Notable News

Benches promote interpersonal connection, mental health

Students sitting at bench outside of nursing centre.
Nursing students Frances Hernandez (L) and Gillian Laninga at the new bench outside the Helen Glass Centre for Nursing

Two new benches that offer more than a place to rest have been installed by the College of Nursing on the Fort Garry campus.

Located outside the Helen Glass Centre for Nursing and the UMSU University Centre, the benches are part of an initiative called Connecting: One Conversation at a Time, which promotes mental health as a community effort.

Plans call for each bench to include a plaque with a QR code that will lead to a web page providing on- and off-campus mental health resources. The QR codes will be installed this winter.

The project team, led by College of Nursing faculty members, hopes the benches will encourage peer-to-peer supportive conversations, and the QR codes will provide a safe way for students to connect with professional mental health support.

“Mental health resources can be hard to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for,” said Gillian Laninga, a third-year nursing student.

Fourth-year nursing student Frances Hernandez said the benches will serve as a reminder of the importance of mental health.

“A few years ago, we couldn’t even talk about mental health, so I also think of these benches as a symbol of how far we’ve come,” she said.

View the on- and off-campus mental health resources:

Student’s research contributes to quit-smoking program

Pharmacy student Christine Vaccaro with products eligible for subsidy.
Pharmacy student Christine Vaccaro with products eligible for the $100-per-patient subsidy

A summer research study by pharmacy student Christine Vaccaro [B.Sc./18] helped to clarify pharmacists’ needs as they prepare to offer the Quit Smoking with Your Manitoba Pharmacist program.

The program, managed by Pharmacists Manitoba and funded through a social impact bond, will pay pharmacies for assessment, prescribing and follow-up sessions that pharmacists do with smokers who want to quit.

The program will roll out in 2022, marking the first time Manitoba pharmacies will be compensated for assessing and counselling patients. “It recognizes pharmacists for their expertise in smoking cessation and the time they’ll spend meeting with patients,” Vaccaro said.

Every participating patient can receive up to $100 in nicotine-based therapies, such as patches, or in the prescription drug varenicline.

Vaccaro’s study was funded by a College of Pharmacy undergraduate research award. “It was a great opportunity,” she said. “I did phone interviews with 22 pharmacists all over the province.”

She found that pharmacists’ foremost needs include smoking-cessation resources to provide to patients, a straightforward online billing system for compensation, and advertising of the program to the public and health-care providers.

Respiratory therapy grads join workforce early

Respiratory therapy student working with equipment in a college lab.
Haley Nakonechny graduated ahead of schedule to help with the COVID-19 fight.

In May 2021, students in their final year of the respiratory therapy program at the College of Rehabilitation Sciences officially completed the program four weeks early in order to assist with the need created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

All 13 students in the bachelor’s program were hired early, mostly in Winnipeg.

“We were approached by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Shared Health and Health Sciences Centre (HSC) about the shortage of respiratory therapists,” said Denise Mackey, head of the respiratory therapy department.

Since the students had completed about 90 per cent of the clinical hours they needed, Mackey said, an agreement was made with the Manitoba Association of Registered Respiratory Therapists that they could graduate early and be licensed.

Haley Nakonechny [B.Sc./18, BRT/21], one of the graduates, received the University Gold Medal for highest standing in an undergraduate faculty, school or college. She now works at HSC and says the pandemic has raised awareness of the profession.

“When I first started the program and would tell people I was in respiratory therapy, a lot of people didn’t know what it was,” she said. “Now it seems like everyone knows what it is.”

Former dean of medicine remembered

Dr. Hennen next to his portrait.Dr. Brian Hennen, an influential family physician and academic who made significant contributions to UM as dean of the Faculty of Medicine from 1999 to 2004, passed away in August 2021.

Hennen served as president of the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) and as chair of the board of the Canadian Council of Health Accreditation. One of his key areas of expertise was the field of developmental disabilities.

He was head of the family medicine department at Dalhousie University from 1974 to 1987, then chair of family medicine at Western University from 1987 to 1999, before joining UM as dean of medicine.

During his five years as dean, annual research funding of the medical faculty grew from $45 million to $78 million.

Hennen served on the boards of St. Boniface Hospital and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba, and on the research committee and foundation board of St. Amant Centre.

In 2014, he received a Lifetime Achievement in Family Medicine Research Award from the CFPC.

Illuminate Speaker Series

In September, as part of the Illuminate Speaker Series, occupational therapy alumna Katie Kitchen [BA/08, MOT/10] gave a virtual presentation on “long COVID,” sharing her insights as both a health professional and a patient. She was joined by Dana Kliewer [BMRPT/10] and Marlee Mayer [BA/14, MOT/16], who work in pulmonary rehabilitation at Deer Lodge Centre.

View the presentation:

Dental clinics adopt digital record-keeping

The clinics at the Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry are going paperless.

The clinics, where dentistry and dental hygiene students provide supervised care to patients, are adopting digital patient charts, as well as online forms for patients and referring dentists.

The main clinic is now fully digital. The specialty clinics and those operated by the Centre for Community Oral Health are transitioning to a paperless environment.

Anastasia Kelekis-Cholakis [DMD/92, Dip. Perio/98], dean of dentistry, said the changeover has been made possible through the generosity of donor Gerald Niznick [DMD/66, D.Sc./02]. “This has benefitted the students and the college on many fronts,” she said.

The benefits include increased efficiency, said Michelle Oshanyk, managing director of clinic support services. “Not having that paper shuffle will streamline employee workflows,” she said.

The switch to digital records will lower the college’s costs for paper, toner and ink. It’s also expected to reduce human error. Online forms decrease the amount of manual data entry by staff, resulting in more accurate information, Oshanyk said.

Students develop road safety program for preschoolers

A children's play park designed for road safety with child-sized roads and amenities.
Occupational therapy students created a field trip program for this safety-themed park.

A program developed by occupational therapy students will help the Steinbach Family Resource Centre teach preschool children about road safety.

The resource centre has a “road safety play park” with child-size elements such as crosswalks and road signs. During their placement at the centre, students Moneca Dunsford [BA/19, MOT/21] and Alyssa Timlick [BA/16, MOT/21] created a program of games, songs and activities to be included in half-day field trips to the park for daycares and preschools.

“As occupational therapists … we’re able to break down the activities and how they’ll fit kids in that age range while they’re learning,” said Timlick.

Students Micaela Mandelbaum [BA/20] and Jordan Beer [B.Sc./20] also did a placement at the centre. They developed a board game about road safety and made adjustments to the in-person field trip for children with disabilities.

“Expanding the program to include adaptations for children with mobility issues went above and beyond our expectations,” said Andrea Reimer [B.Ed./92], an educator at the centre.

Occupational therapy students also worked on other projects at the facility, such as a presentation on the ergonomics of breastfeeding and baby car-seat carrying.

Pharmacy advisor goes above and beyond

Cheryl Lee.Cheryl Lee [B.H.Ecol./02], student advisor and program co-ordinator for the College of Pharmacy, received the university-wide Advising Excellence Award for 2021.

Lee was honoured for her outstanding service to the College of Pharmacy and its students since 2008.

“Cheryl connects with students even before they’re admitted,” said Dr. Lavern Vercaigne [B.Sc.Pharm/91], associate dean (academic). “She helps organize our recruitment events, and many of our students initially apply because of an interaction with her.”

Lee’s efforts go far beyond advising.

When the college’s new PharmD program was launched in 2019, she contacted banks to discuss increased loans for students in need and ensured that the heavier course load would still allow students to have adequate breaks.

When the pandemic hit, Lee helped transition courses to a virtual format and facilitated virtual meetings between student leaders and the Dean’s Office to keep learners informed.

Lee said her top priority is putting students’ needs first. “I always want to ensure they feel supported and know who they can turn to,” she said.

Former dean of dentistry appointed dean emeritus

Johann de Vries headshot.Dr. Johann de Vries, dean of the Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry from 1998 to 2006, has been honoured with the title of dean emeritus.

“We wanted to recognize his accomplishments and contributions,” said Anastasia Kelekis-Cholakis [DMD/92, Dip. Perio/98], current dean of dentistry. “Dr. de Vries had a vision for our college that he was able to communicate well and implement.”

As dean, de Vries was involved in establishing the college’s Centre for Community Oral Health, which provides oral health care to underserved populations. He also initiated the International Dentist Degree Program, which trains internationally educated dentists for licensure in Canada, and improved the learning environment through upgrades to technology and equipment.

He received the President’s Award of Merit for outstanding service to the profession from the Manitoba Dental Association.

Nationally, de Vries was the first academic member to sit on the Canadian Dental Association governing board and received the Distinguished Service Award from that organization.

He served as vice-chair of the dental advisory committee to the federal government.

His many international roles have included serving as president of the International Federation of Dental Education Associations.

Now retired, he lives in his home country of South Africa.

Hall of Fame honours population health pioneer

Noralou Roos.Dr. Noralou Roos is one of six national medical heroes who will be inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in June 2022.

Roos, professor emerita of community health sciences and researcher with the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, was the founding co-director of the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy (MCHP), the first such “big data” centre in Canada.

She is being recognized for unlocking the potential of big data to clarify the social determinants of health, such as poverty. The Manitoba Population Research Data Repository at MCHP, which contains population-based data on health, education and social services, has become a model for research data centres around the world.

“This is a special honour because I am not a physician, and yet I have had a wonderful career teaching and doing research in a medical faculty,” Roos said.

“Currently, I’m working with health-care providers, helping them understand the importance of diagnosing and treating poverty in their patients.”

Roos, a highly cited researcher, held a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in population health. Her honours include the Order of Canada and fellowship in the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

She is now co-director of the Manitoba Get Your Benefits! initiative, which helps people living in poverty gain access to their benefits.

Leadership students create nursing podcast

Text reads: Through My Eyes: Nursing Perspectives podcast. Photos of, and text reads, Melanie MacKinnon, Episode 2, Dr. Genevieve Thompson, Episode 3, Dr. Donna Martin, Episode 5.A group of UM students has produced a podcast called Through My Eyes: Nursing Perspectives as a resource for nurses and nursing students.

The podcast’s creators are participants in the President’s Student Leadership Program (PSLP), a non-credit program of the James W. Burns Leadership Institute at UM’s Asper School of Business. They created the podcast for their PSLP leadership service project.

The five students collaborated on the project with the Association of Regulated Nurses of Manitoba and the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. Each of the five episodes is hosted by a different member of the group and covers a different theme, such as Indigenous nursing, professional growth and innovation in nursing.

The podcast, which can be streamed on SoundCloud, features prominent voices in nursing in Manitoba, such as Melanie MacKinnon [BN/96], executive director of Ongomiizwin – Health Services at UM, and Dr. Donna Martin [BN/81, MN/97], associate dean (graduate programs) of the College of Nursing.

“We wanted to create a podcast that would support and uplift Manitoba nurses, but I think something really wonderful that it displays is the diversity within the nursing profession,” said student Sasha Kullman.

Dean’s Prize recognizes exceptional grad students

Eight master’s or doctoral students received the Dean of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences Graduate Student Achievement Prize in 2021. The prize recognizes outstanding academic achievement, leadership skills and personal service.

Corrine Clyne headshot.

Corrine Clyne [MOT/21], who completed her master’s in occupational therapy, examined how the Western term “frailty” fits in relation to older First Nations adults.

Vivianne Cruz de Jesus

Dr. Vivianne Cruz de Jesus, a PhD candidate in oral biology, is studying the role of taste genetics and oral microbes in disease, particularly childhood tooth decay.

Kailey Evans [MPT/21], who completed her master’s in physical therapy, has a focus on working with older adults in rehabilitation settings.

John Jackson headshot.

John Jackson, a PhD student in nursing, is researching how the amalgamation of nursing regulators affects the discipline of nursing.

Alekhya Lavu headshot.

Alekhya Lavu, a PhD student in pharmacy, is focused on medications in pregnancy and neonatal safety outcomes.

Toby Le, a PhD student in medical microbiology/infectious diseases, is investigating how an injectable contraceptive may be linked to an increased risk for HIV infection.

Michaela Palmer headshot.

Michaela Palmer [B.Sc.(Hons)/19, M.Sc./21], a master’s student in genetic counselling, is studying the abnormal processes that drive colorectal cancer development.

Andrea Toews headshot.

Andrea Toews [BN/13], a master’s student in nursing, is researching how to best support health-care teams through debriefings after providing CPR.

Ceremonies honour children lost to residential schools

Knowledge Keeper Leslie Spillett speaks near the sacred fire.
Knowledge Keeper Leslie Spillett speaks near the sacred fire.

Two tiny pairs of shoes served as a poignant symbol of children’s lives lost to the residential school system at a ceremony on Sept. 28 on the Bannatyne campus.

“They were so little when they became ancestors,” said Leslie Spillett, a Knowledge Keeper in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, about the thousands of Indigenous children who never returned home from residential schools.

“When I think about how best to honour our little relatives, it’s by making the world better for the ones today.”

The event was the first of two Honouring Our Children ceremonies organized by Ongomiizwin, the Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing. The gatherings were held in observance of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (also known as Orange Shirt Day – Every Child Matters), a federal statutory holiday on Sept. 30.

Those offering prayers put tobacco bundles wrapped in orange cloth into a sacred fire.

Marcia Anderson [MD/02], vice-dean, Indigenous health of the Rady Faculty, called on faculty, staff and learners to build a future in which the health and health-care rights of Indigenous Peoples are fully realized.


Artwork created for Orange Shirt Day.The Nursing Students’ Association and College of Nursing held a virtual Orange Shirt Day ceremony that included a video featuring Indigenous artwork and Manitoba children discussing what Orange Shirt Day means to them. Watch the video:

Artwork by Brandon Jacko

Learners help lay groundwork for ‘student-infused’ health program

Eleven students in nursing, medicine or rehabilitation sciences held summer research roles in planning a “student-infused” community health program.

The concept of the program is to enable students from across the Rady Faculty to do rotations in a supervised, interprofessional clinical environment. The key goal is experiential learning in a rural community setting.

Dr. Dan Nagel and Jamie Penner [BPE/97, BN/02, MN/09], assistant professors of nursing, hope to see a health centre founded under this model within about five years. Meanwhile, a pilot program is planned for Manitoba’s Southern Health-Santé Sud region. It will be an exercise and health education program, mainly delivered by health-care students, for clients with mild-to-moderate respiratory disease.

As part of the research phase, students reviewed relevant literature, engaged with rural stakeholders and investigated different kinds of student-run health services.

Third-year nursing student Mark Philip [B.Sc./18] said working on the project reinforced how important teamwork is to patient care.

“It’s not just doctors and nurses, it’s everyone on the health-care team – pharmacists, occupational therapists, respiratory therapists, physiotherapists,” he said. “I feel like this has really hit home for me. It’s a collective effort.”

Nature Prescriptions

The Rady Faculty of Health Sciences and all its colleges have endorsed PaRx, a program that encourages health-care professionals to write “nature prescriptions” for patients to improve their mental and physical health.

PaRx was launched by the B.C. Parks Foundation. More than 1,000 health-care prescribers in B.C., Saskatchewan, Ontario and Manitoba have registered to participate.

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