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Thompson Rivers University (TRU) is thrilled to open the Chappell Family Building for Nursing and Population Health to train in-demand health-care workers in BC. The building has state-of-the-art practice environments and technology to keep up with changing health education.
A few days after her first birthday, a Victoria infant almost died from a superbug infection that was shutting down her breathing system.
Imogen Padmore contracted Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that can cause infections of the skin, lungs and bloodstream.
TRU-trained respiratory therapist Jason Dennison was among the people who helped save the baby girl’s life. A helicopter needed to whisk Imogen to BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver couldn’t land because of thick fog. Jason was among those who kept her breathing through that tense night until the fog lifted.
“The first night when Imogen was on the precipice of death, Jason, the respiratory therapist, had the precarious task of keeping my daughter breathing while working with less than ideal equipment (the jet ventilator necessary to keep her breathing),” said Christabel Padmore, Imogen’s mother.
“He remained extremely calm, cool and collected during the entire night. It’s comforting to see the person who holds your child’s life in their hands keep his cool.”
Two years later, Imogen’s grateful grandfather was inspired to start a respiratory therapy scholarship at TRU.
Imogen is now three years old and a healthy toddler. Her grandfather, Tim Padmore, had watched and worried as his granddaughter struggled to hang on until the helicopter could arrive. He wanted to do something acknowledge how much Dennison’s efforts that night helped—not just Imogen, but the entire family.
“It was a very emotional time and I felt like I should do something. When Imogen reached her third birthday, I thought it was fitting to create an award that would run until her sixteenth birthday,” he said.
“Imogen’s Award recognizes Jason for his skills and character and celebrates those who follow him, holding lives in their hands. I hope that it can create an impact within a health profession that isn’t always highly visible.”
The award will be presented to an outstanding graduating student of the respiratory therapy program who demonstrates superb technical skills, determination, responsibility and solid academic achievement.
“As a respiratory therapist I strive to provide the best therapy possible for my patients,” said Dennison. “I would never expect to be thanked by a family for doing my job. For someone to be so moved by my work to create such an award is both very humbling and a great honour for me.”
Four exceptional students have been recognized for their outstanding academic achievement, receiving the 2019 Dr. Sherman Jen Graduate Awards.
The awards are available to graduate students in their first year of a full-time, on campus program, and were awarded based on academic achievement in course work and research, taking leadership activities into consideration. The awards are valued at $6,000 each.
2019 Dr. Sherman Jen Graduate Award Recipients
“I feel so fortunate to have received the award,” said Kristi Gordon, a Master of Science in Environmental Science (MScES) student. “I can now focus fully on my research without the added pressures of tuition and fees. It’s really a dream come true!”
“This sort of funding makes an incredible difference in my ability to pursue graduate studies,” said recipient Fauve Garson, also an MScES student. “As a child of an only parent, tuition support means the world. Now I can move forward in my education with substantially less stress.”
“We are so grateful to our donors, as these awards enable TRU to provide invaluable supports to our graduate students, and build strong graduate programs,” said Troy Fuller, Director of Research and Graduate Studies.
In 2017, Dr. Sherman Jen of Maple Leaf Educational Systems gave TRU a personal donation of $5 million, making it the largest individual private donation in the university’s history. These awards were created as part of that donation, which supported scholarships in Science, Trades and Technology, Law, Education and Social Work.
With TRU’s new Nursing and Population Health Building taking shape in Kamloops, supporters of the university see it as an opportunity to aid BC’s overworked health-care providers.
That’s one driver for donors who have pledged more than $3.5 million toward the project, as well as those who have long-supported nursing and respiratory therapy programs at TRU.
A $550,000 contribution from the Edmonton-based Stollery Charitable Foundation represents that organization’s largest single philanthropic gift in Kamloops.
“We’re familiar with the challenges of accessing health care in Kamloops,” said Executive Director Jeff Bryson, whose grandparents founded the charity and whose parents live in Kamloops.
“Obviously part of that is a doctor shortage, but it’s bigger than just doctors in terms of some of the systemic challenges and greater challenges anticipated with an aging population. These challenges are expected to grow.”
Access to health care and to education are two pillars that guide Stollery’s work—and TRU represents both. Locally-based directors Spencer and Janet Bryson spent a combined 70 years as educators and say it’s crucial to them that hands-on learning happens.
“The university is doing so much for this town,” Spencer Bryson said. “It’s moving the town more and more to a knowledge-based economy and bringing talented people and good-paying jobs to the city.”
With the expansion of the nursing program, TRU is directly answering the call for better, more sustainable health care in the province and in rural areas that face a shortage of qualified health-care providers.
The Nursing and Population Health Building, scheduled for completion in 2020, will be a hub for health-care teaching and learning with state-of-the-art patient simulation labs. It will support collaborative learning for interdisciplinary teams and bring together students in respiratory therapy and nursing.
Unlike the Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master of Nursing programs, TRU’s Respiratory Therapy program is the only one of its kind in British Columbia. The TB Vets Charitable Foundation has supported the program and its students with private funding since 1988.
“Respiratory therapists, they are the unsung heroes of the medical field,” said TB Vets Executive Director Kandys Merola.
“When we decide where the money’s going to go, there’s never been a question about giving to Thompson Rivers University. We’re committed. It’s really important to us that we continue to support the university in that way.”
Private contributions to the Nursing and Population Health Building include $1.5 million from an anonymous donor and $1.5 million from Dr. Sherman Jen for a high-fidelity simulation centre, which will use high-fidelity mannequins to engage students and faculty in innovative health teaching and research methods.
The jubilation and appreciation were immeasurable Thursday night, as TRU student’s got the chance to meet and thank the people responsible for supporting their academic dreams.
The TRU Gymnasium was jam-packed with grins stretching ear to ear, as the TRU Foundation handed out more than $700,000 during the annual awards ceremony—the most it has ever presented at the event—recognizing 622 students with scholarships and bursaries.
Fourth year business student Kennedy Aberdeen, an award recipient herself, said financial support truly motivates students to excel to the best of their abilities.
“It’s very gratifying to receive recognition for our efforts and achievements,” she said. “Knowing there are people who believe in our hard work and TRU as an institution further motivates us to excel.”
“To the donors, thank you again for your commitment to and belief in us as students and also in Thompson Rivers University.”
The awards totalled $716,552, an increase of $43,949 from last year, which meant that the total amount dispersed by the Foundation since April 1 to $1,133,924, and the total number of students recognized this year to 817. The Foundation has also created 28 new annual awards and seven new endowments since last year.
“We are delighted today to award the largest amount ever to the students present at this ceremony,” said TRU Foundation board president Greg Garrish.
“Students, the donors standing beside you are looking at you and wondering how you will bring your education to the workplace, the community and the world around us. They are here to support you to be your very best.”
The TRU Foundation has been supporting students for 36 years and has built an endowment portfolio for student assistance exceeding $25 million. Last year, the Foundation raised $9.7 million for the university and welcomed its single largest donation ever of $5 million from Dr. Sherman Jen.
That gift, in part, created six new scholarships that were awarded for the first time on Thursday.
Nursing students interested in the care of refugees now have an opportunity to receive financial aid through a new award established by two faculty members.
Retired faculty member Penelope Heaslip and current faculty member and TRU alum Wendy McKenzie have established an endowment that will fund an annual award for a third- or fourth-year nursing student who has demonstrated a commitment to the care of refugees, immigrants and vulnerable populations—especially women and children.
“Both Penny and I have a lot of experience taking students on global practice experiences,” McKenzie said. “One of the consistencies we find all over there is the fact that more vulnerable people, especially women and children, are a group of people are that are not supported anywhere.”
International practice experiences takes TRU nursing students, accompanied by faculty members, to Nepal, Samoa, Thailand and Lesotho.
Heaslip taught global health until she retired in 2009, taking nursing students out of the country to gain a better understanding of community development in a foreign country.
One of Heaslip’s former students, McKenzie also teaches global health while focusing her research on disaster nursing. They said it’s important for nurses to understand the stories of vulnerable patients and how their experiences influence their behaviour.
“Canadian culture is so diverse. There are people here from all over the world,” Heaslip said. “So there’s an opportunity for students who may never go global, but can act local and get involved in community organizations or a nursing project where they are supporting refugees, immigrants, women and vulnerable children.”
Heaslip and McKenzie teamed up to create the award to ease some of the financial strain for students with these interests, maybe even making it possible for them to go on a global exchange. Ideal candidates for the $800 award will be those working toward achieving the TRU Global Competency Certification or attending an international or study abroad experience.
The Wendy McKenzie and Penelope Heaslip Nursing Award will be presented for the first time in fall 2019.
Women can face all kinds of hurdles as they look to further their education, especially if they have children. The cost of daycare, food, rent and tuition can seem insurmountable.
The RBC Foundation has committed $700,000 to support women taking trades program at TRU – the largest donation the bank has made in BC outside of the Lower Mainland.
That funding will be divided among several programs, including bursaries, volunteer mentor training and a mentorship co-ordinator for women in trades.
The bank’s financial support made trades training possible for Kayla Goertzen, a married mother of three, including a daughter with a chronic illness. Her husband has health problems that make it difficult for him to work steadily, so she turned to trades training to provide their family with financial stability.
“This support from RBC is going to make sure I can help provide for our family. A steady job in a skilled trade is going to make all the difference for our family,” said the foundation piping student.
“My biggest setback has always been time. There just isn’t enough time in the day to be a mom, a student, support our family, and get a little sleep. I’ve tried to do it all, but my kids were first to let me know that it wasn’t working out. My boss was the second to tell me when I fell asleep on my feet.
“Now, thanks to RBC, I don’t have to sacrifice any more. I can concentrate on what is important: my family and bettering our future. But RBC isn’t just helping me out, they are helping many other women in their trades journey and in turn, making great strides for equality of men and women in the Canadian trades industry.”
Graham MacLachlan, RBC’s regional president for BC, said skilled tradespeople are in great demand all across Canada. The RBC Women in Trades Training Program helps women overcome financial barriers to training for a new career while addressing a critical skills gap in BC.
“Trades training at TRU is one of our traditional foundations and an integral part of how this university serves the needs of the province,” said Alan Shaver, TRU President and Vice-Chancellor. “This gift to TRU’s Foundation Trades program will build the economic capacity of women, thus improving their lives, the lives of their families and their communities.”