benefits from multiple
perspectives: when we are building an app
for parents, we will involve team members
with expertise ranging from clinical
experience, to qualitative methods, to
computing science, to knowledge
translation. I think that as we negotiate the
path toward cohort-based, and eventually
fully personalized medicine, these teams will
drive innovative digital health projects
What does receiving the WCHRI PDF Award
mean to you? How will this award advance
I was honoured to receive a WCHRI PDF
award, and hope our work will contribute
meaningfully to improving children's health.
This award will support our work leading
innovative approaches to knowledge
translation, and importantly, developing an
app with high-quality evidence-based content
in children's health. My goal in pursuing this
research with Drs. Scott and Hartling is to
learn the processes they have used to
consistently create nationally-awarded, highquality
translation tools in children's health. I hope
to contribute to this field myself by
embedding and evaluating the effectiveness
of these tools in a highly accessible
platform for parents.
What impact do you hope this project makes
By working with parents to co-create an app
that embodies these values, we hope to
contribute a useful tool to their digital care
options in the near future. In the long-term,
we hope that by pioneering this work, we will
establish a well-defined process for cocreating
health apps with parents.
Canadian parents deserve
information for their
child’s health that is
trusted, practical, and
accessible. — James Benoit
Any plans for the future?
I would like to expand the scope of this work
to examine how else we might augment
knowledge translation with machine learning
to improve children’s health. Apps have
provided a useful tool for health researchers,
and I would like to expand our ability to
simultaneously provide high-quality
information and capture how parents
integrate this knowledge with health
decisions for their children.
Interested in learning more? A joint effort between the
Alberta Research Centre for Health Evidence (ARCHE)
and Evidence in Child Health to Enhance Outcomes
(ECHO) research programs develop free health resources
based on the latest research to help families and
caregivers care for their sick children. These evidencebased
knowledge translation tools are available online,
1 7 U A L B E R T A | N U R S I N G F A L L 2 0 2 1
TEAMS UP WITH
COVENANT HEALTH TO
HELP HEALTH WORKERS
TAKE CARE OF THEIR
OWN MENTAL HEALTH
INNOVATIONS IN NURSING
W O R D S B Y G I L L I A N R U T H E R F O R D
P H O T O S B Y J O H N U L A N
A University of Alberta nursing researcher is tackling a
paradox that affects not only the mental health of healthcare
providers, but also the quality of patient care they
deliver during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Susan Sommerfeldt, assistant professor in the Faculty of
Nursing, has received funding from the Social Sciences and
Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for two
projects in partnership with Covenant Health, a Catholic
health-care provider that runs hospitals and care centres
“Health-care workers are quick to encourage people to take
care of themselves and have strategies to deal with stress,
but they’re not always good at doing it themselves,”
“Ultimately this paradox has ramifications for patients in
the delivery of health care,” she said. “It is grounded in how
people work together and how they organize their work.”
“We want to create a care environment where people can
thrive and really fulfil their calling,” said Kerry McKinstry,
manager of organizational development for Covenant
Health, who is co-investigator on one of the projects. “The
health and safety of our patients and residents is at the
centre of everything we do.”
Supporting mental health conversations
One project involves offering mindfulness training to all
Covenant Health staff, and the other is an arts-based film
project to document stories of coping through the pandemic.
Both projects aim to promote conversations about mental
“If somebody needs a break from the physical challenges of
the job, such as masking, wearing personal protective
equipment or facing the imminent threat of breathing in a virus,
that’s understood,” she said.
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“But if somebody needs a break from the stress of their
workplace, it’s like you can't handle this—it’s an
interesting reality of health-care work.”
“This sends signals back to your brain that there’s no
imminent danger, that you can manage whatever is
Sommerfeldt is an expert in how workplace culture
affects health-care delivery. Her research program is
called TRAction, which stands for “Team Relationships
Promoting psychological safety
Covenant Health has a strong culture of compassion
for both staff and patients, and welcomed the
opportunity to get involved with the research,
Sommerfeldt said, noting that SSHRC supports work to
The documentary film will include interviews from
volunteers, front-line care workers and supply chain
staff to illustrate how human and non-human factors
shaped their experiences of working during COVID-19.
“Hearing it from people who lived it and breathed it
over the entire time will be much more impactful than
general media reports,” McKinstry said. “What parts of
our workplace culture were sources of strength and
what else could we have done as an organization to
have made this a better experience?”
translate academic findings into real-world applications
as quickly as possible.
The 15,000 staff who work at Covenant Health will be
offered mindfulness programs from MindWellU, one of
the private companies that has been tapped by the
federal government to provide online training through its
Wellness Together Canada initiative in response to the
COVID-19 mental health crisis.
“Redeployment of staff, stigma during hospital
outbreaks on a unit, implications of using infectious
disease precautions such as social distancing and
wearing a mask while trying to give care, the moral
tensions of deciding if you go to work with post-nasal
drip when you’re pretty sure it’s not COVID—all these
social factors became materialized in relation to this
non-human actor, the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” Sommerfeldt
A key technique is known as “pause” practice. “Pause
allows you to gather your thoughts, do a few breathing
exercises, do some of the imagery work that can
produce the physiological changes that come with
dropping blood pressure,” Sommerfeldt said.
Sommerfeldt said she hopes to look at the stumbles as
well as the triumphs, to help overcome the stigma of
mental health issues in health-care workplaces.
“We must acknowledge that vulnerability is not a
weakness but an avenue to growth.”
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INNOVATIONS IN NURSING
CANADIAN CARDIAC RESEARCHERS
WARN WOMEN ABOUT RISKS OF
HEART ATTACK AND STROKE
Words by Gillian Rutherford
Photo by John Ulan
Did you know that heart attack and stroke
are the number one cause of premature
death for women in Canada? Or that
Canadian women are five times more
likely to die of heart disease than breast
cancer? Or that 53 per cent of women who
have heart attack symptoms go
undiagnosed when they seek medical
“If you ask Canadian women what they are
afraid of, they will say breast cancer,” said
Colleen Norris, professor in the Faculty of
Nursing and chair of the health systems
and policy working group of the Canadian
Women's Heart Health Alliance.
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Norris pointed out that while women have
worse outcomes from heart disease than
men, two-thirds of cardiovascular research
is focused on male study subjects. That’s
why she recently led a project to review all
of the existing evidence about women’s
risk factors, disease awareness,
presentation, diagnosis and treatment in
the Canadian Women’s Heart Health
“We can’t move forward unless we know
where the gaps are,” said Norris, who is
also a member of the Women and
Children’s Health Research Institute.
Recognizing the signs of heart
disease in women
Norris has just begun a new research
project of her own tracking the number
of women who present at emergency
departments with signs of heart attack
or stroke and are sent home without
being diagnosed. She said her initial
research found that between 2010 and
2020, 300 women per year were
discharged this way from Alberta
hospitals, only to return with a fullblown
heart attack within 30 days.
“These numbers are just horrendous,” she
said. “And they don’t include the women who
died at home.”
She said the signs of heart disease may be
different for women than men. Instead of the
“Hollywood heart attack” symptom of extreme
chest pain, women may experience only chest
discomfort, sweating, nausea, shortness of
breath or light-headedness.
“The big message is that it’s not in your head
—no matter what age you are, you are just as
likely to have heart issues as men,” Norris
A heart health passport could help
Norris said the Canadian Women’s Heart
Health Alliance is building education modules
for medical and nursing students, so they can
identify and overcome the biases that may
lead to them missing the signs of heart
disease in women patients.
She also proposes developing a “heart health
passport,” which would list a woman’s medical
history as it relates to her heart, so she could
discuss prevention with her doctor.
“Women who have had prenatal complications
such as gestational diabetes, hypertension,
pre-eclampsia or protein in their urine are at
significantly higher risk to develop early heart
disease,” Norris said. “Getting pregnant is the
first stress test you will have—it really taxes
your vascular system.”
“Identifying women at risk early in their lives
means that it may be possible to alter that
risk,” she said.
Norris said recent research has also
uncovered that women are more likely than
men to have microvascular disease in the tiny
vessels underneath the main heart vessels,
which can’t be detected with current scans.
“We don’t yet know how to diagnose it or how
to treat it effectively.”
Arming women with information,
Norris said that along with biological risk
factors, women are also affected by barriers
related to their gender roles.
For example, while there is a general trend
for people with heart disease symptoms to
delay going to hospital during the COVID-19
pandemic, women are even less likely to
“They are busy as front-line workers and
caregivers, and they delay going to hospital
for their heart symptoms because they’re
afraid of getting COVID,” she said. “But they
also don’t want to bother emergency staff
who are dealing with the pandemic—women
don’t want to bother others.”
In other U of A-based research, it was found
that women may not seek treatment or follow
up with prescribed rehabilitation because
they feel embarrassed that they became ill.
“The word on the street is if you eat properly
and exercise enough and take care of your
stress, you won’t get it,” she said.
“The big message is that it’s
not in your head—no matter
what age you are, you are just
as likely to have heart issues
as men. — Colleen Norris
Norris said the solution is to ensure public
health messages show women how they can
improve their health, rather than making
them feel guilty.
She advises women who do go to emergency
for heart disease symptoms to ask the
following questions before they leave:
What do my blood pressure,
electrocardiogram (ECG) and other test
What are my risk factors for heart
Where can I follow up if I have questions
about my heart?
What should I do when I feel symptoms
“We can give you the tools to be strong and
advocate for yourself,” Norris said.
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In 2021, it's important that we
recognize the needs of those
with intersectional identities
in our spaces and constantly
Words by Allie Voisin
University of Alberta Faculty of Nursing alumna Asmaa Ali, 23,
is celebrated in the 10th annual Alberta Council for Global
Cooperation 2021 Top 30 Under 30 for her unwavering
dedication to fostering health equity for vulnerable
Growing up in Edmonton, Alberta, as a Muslim and firstgeneration
Somali-Canadian born to refugee parents, Ali
experienced firsthand the challenges minority populations
face in accessing healthcare.
“I have spent a lot of time navigating the healthcare system
with family members. We faced many unique challenges that
continued to go unaddressed, so I wanted to be a part of
fostering health equity for minority communities,” says Ali,
who graduated from the class of 2020 and currently works in
The Top 30 Under 30 Award is an annual campaign by the
Alberta Council for Global Cooperation featuring 30
exceptional recipients for their inspiring work in “making the
world a more just, fair, and sustainable place for all.”
How do you foster health equity?
The best way to detect biases in healthcare and to mitigate
them is to be aware of the unconscious biases we hold
ourselves. Being blind to your own biases as a healthcare
provider means you are causing harm. I have interacted with
many healthcare providers who say that they treat every one
of their patients the same as a testament to their belief in
equality. Still, equity and equality are two very different things.
People have intersectional identities; data proves that women,
LGBTQ+ populations, Black communities, and immigrant
communities have worse health outcomes due to their unique
circumstances remaining unaddressed by health
professionals. Care providers that immediately ask for
pronouns, look up a patient's religious and cultural
sensitivities, and always ask questions are the ones who are
truly mitigating harm.
Treating people "the same" means skimming the surface, and
that's not enough. Being committed to health equity means
fostering justice by building care plans based on each
patient's unique needs.
In 2021, it's important that we recognize the needs of those
with intersectional identities in our spaces and constantly
remain teachable. Blanket statements, zero-tolerance policies,
and "everyone deserves the same" no longer cut it, especially
when we are responsible for public safety. Unlearning is the
key to fostering health equity and equity in all spaces.
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MEET THE STUDENT LEADERS:
NURSING UNDERGRADUATE ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT ISAIAH JOY
Isaiah Joy is a fourth-year Faculty of Nursing Collaborative Program student at
the University of Alberta and the Nursing Undergraduate Association's (NUA)
new president for the 2021-2022 academic year.
Joy pursued an education in nursing to unite his love for science with his desire
to help people whenever possible.
The NUA is a student-run organization that consists of nursing students who
are elected by their peers to volunteer their time and effort to represent the
Faculty of Nursing's undergraduate students and ensure that they have the best
The NUA provides academic advocacy, coordinates social events, addresses
issues and concerns that affect nursing students, and connects students to the
campus community, as well as the national body of nursing students through
the Canadian Nursing Students' Association (CNSA). It also acts to fulfill the
academic, social, and political needs of nursing students.
Below, Joy provides a glimpse into the academic year ahead.
What are your priorities as NUA president for the 2021-2022 academic year?
Develop partnership with Indigenous Nursing Students Association so
we’re able to provide meaningful and equitable discussion on and support
for each other’s initiatives
Apply for UASU grants and open new positions on NUA Council and
Student Advisory Council (SAC) to increase scholarship and volunteer
opportunities for nursing students
Host broader range of Q&As about relevant nursing student topics (ex. How to get jobs in healthcare, how to make the most of clinical
experiences) and mentorship initiatives to help nursing students of all years with receive guidance from older nursing students and/or recent
Make standardized and transparent application process for subgroups so nursing students can more easily connect in meaningful,
extracurricular ways with their peers
Is there anything exciting undergraduate students should look forward to?
Students can look forward to the NUA making new initiatives and updating existing initiatives to be more inclusive (easier and more meaningful
opportunities for participation and recognition of accomplishments), accessible (technologically and physically), and relevant to their lives.
Fall 2021 will be like no other fall on campus before. How does the NUA plan to reconnect with graduate students on-campus?
We’ll do our best to provide options for both in person and online participation in all of our initiatives (within the rules given by UASU). And in
addition to more regularly posting to our social media, we’ll also launch a subscription-based email service so people can pick and choose which
NUA and SAC information is most relevant to them.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I’m proud of the NUA and SAC team we’ve assembled; they’re good people and hard workers. I’m looking forward to welcoming new members to
NUA and SAC and making this year the best it can be for everybody.
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MEET THE STUDENT LEADERS:
NURSING GRADUATE STUDENTS' ASSOCATION PRESIDENT NICK ADCOCK
Nick Adcock is a second-year Faculty of Nursing masters student (Leadership Stream)
with a focus on Nursing Informatics at the University of Alberta and the Nursing Graduate
Student Association's (NGSA) new president for the 2021-2022 academic year.
“Information is essential to care for clients and in a world where information is endless it
is important to be able to manage, access, and share the right information in a timely
manner,” explains Adcock, who is interested in pursuing more knowledge about the unique
intersection of nursing, technology, and the management of information.
The NGSA is the official voice for Faculty of Nursing graduate students at the University of
Alberta. It is composed of graduate students, both master's and PhD, who promote the
general welfare of nursing graduate students through social, recreational, cultural,
academic, and community-oriented endeavours.
Below, Adcock provides a glimpse into what to expect for the semester ahead.
What are your priorities as NGSA president for the 2021-2022 academic year?
Students will be returning to campus this semester and my priority this year is create an
online and in person environment that welcomes and encourages students, NGSA
members, faculty, and the executive team to participate and engage in fulfilling the NGSA
mandate of promoting the general welfare of students through social, cultural, academic,
and community-orientated endeavours. The NGSA has already received a few emails from
eager graduate students looking for information on how they can be a member and
participate in the NGSA this year and we are excited!
What are your priorities as NGSA president for the 2021-2022 academic year?
Students will be returning to campus this semester and my priority this year is create an online and in person environment that welcomes and
encourages students, NGSA members, faculty, and the executive team to participate and engage in fulfilling the NGSA mandate of promoting the
general welfare of students through social, cultural, academic, and community-orientated endeavours. The NGSA has already received a few emails
from eager graduate students looking for information on how they can be a member and participate in the NGSA this year and we are excited!
Is there anything exciting graduate students should look forward to?
That back to school crisp fall air excitement of endless learning opportunities and fresh minds to sponge it all up. Being able to take advantage of
learning and teaching with each other in the same room and connecting with other students and faculty members in person. I am most looking forward
to those after lecture thought provoking conversations with other students and faculty diving deeper into concepts that were just covered.
Fall 2021 will be like no other fall on campus before.
How does the NGSA plan to reconnect with graduate students on-campus?
This past summer the NGSA teamed up with the University of Calgary, University of Lethbridge, and the Centre for Suicide Prevention to deliver a one
hour webinar promoting the Buddy Up Campaign which brings awareness to men’s suicide prevention. Last year we were able to engage with the
community by collecting warm winter wear for the Bissell Centre so that low-income community members were able to keep warm all winter long. We
also had virtual drop-in sessions where students could have one on one conversations with the NGSA team. These are just three examples of ways that
the NGSA would like to continue to engage the graduate students on campus this year. We are also looking for fresh new ideas so please feel free to
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Please feel free to e-mail us with any questions and please stop by the NGSA office once we are all back to school. If you get a chance, please check
out and like/follow the NGSA facebook (@graduatenurses), Instagram (graduatenurses), and/or Twitter (@Graduate_Nurses).
The NGSA would love to hear from you! To become a general member or for other inquiries, please email the NGSA (firstname.lastname@example.org) or any of the
2 8 U A L B E R T A | N U R S I N G F A L L 2 0 2 1
Annear, Doris Helen
Antoniuk, Elaine Phyllis
Baptie, Lois Amelia
Black, Trudie Laraine
Bothwell, Mary Elizabeth
Brunton, Sharon Elaine
Burkholder, Donna Carol
Bushko, Cecile June
Clancy, Isobel Evelyn
Cole, Joanne Eleanor
Cote, Marjorie Helen
Croteau, Kathleen Annabell
Culp, Mary Lorraine
Dobbie, Cathy Anne
Dudley, Janis Irene
Freelove, Yvonne Rose
Gagnon, Doreen Georgina
Greenwood, Donna Margaret
Henrie, Gilda Kathryn
Knudsen, Charlene Martha
Kruhlak, Martha Helen
Kuzyk, Diane Alice
MacDonald, K Ann
McDougall, Elizabeth Ann
McKenzie, Rosie Jean
McMillan, M Patricia
Meredith, Rhonda Lois
Milligan, Lois Verna
Minion, Marion Madeline
Phung, Nancy Zhilin
Rau, Suzanne Jane
Rich, D. Merle
Rozeboom, Virginia D
Sanden, Esther Labelle
Sawyer, Hazel Frances
Shaw, Jo-Anne Mary
Trenchie, Donna Ann
Tronningsdal, Jeanie Shanks
Vasicek, Sheila Kay
Wall, Heather Leona
Weishoff, Millie G
Willans, Anne Leslie
Zeller, Ruth Theresa
3 0 U A L B E R T A | N U R S I N G F A L L 2 0 2 1
Faculty of Nursing
Level 3, Edmonton Clinic Health Academy
11405 87 Avenue, University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 1C9