Honouring Black History Month 2024

Tribute honours Ontario’s first Black director of public health
Wednesday, February 28, 2024 - 09:55

Young Lillie Johnson in Canada

Ontario’s first Black director of public health, Lillie Johnson, attributes perseverance and compassionate care for advancing the nursing profession.

As the Faculty of Nursing concludes its journey through its Black History Month feature series, the spotlight shifts to Lillie Johnson, a trailblazing figure whose impact resonates in Canadian health care.

Born in Jamaica in 1922, Johnson received nursing and midwifery training in her home country and the United Kingdom. She immigrated to Canada in 1960, where she continued her pursuit of excellence in health care.

Johnson earned her BScN from the University of Toronto and became the first Black director of public health in Ontario in the Leeds-Grenville and Lanark district, a community located near Ottawa.

In 1981, Johnson’s advocacy and compassion led her to establish the Sickle Cell Association of Ontario, which aimed at supporting individuals grappling with sickle cell disease — a life-altering genetic blood disorder characterized by abnormal hemoglobin, leading to chronic pain and various complications. In 2006, the association successfully lobbied the government to include the disease in the newborn screening list to ensure early treatment for affected babies and reduce the risk of serious infections.

Throughout her career, Johnson’s dedication garnered widespread recognition and acclaim. She has been honoured with multiple awards, including the Toronto Public Health Champion Award, the Black Health Alliance Legacy Award, and the Order of Ontario, a testament to her enduring impact and perseverance to advancing health-care excellence.

Her commitment to the nursing profession inspired Black Canadian women and fostered increased representation, creating opportunities for Black individuals to attain positions of leadership and influence within the health-care sector.

For her 100th birthday, the Lillie Johnson Excellence in Nursing Award was launched in 2022 to celebrate her legacy by honouring nurses who exemplify compassionate care and advocacy.

As we reflect on her journey, we pay tribute to Lillie Johnson, a nursing pioneer whose legacy continues to inspire future generations in the health-care community.

Find more information on Lillie Johnson and the Lillie Johnson Excellence in Nursing Award.

- Aishwaria Baskar

Nursing alumna pays it forward as health-care inequities expert
Wednesday, February 21, 2024 - 09:26

Bukola Salami profile photo

Bukola Salami’s transformative journey from neuroscience to nursing underscores her dedication to improving healthcare access and delivery for Black, migrant, and underserved populations.

During Black History Month, the Faculty of Nursing is featuring pioneers and difference-makers in the profession, past and present.

Bukola Salami

A famous author and minister once said, "Change your thoughts and you change your world."

That mindset resonates with UWindsor nursing alumna Bukola Salami (BScN 2004). Dr. Salami recalls events that led her to a different and rewarding career path in health sciences.

While still at high school in Toronto in 1998, she remembers job shadowing a nurse during a Black youth mentorship program, an experience that would prove pivotal in her life’s work.

With aspirations of attending medical school, Salami applied for neuroscience and received offers from universities.

“But I kept thinking about that mentorship,” she says. “It was instrumental in my decision to move from neuroscience to nursing and that’s when I enrolled at UWindsor.”

Salami credits her professors and student support services for empowering her to excel academically. While living in residence, she met colleagues who shared similar challenges adjusting to university life; Salami learned to appreciate the value of compassion and how reciprocating help allows a person to experience fulfilment and growth as a human being.

“It paved the way for me, and I had always thought that after I was done, I would help others by paving the way for someone else.”
Today, most of her nursing practice, research, and advocacy, focusses on improving health-care access and delivery for Black, migrant, and underserved peoples, especially among the younger population.

Salami’s notable accomplishments include:

  • assisting in the creation of western Canada’s first mental health clinic for Black Canadian youths
  • providing expert testimonial to the House of Commons standing committee involving child health in Canada
  • establishing a Black Youth Mentorship and Leadership program
  • founding the African Child and Youth Migration Research (global) Network

Salami has also held several national advisory board positions and has been inducted into Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame as one of the youngest racialized representatives to receive this top international honour. She was also appointed Fellow of the Canadian Academy and American Academy of Nursing.

Salami is committed to continuing her passion for advocacy and offering expert counsel. Her goal is to influence societal perspectives and policymakers to address healthcare inequities, particularly in a rapidly evolving and, at times, tumultuous environment where the most vulnerable are at risk.

- Gam Macasaet

Study aims to rehab stroke rehabilitation programs
Tuesday, February 13, 2024 - 14:16

Dr. Eric Tanlaka at his office desk having a conversation

Eric Tanlaka's research on the role of nurses in stroke rehabilitation seeks to enhance job fulfillment while bringing about changes to Ontario’s nursing curriculum.

During Black History Month, the Faculty of Nursing is featuring pioneers and difference-makers in the profession, past and present.

Eric Tanlaka

Nursing professor Eric Tanlaka is part of a research team examining the role of nurses in stroke rehabilitation with the goal of improving job equity and augmenting Ontario’s nursing curriculum.

Funded by the Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario, the multi-phase research project reveals that hospital nurses performing functions in stroke rehabilitation units are not factored into the measurement of stroke rehabilitation outcomes — measurable results or effects that are assessed to determine the impact of a particular treatment or health-care action.

According to the study, while patients are in rehabilitation, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists are key members whose services are measured in such outcomes. However, nurses also play a critical role, spending the most time with patients and providing comprehensive care throughout their recovery process.

“Nurses are pivotal members of interprofessional stroke rehabilitation teams,” says Dr. Tanlaka. “Yet their role is not clearly defined, and their contributions are not documented and recognized.”

Tanlaka says that nurses exhibit wide-ranging expertise and hands-on involvement within stroke rehabilitation units. While some nurses have expressed a need for further education and training in this field, others have highlighted their proficiency and experience, but perceive themselves as unequal contributors to the stroke patient’s rehabilitation program.

Increased job equity would also generate opportunities for leadership and management roles, allowing for a more diverse career path and greater job fulfillment.

Tanlaka’s goal is to lay a foundation for developing competencies for stroke rehabilitation and have them incorporated into Ontario’s university-level nursing curriculum.

“By standardizing education in this field of nursing, we can empower future nurses with knowledge, skills, abilities, and confidence when they enter the workforce,” says Tanlaka. “In the end, patient care is enhanced while nurses providing that care feel more valued, respected, and connected to their stroke rehabilitation units.”

More information can be found in Tanlaka’s article, “The Role and Contributions of Nurses in Stroke Rehabilitation Units: An Integrative Review”.

- Gam Macasaet

Breaking boundaries: Canada's first Black public health nurse
Friday, February 2, 2024 - 11:34

Historical photo of publich health nurse Bernice Redmon

Bernice Redmon broke barriers as Canada’s first Black public health nurse and first Black nurse to be appointed into Victorian Order of Nurses in Canada. Photo courtesy of www.bernicecarnegie.com/carnegie-family

February marks Black History Month across Canada. To honour the legacy of Black communities, the Faculty of Nursing is featuring nursing pioneers and difference-makers, past and present. We will share their history, successes, sacrifices, and victories.

Bernice Redmon

Born Bernice Isobel Carnegie in Toronto in 1917, Bernice Redmon would become a trailblazer in nursing by breaking barriers as a Black Canadian nurse.

Redmon aspired to be a nurse. However, during the 1940s, Black women were denied admission to Canadian nursing schools. Undeterred, Redmon pursued her nursing education in the United States at St. Phillip Hospital Medical College in Virginia. She graduated with a registered nursing degree three years later. Redmon earned a scholarship to continue her studies and went on to receive an additional degree in public health nursing.

After returning to Canada in 1945, Redmon began her career in Sydney, Nova Scotia. At the Nova Scotia Department of Health, she became the first Black nurse to practise in public health.

Her dedication and passion for patient care led to her appointment to the Victorian Order of Nurses in Canada, making her the first Black nurse to achieve this honour.

St. Phillip Hospital Medical College in Virginia

Bernice Redmon stands in front of St. Phillip Hospital Medical College in Virginia, U.S.A., 1942.

Bernice Redmon in nursing graduation photo

Bernice Redmon in her nursing graduation photo, 1945.

Bernice Redmon stands on steps smiling after being appointed to Victorian Order of Nurses in Canda

All smiles for Bernice Redmon after being appointed to Victorian Order of Nurses in Canada, n.d.

Her contributions and accomplishments inspired organizations to advocate for equality for Black Canadians in health-care education and in the workplace. By the late 1940s and 1950s, more Black women began to be employed in Ontario hospitals, opening the door for nursing education in Canadian schools.

For more information on Bernice Redmon and the Carnegie family, please visit www.bernicecarnegie.com/carnegie-family.

To learn more about The Carnegie Initiative, please visit carnegieinitiative.com.

– Gam Macasaet