Inspired to Educate

Peri Venkatesh stands in front of a historical mural at the College of Nursing's building at Fort Garry campus.

When Peri Venkatesh [MN/91] arrived in Manitoba in 1971, he was unsure what career path he would take. Nursing and education weren’t even considerations at the time.

“In India, there weren’t a lot of men who went into nursing,” he recalls. “And I never thought I’d go into education, because I was not very outgoing.”

Venkatesh had been studying mechanical engineering in India, but he knew it wasn’t the right fit. At age 22 he moved to Winnipeg, joining his older brother, Raj.

He enrolled at Fort Richmond Collegiate to learn the Canadian curriculum while deciding on his next steps. He was encouraged by his principal to tutor other students, one of whom had a sister who was studying nursing. He quickly found himself drawn to her textbooks.

“I discovered I really liked being a mentor, but that I also loved reading about anatomy and physiology.”

Venkatesh enrolled at the St. Boniface General Hospital School of Nursing in 1973. Inspired by his instructors, he decided he wanted to teach nursing, so he entered the bachelor of nursing program at the University of Windsor.

“I learned a method of teaching and storytelling where the students are led to answers by challenging them with relevant sequential questions. It’s the best way to develop critical thinking.”

In 1980, Venkatesh joined the Misericordia General Hospital School of Nursing, where he worked for the next 17 years. During this time, he also obtained his master’s in nursing at UM.

By 1995, he was vice-president in charge of education at Misericordia. But in the 1990s, the province was shutting down diploma nursing programs in favour of degree programs. When the Misericordia school closed in 1997, he could have stayed on in an administrative position, but opted to become a lecturer at UM instead.

“The pay scales were not comparable, but teaching is what I love,” he says.

His proud accomplishments at UM included establishing an elective nursing course in men’s health and promoting men’s health in the community, for which he won an Outreach Award from the university in 2011.

He had become interested in men’s health issues while supervising students caring for urology patients at Misericordia. His master’s thesis was on the effect of prostate cancer and its treatment on sexuality.

“Men aren’t traditionally very good at taking care of their own health – the prevention side of it. So, advocacy for men’s health has always been important to me.”

Venkatesh was a member of the university’s alumni board from 2009 to 2012 and served as its UM senate representative for two years. He retired in 2013.

Last year, he donated a bladder scanner to the College of Nursing’s simulation lab. “I saw this as something practical to help students develop competence and expertise in that area,” he says.

He and his wife, nursing alum Patrice Yamada [BN/75], have long supported the university, including the establishment of a bursary for students in the peace and conflict studies program in the Faculty of Arts.

“Giving back is an important thing to us,” he says. “It was a privilege to teach at the university. It is a temple of knowledge and learning that has given me so much. Showing respect to that is absolutely crucial.”