Christmas came early for health care professional Mary Glavassevich when she found out just before the holidays that she was among 90 University of Toronto alumni honoured by the Lawrence Bloomburg Faculty of Nursing which celebrated its 90th anniversary last year.
The Montserrat-born Sunnybrook Health Science Centre patient care manager is included in the notable list of nurses honoured for each of the past nine decades. She completed her Masters at the university in 1995.
“To be named to this distinguished honour roll is quite noteworthy,” acknowledged the Montserrat Association of Toronto vice-president and Sunnybrook’s 2009 Leo Steven leadership award winner. “It’s sort of bitter sweet because I was the only Black in my classes in the three years I spent at the U of T and that was very disturbing for me. It’s for that reason that I have made a commitment to volunteer in schools and help Grade 11 students choose a career path. I believe that too many of our children are not pointed in academic streams.”
Glavassevich left Montserrat at age 19 to pursue nursing studies in England. She completed her registered nurse training in Blackburn, Lancashire and did her midwifery training in Scotland before migrating to Canada where she spent her first year working as a staff nurse in Thunder Bay. She joined Sunnybrook in 1968 as a surgical unit staff nurse and was promoted to patient care manager six years later.
In pursuit of higher education, Glavassevich completed her Bachelor’s at York University in 1990 and a Masters of Nursing at the U of T five years later. She has also pursued several developmental courses, including the Schulich Advanced Leadership course and she has a clinical appointment at the U of T.
Glavassevich was presented with the Canadian Association of Nurses in Oncology Leadership award in 2005, and three years later she was part of an award-winning team that did a qualitative exploration of the experiences of families caring for loved ones with advanced ovarian cancer.
She has also been involved in other research projects, made important presentations in Canada and overseas, revised the Bachelor of Arts curriculum at York University’s Atkinson College, fundraised to assist nurses from developing countries to attend a major cancer conference in Toronto two years ago and mentored many nurses and other medical staff.
On an invitation from Chief Minister Reuben Meade, Glavassevich spent two weeks in Montserrat last November presenting cancer screening and prevention workshops.
Late Barbados Governor General Dame Nita Barrow and Dr. Elizabeth Carnegie, a sister-in-law of Canadian hockey legend Dr. Herb Carnegie, also made the notable list. They were among foreign nurses offered Rockefeller Foundation scholarships between 1924-1955 to study nursing at the U of T.
Barrow came here on a public health scholarship in 1943 and presented a brilliant valedictorian speech that prompted the foundation to present her with a second scholarship – this time for nursing – on the spot.
After her second year at the U of T, the foundation sent her to Jamaica to help develop and oversee public health nursing and later establish public health nursing education in that island.
Barrow also introduced nursing at the then newly founded University College of the West Indies (now the University of the West Indies), served as president of the Jamaica Nurses Association and was Jamaica’s first nursing officer.
In 1997, the U of T’s Centre for Women Studies in Education and the Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology established the Dame Nita Barrow Distinguished Visitorship.
American-born Carnegie, a classmate of Barrow who passed away in 1995 at age 79, arrived on the U of T campus in 1944 as a nursing school administration student. Soon after her arrival, she met and married the late Eric Carnegie. The union lasted a decade.
Carnegie was introduced to her husband by his sister, the late Bernice Carnegie, who was denied the opportunity to pursue nursing in Canada at the time because of her skin colour. She completed her studies in West Virginia.
Dr. Carnegie used her education to care for a culturally diverse patient population while participating in many professional organizations, exploring the history and role of Black nurses and promoting educational opportunities for them. She died in February 2008 at the age of 92.
Lawrence Bloomburg Faculty of Nursing dean Dr. Sioban Nelson said the 90 notable alumni have made incredible contributions to the development of health care, practice and the profession in Canada and other parts of the world.
“Our 90 years of alumni have included nurses who began public health nursing in this country, nurses who pioneered the advance practice movement, researchers who established entirely new fields of study and have made major contributions to practice and patient outcomes, gifted and inspirational teachers and outstanding leaders from the international stage to the local community,” she said.
Nelson said selection was based on input from a number of key and respected sources, including deans and faculty emeritus.