StFX human nutrition retired faculty member Dr. Laurie Wadsworth, part-time faculty Fran Haley and 2018 graduate Heather-Ann Burrell certainly have reason to celebrate—they all received major awards at the Dietitians of Canada conference held in Ottawa from June 6-8, 2019.
The trio were among the individuals celebrated at an awards ceremony on June 6. The awards celebrate individuals who have inspired, empowered and lent their passion to promote and elevate the dietetics profession.
Ryley-Jeffs Memorial Lecture
Dr. Wadsworth delivered the prestigious Ryley-Jeffs Memorial Lecture. Dr. Wadsworth’s career has focused on nutrition and health policy development in public health and academia. She investigates mass media messages to understand the roles of food in society and studies the historical roots of dietetics. She has worked collaboratively to effect change in public policy for improved nutrient profiles in the national food supply as a member of the Trans Fat Task Force and with Heart and Stroke Canada. Dr. Wadsworth also mentors dietetic students in policy development and research to build capacity for a strong future profession. She is a Fellow of Dietitians of Canada and served as Chair of the DC Board of Directors. “Dr. Wadsworth has certainly made a dynamic impact on individual dietitians and the profession and is very deserving of the prestigious Ryley-Jeffs Memorial Lecture Award for 2019,” says a release from Dietitians of Canada.
Fran Haley was presented with the DC Emeritus award. The Board of Directors bestows this permanent designation to retired members of DC in appreciation of unique and outstanding contributions to the advancement of the dietetic profession in Canada during the nominees' career.
National Morgan Medal
Recent StFX graduate Heather-Ann Burell received the Regional Morgan Medal (Ontario) for research completed for her honours thesis at StFX. At the 2019 conference she was awarded the National Morgan Medal for excellence in research.
StFX Rankin School of Nursing professor Dr. Donna Halperin is the successful recipient of two new Canadian Immunization Research Network (CIRN) grants that will help fund vaccine research.
CIRN has recently funded two new studies with Dr. Halperin, the co-principal investigator. The first project is funded for $300,481 over two years to research “Burden Ethnographic Modeling Evaluation Qaujilisaaqtuq (BEMEQ) RSV,” and she has been granted a further $150,010 to fund, “A multifaceted evaluation of provincial maternal Tdap immunization programs.”
Dr. Halperin says the multi-faceted evaluation of provincial maternal Tdap programs study is taking place in five provinces, which will inform the implementation of maternal Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis) programs being rolled out across the country.
“The purpose of administering this vaccine is to protect newborn infants in Canada from severe outcomes of pertussis infection. Bordetella pertussis causes pertussis (Whooping Cough), a severe respiratory infection. Unimmunized infants, including those who are too young to have completed their primary infant immunization series, are at the greatest risk of hospitalization and death,” she says. “Immunization in pregnancy is safe and protects the infant until they are ready to receive the vaccine at two months of age.”
She says the focus of this study is to determine support and resources offered to health care providers for maternal Tdap programs and to identify gaps in learning needs according to provider type.
Also, she says knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs and behaviors (KABB) of pregnant women will be determined regarding the maternal Tdap vaccine. Three interventions will be developed; a practice intervention tool for providers and an information intervention and social marketing strategy directed towards pregnant women for maternal immunization. These three interventions will be evaluated for acceptability.
In the “Burden Ethnographic Modeling Evaluation Qaujilisaaqtuq (BEMEQ) RSV” study she says there has been the recent accelerated clinical development of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccine candidates for pregnant women and children that offers the promise of RSV prevention.
“RSV is the most common cause of severe lower respiratory tract infection in young children worldwide. Exceedingly high rates are observed in the Canadian Arctic,” she says.
This study, which is situated in Nunavik (northern third of the province of Quebec) and Nunavut, will help inform public health planning by collecting data on RSV morbidity and health care use, careful modelling and economic analysis of the potential benefits of vaccines and an understanding of the acceptability of proposed interventions in target populations.
Dr. Halperin says there are three separate studies within the broader study, which brings together 28 investigators across Canada.
The focus of her portion of the study will be to describe the key determinants of vaccine acceptance and refusal at the demand side (values, attitudes, beliefs) and the access side (logistical, healthcare system factors impacting access and vaccine services) amongst parents, healthcare providers, educators, and public health practitioners. Sharing circles and key informant interviews will be used to collect this information in Nunavut, she says.
CIRN is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), and is a national network of vaccine researchers who develop and test methodologies related to the evaluation of vaccines as they pertain to safety, immunogenicity and effectiveness, and program implementation and evaluation.
CIRN is a network of networks, comprising eight sub-networks, composed of over 100 investigators across 40 Canadian institutions, involving experts in vaccine-related evaluative research.
Three StFX Rankin School of Nursing students and recent graduates, Layla Green, Antonia Di Castri and Laura Leppan, are all employed and gaining valuable experience this summer working at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology (CCfV) in Halifax.
The Canadian Center for Vaccinology was established to develop, implement and evaluate technologies and vaccines for infectious diseases that have a significant impact on Canadian and global health, and to train experts in these critical and evolving fields. It’s housed in the IWK Health Centre, and is a collaboration of the IWK, Dalhousie University, and the Nova Scotia Health Authority.
The students are supervised by StFX nursing professor Dr. Donna Halperin, who holds a cross-appointment in pediatrics at Dalhousie University and is the associate director of the CCfV, responsible for the Programs, Policy and Implementation Group; and Dr. Scott Halperin, director at the CCfV and a professor of pediatrics, and microbiology & immunology at Dalhousie and adjunct professor at StFX.
Laura Leppan, of Halifax, NS, is entering her fourth year of the nursing program at StFX, in the honours stream. Her research at CCfV this summer is part of an ongoing clinical trial examining ways to protect very young infants from whooping cough (pertussis).
“Specifically, I will be analyzing breast milk from women who were vaccinated during pregnancy to test for antibodies against whooping cough. If there are sufficient antibodies against whooping cough present in the breast milk, it could suggest that breastfeeding after maternal immunizations during pregnancy may offer additional protection to the newborn until they are old enough to receive their own vaccines,” she says
She says becoming part of the CCfV team came from expressing interest in gaining research experience to her professor, now her honours co-supervisor, Dr. Donna Halperin, this past winter.
“She was very keen to help me in this journey, and after discussing my interests in public health and maternal and newborn health, she consulted with Dr. Scott Halperin, also of CCfV, who suggested this project may be a great fit. I am so grateful for this incredible learning opportunity,” Ms. Leppan says.
“So far, I have learned a vast amount about immunology, physiology behind vaccines, breast feeding, and preventable diseases, which have all further sparked my interest in these areas.”
Layla Green from Falmouth, NS, who just graduated from the honours nursing program in May 2019 is continuing the research she took part in as the subject of her undergraduate thesis at StFX, looking at the experiences and perspectives of community health experts in Nunavut with regard to maternal immunization in Inuit populations.
“With this current position, having put in two years on this project already with my thesis, it has been great to continue on with this work past graduation and see where it goes,” says Ms. Green, who has also been added to the teams developing the protocols for two new recently funded projects.
“I have had Dr. Donna Halperin as a prof since my first year at StFX and developed a very good working relationship with her over the course of my honours thesis project, where both she and Dr. Scott Halperin were my thesis advisors. She has definitely been a wonderful support and has opened up many doors for me in terms of research opportunities.”
Ms. Green says the entire honours process at the Rankin School has left a strong impression on her and where she sees her career as a nurse going. “While I still thoroughly enjoy working at the bedside, having had the experience of doing research and learning to look at health care questions in a much different light has been truly eye-opening, and I hope to always keep one foot in the realm of research as I move forward in this profession.”
Antonia Di Castri, of St. Albert, AB, graduated with a honours nursing degree from StFX in 2017 and is now a MSc candidate in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology at Dalhousie University. This summer, her primary focus is work on her master's thesis project, a mixed methods study of the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, values, and behaviours of pregnant Inuit women and Northern healthcare providers about maternal pertussis immunization.
She is also writing manuscripts for projects she has worked on in previous years at the CCfV. Among them is her quantitative undergraduate honours thesis project, which explores public and healthcare provider perceptions of pharmacists as immunizers in Nova Scotia.
“I am finding it to be a very exciting time in my work because I am finally able to see the results of these studies that I have been involved with since their nascence,” she says.
Ms. Di Castri says she was first offered a position at the CCfV during the summer between her third and fourth year of the StFX nursing program.
“Working at CCfV has been, and continues to be instrumental in my career path. I have honed a diverse research skill set that has proven to be very useful in my pursuit of graduate studies in epidemiology. I have had the opportunity to be a co-author on several academic articles and to present our research studies at national conferences. I am indebted to the investigators at the CCfV for their commensurate mentorship. Any future success that I might encounter is built upon the foundation laid by these outstanding people.”
Dr. Donna Halperin says this opportunity provides students with multidisciplinary exposure to a complete range of health disciplines, as CCfV brings together researchers from multiple institutions with biomedical, clinical, social sciences, and humanities backgrounds.
She says the opportunity also aligns members of the School of Nursing with a large, interdisciplinary research group comprising members from a broad range of health disciplines with an international reputation in vaccine research, and provides an impactful mechanism to expand StFX’s footprint in the health-related research realm.
Nursing faculty and educators from schools of nursing across Atlantic Canada will converge on StFX this week as the Rankin School of Nursing hosts the 2019 Atlantic Region of Canadian Schools of Nursing’s (ARCASN) annual conference from June 13-15.
This year, the conference focuses on ethics within nursing and will bring educators together to share energies and insights as they network together for ethics and quality nursing education under a theme of “Fostering a moral climate of care and nursing research, practice and pedagogy.”
“This year’s ARCASN conference aims to explore several areas related to ethics in nursing, including highlighting ethics as a fundamental guide to nursing and health care,” says Rankin School nursing faculty Marion Alex, an ARCASN representative and the conference’s committee chair.
Highlights from the event will include keynote addresses from Dr. Franco A. Carnevale, a nurse, psychologist and clinical ethicist from McGill University, who will lead an address and discussion focused around “Recognizing nurses as moral agents: New directions in nursing ethics;” as well as a keynote address from Kerry Prosper, Mi’Kmaq Elder from Paqtnkek First Nations and the Inaugural Knowledge Keeper at StFX, whose work is in traditional ceremonies and healing practices.
Other highlights will include a panel discussion lead by guest speakers Cynthia Baker, Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing; Christine Rieck Buckley, Canadian Nurses’ Foundation; and Dr. Claire Betker, scientific director for the National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health; and a closing address about moral agency and ethics in professional nursing from nurses Jeanne Sarson and Linda MacDonald, Speaking on Persons Against Non‐State Torture. They have recently returned from a global conference about women’s and human rights in Paris, where they continued advocating for recognition that forms of domestic violence manifest as torture.
A special part of the conference will be a dedication to the legacy of Sister Simone Roach and the Sisters of St. Martha, pioneers in nursing and health care in eastern Nova Scotia.
“In this conference about nursing ethics, here at St. Francis Xavier University’s School of Nursing, we stand upon the shoulders of a giant in nursing education and nursing ethics in Canada: Sister Marie Simone Roach. With admiration, gratitude, affection, and respect, we dedicate this conference to her memory and to her Sisters of Saint Martha,” Prof. Alex says.
Among numerous accomplishments, Sister Simone led the four‐year integrated BScN program at StFX and served as its chairperson from 1970‐1979. As well, in the 1980s she responded to a request to direct a Code of Ethics Project for the Canadian Nurses Association. The code she authored was the first to be grounded in clearly articulated ethical values—fundamental values that remain as its cornerstone today. She received the Order of Canada for her work on Ethics and Caring Theory in 2010.