By RON FANFAIR
Nearly three decades ago, Clotilda Yakimchuk was part of a committee that vigorously lobbied for a nursing degree program at Cape Breton University (CBU).
The program admitted its first class three years ago and last Saturday the university conferred Yakimchuk – who in 1954 became the first Black graduate of the Nova Scotia Hospital of Nursing – with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
“This is quite an honour and it’s truly special because it comes from a local university that represents the community in which I grew up,” a proud Yakimchuk told Share. “Over the years, I have watched the growth and expansion of CBU and it meant a lot to me to have a professor from the Faculty of Nursing read my citation.
“I think I’ve learned from my mother and father the importance of contributing to your own community, that you’re not only here for yourself to get whatever you can, but to try and share and try and solve issues that arise in the community and see what you can do about them. I like to be part of the resolution, to get things accomplished. I’ve always done that and I hope I never stop doing it. “
In a distinguished 40-year nursing career, the well respected Yakimchuk was the head nurse in the Nova Scotia Hospital admissions unit, the director of Nursing at Grenada’s Psychiatric Hospital where she expanded the outpatient psychiatric unit, staff nurse at the Sydney, Nova Scotia hospital, nursing supervisor and the first director of staff development and the director of education services at Cape Breton Regional Hospital.
After retiring in 1994, she contributed her vast knowledge and expertise in the field of mental health to the development of the community residential workers program at the Nova Scotia Community College Marconi campus. The Nova Scotia Department of Community Services recognized the program by adopting it as the minimum standard of care for residential services in the province.
Born and raised in Whitney Pier, Yakimchuk has the distinction of being the only Black to hold the presidency of the Registered Nurses Association of Nova Scotia. She’s also the president of the Cape Breton Council of Senior Citizens and Pensioners and a founding president of the Black Community Development Organization that seeks to provide affordable housing in low-income communities.
The 1991 Harry Jerome Community Service award and 2003 Order of Canada recipient was also instrumental in the compilation of “Reflections of Care: A 100 Years of Caring” which tells the stories of Cape Breton nurses who graduated from the hospital-based school of nursing. Proceeds from the sale of the book go towards bursaries for CBU nurses’ endowment fund.