2020 Council of Ontario University Programs in Nursing (COUPN) Awards
May 15, 2020

The training of thousands of high-quality health professionals is crucial to strong and accessible health care in our province. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic the importance of dedicated nurses and other healthcare providers is appreciated now more than ever.

As we celebrate #NationalNursingWeek and the nurses across the province who are keeping us safe as the world works together to recover from COVID-19, the Council of Ontario University Programs in Nursing (COUPN) is also recognizing some of Ontario’s most outstanding nursing educators and students, highlighting their excellence in patient care and their critical role in strengthening the province’s health-care system.

Faculty members, researchers, students and mentors are among the seven recipients of the 2020 Council of Ontario University Programs in Nursing (COUPN) Awards for excellence in nursing education and scholarship.

This year’s awards, the thirteenth annual, honour innovation in hands-on nursing education, research into improved transgendered care for patients and commitment to mentoring, among other achievements.

“Nurses across the province are the cornerstone of patient-centred health care in Ontario, especially during these challenging times,” said David Lindsay, President and CEO of the Council of Ontario Universities. “These highly dedicated nursing students, their faculty and their institutions play an important role in contributing to Ontario’s health-care system and we are proud to recognize their achievements.”

“Ontario’s nurses, nurse educators, and researchers work tirelessly each day to improve patient care. Particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is an honour to highlight the extraordinary achievements of this year’s recipients,” said Dr. Linda Johnston, COUPN Chair.

More than 10,000 students graduate from health programs at Ontario universities each year, including nearly 4,500 nurses.

See below for a description of this year’s winners and their achievements.

Clinical Instructor Award
Stamatina Romas, Brock University

Stamatina Romas has been described by colleagues as “a superlative example of an outstanding clinical instructor with the requisite attributes of knowledge, inspiration, compassion and clinical excellence that she whole heartedly shares with each and every nursing student that she encounters.”

Working as a clinical instructor for over 10 years in the Department of Nursing at Brock University, Stamatina creates a dynamic and safe learning environment where students thrive and follow her lead to use evidence-based nursing knowledge to provide empathic, competent and safe care to their clients. By entering into a co-reciprocal learning relationship with the student, she demonstrates a level of inquisitiveness which results in mutual respect and learning with, and from each other.

Stamatina will undertake a Master’s program in Nursing starting in the fall of 2020, where she will be the first author on a systematic review examining the role of clinical nursing instructors.

Excellence in Teaching Award
Dr. Lynn McCleary, Brock University

Through education, research, and dedicated service, Dr. Lynn McCleary has helped develop new nurses who are exceedingly knowledgeable, passionate and competent in the field of gerontological nursing. She is described by her peers as “a leader in nursing education and scholarship, where daily demonstrations of excellence in teaching stimulates students to think creatively and critically.”

With an “enigmatic and enthusiastic presence in the classroom,” Dr. McCleary engages her students and makes the content come alive with use of narrative stories, art, and media. She stimulates thoughtful discussions so the content is not only relayed to students, but also fully absorbed.

With a teaching vision that extends beyond the classroom environment, Dr. McCleary integrates student involvement within both the research and academic worlds, encouraging her students with their volunteer outreach efforts, and engaging them to work within her program of research whenever she can.

Preceptor Recognition Award
Heather Finn, Trent University

Heather Finn is described by her students as “an embodiment of knowledge-based practice,” applying unique teaching styles based on the needs of the individual learner. A compassionate and encouraging supervisor, she helps her students be the best nurses they can, while emphasizing and modelling the importance of both client and nurse safety.

One of her students has this to say about her experience with Heather as her preceptor: “Heather Finn was patient, kind, approachable and ever willing to answer questions I had brought to her about patient behaviour. When I was overwhelmed due to the pressure of caring for my 8-month-old baby, family and my schoolwork, she would always ask me to look ahead and be proud of my achievements, because I was close to the finishing point. She always assured me that she was available to talk to should I be having a bad day.”

An outstanding team member and teacher, Heather exemplifies excellence in both nursing expertise and hands-on care.

Scholarship into Practice Award
Dr. Craig Dale, University of Toronto

With expertise in the under-investigated field of critical care and oral health, Dr. Craig Dale’s research is improving outcomes in the care of critically ill adults.

A highly accomplished and productive researcher, Dr. Dale’s research has demonstrated significant mortality and morbidity associated with current oral hygiene practices. To address this adverse outcome, he is conducting large-scale studies to assess and evaluate alternative approaches to oral care for mechanically ventilated patients.

Described by his peers as “an exceptionally talented and inspired scholar,” Dr. Craig Dale seeks to conduct research that has direct application to the improvement of health care delivery and patient outcomes. His impact on scholarship in practice, is further extended through the use of his research in his teaching, where he has assumed leadership in the design and delivery of the qualitative research course for Nurse Practitioner students in the University of Toronto’s Masters of Nursing Program.

Dr. Dale obtained both his doctorate from the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing in 2013 and post-doctoral fellowship, completed in 2015.

Award for Strategic Contribution to Nursing Education
Dr. Barbara Mildon – Community Care Health & Care Network

A life-long learner, Dr. Barbara Mildon’s graduate education includes a PhD in nursing from the University of Toronto. Dr. Mildon has a long record of service to provincial and national nursing organizations including serving as CNA’s president from 2012-2014.

Dr. Mildon is grateful to the many nursing professors who opened the world of nursing to her. She has often said that nursing educators instill a vision for professional nursing practice in their students that guides and inspires them throughout their career. She is honoured to receive this meaningful award.

Master’s Student Award of Excellence
Kathryn Allwright, Queen’s University

Kathryn Allwright has demonstrated extraordinary passion and remarkable commitment to promoting health and wellness within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning, and intersex and two-spirit communities.

A graduate from the Queen’s University Master’s of Nursing Science program in the spring of 2019, Kathryn’s thesis focused on how nurses create positive spaces within

public health settings. Her study, described as “incredibly ambitious” by her thesis supervisor, involved modifying the Ontario Public Health Association’s personal and workplace assessment tools for sexually and gender diverse positive spaces with a focus on cultural humility.

The impact of this high-quality work is noteworthy as it is increasingly being recognized that healthcare practitioners need to create safe spaces for LGBTQI2S+ patients, free from discrimination and marginalization.

Kathryn’s research has been published in a peer reviewed public health nursing journal, with a second manuscript currently under review at the Canadian Journal of Public Health.

Doctoral Dissertation Award
Dr. Erin Ziegler, Ryerson University

Dr. Erin Ziegler’s doctoral work on how primary care is delivered to transgender individuals in Ontario, through an interdisciplinary lens, with a focus on nursing roles, is helping address various gaps in the literature, research, and in primary care when it comes to this often-marginalized group. She has been described as a “tireless advocate for the transgender population and their access to high-quality, relevant and respectful health care.”

Her thesis, which she defended at McMaster University, demonstrates the key role of nurses in the provision of high-quality, relevant care. Through this work, she has made a number of key policy recommendations concerning primary care and the role of nurses.

Dr. Ziegler currently teaches in the undergraduate and graduate programs at Ryerson University, including in the Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner Program. She is a well-respected instructor in the classroom and at the teaching bedside, seamlessly integrating her significant clinical experience and research expertise into every learning experience.