Ken and Sheila McArthur

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Giving Back to the Next Century:

Philanthropic Couple Supports a New Generation of Nurse Practitioners

Ken and Sheila McArthur

Shallow breathing, fever, fingertips that turn blue. Pneumonia can be frightening at any age, but Ken McArthur’s lungs had turned infectious not once but twice—before the age of six. “Without my mother’s dedication,” he says, “I’m not sure I would be here today.”

Photo by Martin Dee


In his eighties now, Ken speaks reverently of his mother, Elizabeth McArthur. In 1917, she graduated from the Calgary General Hospital School of Nursing, before working in an Alberta county hospital. She was not only a highly skilled nurse, Ken says, but also “the strongest, most independent woman I have ever met.”

Sheila and Ken McArthur recently chose to honour her memory with a gift to UBC. As part of that generous one million dollar donation—one half of which will be directed to the Sauder School of Business, Ken’s alma mater, and the other to the UBC School of Nursing—the couple has created the Elizabeth McArthur Memorial Bursary in Nursing. The remainder will support the Ken and Sheila McArthur Fund in Gerontological Research.

Interestingly, the gift falls on the Centenary, the 100th anniversary of the UBC School of Nursing. And, in another coincidence, the doors of the school opened in 1919, just two years after Elizabeth McArthur’s graduation.

“At my age, you think back on your life, you reflect,” Ken says. “My mother was a supportive person, and we wanted to acknowledge her, fundamentally, for that reason.”

Ken’s life began in Burnaby and Sheila’s in nearby New Westminster. After graduating from Simon Fraser University, Sheila moved to Montreal, Quebec with her teaching degree in hand, but her lack of bilingual status kept her from the classroom; she quickly found rewarding work, though, at the Westmount Library in the children’s department. Ken, meanwhile, followed his graduation from UBC with a career in finance, eventually assuming the role of Senior VP of Nesbitt Thomson Inc. and CEO of Shurway Capital Corp., his own private investment company.

“I’ve learned that it’s much easier for business schools to attract donations than nursing schools,” says Ken. “And I am biased towards supporting things that are underfinanced. That seems to be one of my personality quirks.”

With Canada’s aging population expected to double in the next 25 years—a segment that, in just seven years, will comprise one-quarter of the population—the expertise of Nurse practitioners (NP) is needed more than ever. The province has been, until recently, slow to bring NPs into the healthcare system. While Ontario has, according to the BC government, only 20 NPs for every 100,000 people, and the Prairie and Atlantic Provinces 16, BC has even fewer: only 8 per 100,000. Recognizing this shortage, the BC government has funded 200 new Masters of Nursing-Nurse Practitioner (MN-NP) positions, including 15 for UBC.

While this is certainly promising for nursing grads, student costs—escalating Vancouver rent, sky-high tuition rates—have risen to $30,000 per year, which may dissuade even the keenest, most qualified students from leaving full-time jobs to earn their Master’s degree. The Elizabeth McArthur Memorial Bursary in Nursing, however, will alleviate some of that financial queasiness by providing recipients of the endowed award with $12,000 per year in perpetuity.

“Without these bursaries, some of our most talented nurses would be unable to pursue the advanced education to become NPs,” says Elizabeth Saewyc, Director of the UBC School of Nursing. “And Canadians would miss out on extraordinary NPs who can provide expert primary health care for people of all ages.”

The dearth of NPs isn’t the only issue related to Canada’s aging population that concerns the McArthurs. Having made lifelong donations to researchers who study everything from Arthritis and brain health to Alzheimer’s and juvenile diabetes (a condition that runs in the McArthur family), the couple has also devoted a portion of their recent UBC donation to gerontological research. And the gift is admirably open-ended: The Ken and Sheila McArthur Fund in Gerontological Research will support Masters and PhD students undertaking a range of gerontological nursing studies.

“It’s actually hard to pick a disease (to fund), and so we thought of things whose end date we couldn’t anticipate,” Ken says. “I’ve learned that trying to predict the future isn’t easy.”

The couple divides their time between Florida and their home on Bowen Island, in Howe Sound. Eight years ago the couple fell for the latter locale, although it lacks a healthcare centre, unlike Galiano Island, an adjacent island near Victoria with a similar demographic. “Unfortunately, 24-hour emergency services aren’t available,” says Sheila. “So if someone needs stitches or breaks an arm they must take the water taxi to Vancouver.” And so the McArthurs are supporting the proposal—and hopefully construction—of a healthcare centre on Bowen Island. Having spent their lives in cities like Montreal and New York, they took healthcare for granted, the couple says, until they moved to a rural area.

It was a rural area, actually, to which Elizabeth, Ken’s mother, moved to pursue her nursing career over 100 years ago. After she married, though, she and Ken’s father moved to the city of Vancouver and Elizabeth left nursing. “It was a long time ago, and my mother,” Ken says, “followed the traditional role of looking after her family. It was a very different world back then.”

Undoubtedly, Elizabeth McArthur would be surprised to have an endowment at a nursing school named after her. “Yes, she would be surprised,” says her son, “but I think she would also be grateful.”

Read a further article on the McArthurs at the Sauder School of Business site.

Systems Change

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Systems Change

Envisioning a Canada Beyond Prohibition

Imagine a future where people have access to a safe and regulated supply of substances. That was the vision of about 300 people who attended a free public forum on “new models for drug policy grounded in compassion, human rights, and public health,” held at the SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts on Hastings Street in Vancouver on May 15, 2019.

The event was co-sponsored by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, BCCDC Foundation for Public Health, the Community Action Initiative, and SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement. It was organized by the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition and the UBC School of Nursing.

Garth Mullins, activist, award-winning broadcaster, and member of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, moderated a panel consisting of Steve Rolles, Senior Policy Analyst at the Transform Drug Policy Foundation (UK); Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto; Suzanne Fraser, Professor of Public Health at Curtin University (Australia); and Zara Snapp, Co-founder of the Instituto RIA (Mexico).

The event was part of a four-day International Research Roundtable at Peter Wall Institute (UBC) that brought together global experts, including people with lived experience of drug use, to strategize about how to create a system for the legal regulation of currently illegal drugs in Canada. Of highest importance to the Canadian context is the immediate provision of a safe supply of drugs to address the overdose crisis—or what the panel organizers term the “drug policy crisis” to draw attention to the bad policy that is at the root of the over 10,000 deaths that have occurred in Canada since 2016.

Panelists considered what they hope will be a not-too-distant future, to frame a discussion about what the next steps would be after ending prohibition, such as how to implement a safe supply, and what “decriminalization” means.

Garth Mullens is the founder of the podcast Crackdown, which recorded the full event. A link to the 1.5 hour podcast can be found here:

Vivian Lucas

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Vivian Lucas – A Portrait in Giving

Photo by Martin Dee


As a UBC Nursing alumna and retired nurse, Vivian Lucas is passionate about the value of education over training, so she created the Vivian Lucas Scholarship in Acute Care Nursing. The scholarship is offered to student nurses who have demonstrated excellent communication, leadership and adaptability—especially those with an interest in, and aptitude for, acute care nursing. One of our favourite “friends of the school,” Vivian answered a few questions about her experiences in giving, with a view to encouraging others to do the same.

You graduated from UBC’s School of Nursing in 1967 and have been a proud alumna since. Why has it been important for you to stay connected and engaged with the School since that time?

I like to keep track of what is going on so I can still feel part of nursing when I am in retirement. I had a great education at UBC and it is gratifying to see how things have progressed with the school.

You have also been a loyal, annual donor to the School for close to 15 years now. Thank you! Was there a special memory or a pivotal moment in your experience with UBC that inspired you to make your first gift to the School of Nursing?

I had a sudden illumination several years ago that the government was going to get a lot of my money after I died unless I made provisions NOW to divert money elsewhere.

A few years ago, you decided to increase your support by establishing the Vivian Lucas Scholarship in Acute Care Nursing to provide for generations of nursing students in perpetuity. Why was this such a meaningful opportunity to you?

Being a student at UBC now is not an inexpensive proposition. It would be a shame if worthy students could not be educated in nursing simply because they lack the requisite funds. Lots of other faculties have lots of money put forward to help their students and I think nursing should  support its students in the same fashion. The bursaries and financial help that I received when I was an undergraduate were very helpful. In the early years of my donation, I just gave to general UBC funds, but I soon came to the realization that it would be better to direct monies more specifically to areas of interest.

Have you been in contact with any of the student recipients of your scholarship?

As far as I know the scholarship has been awarded twice to date and each time the recipients have sent me an appreciative letter. I have not met with them personally. I prefer to keep the contact in a more private manner.

As you know, the School is currently celebrating our milestone 100th anniversary during 2019. You made a most generous donation of $100,000 to the School at the beginning of our 100th year. You have said that you consider yourself to be a “typical person” so could you please share your creative approaches to how you made this significant donation?

I was fortunate to come into a bit of money in 2018 and so I thought I needed to share it with my scholarship fund, which was kind of small at that point. I wanted the student awarded the scholarship to receive a more significant amount, especially in view of the expensive nature of university education which I have noted above. It’s easy to cut a cheque for say, $100 without much thought. This donation required more thought and planning, which is a good thing. Nursing is about thinking, planning and feeling after all. There are also significant tax benefits to making charitable gifts to UBC.

I understand that you have encouraged other nursing alumni to consider making donations to the school both in the present day and also with a gift in their will. Why do you feel that both of these avenues for giving are important?

It’s nice to give NOW and see how people are helped in the now. It also helps with estate planning. Of course I don’t have children so estate planning and income tax angles are important to me. At our 50th UBC reunion in 2017 I did encourage my classmates to contribute to the fund.

What would you like to say to nursing alumni and friends of the School to inspire people to join you in making meaningful donations during this 100th celebration?

Remember your education and your colleagues and what you gained from UBC and how the education  you received there helped your career. Share a little more than you normally would in celebration of 100 years done and 100 years to come. Give something that you have thought carefully about and which is truly meaningful to you. Nursing should be in the forefront of health care.


If reading Vivian’s story has inspired you to explore your own passions and opportunities for supporting UBC, please contact Darya Sawycky in UBC’s Gift & Estate Planning office by phone at 604.827.2973 or by email at

Ethel Johns

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Ethel Johns:

National Person of Historical Significance


In February of 2015, Canada’s National Parks Board presented the School of Nursing with a plaque dedicated to Ethel Johns. One hundred years after she accepted the dual role as Head of the Department of Nursing and Superintendent of Nursing at the Vancouver General Hospital, Miss Johns’ plaque was erected on the path between the UBC Hospital and the Health Sciences Mall. On February 26, 2019, the official unveiling revealed the culmination of twelve years’ hard work by a committed group of historians, emeriti, faculty, staff, and friends of the School. Well-wishers gathered with the motivators of this honour for a brief unveiling, photographs, and refreshments.

Bright sun and a gentle breeze enhanced the unveiling as current director, Elizabeth Saewyc, revealed the plaque to a cluster of onlookers. Photo: Nicolas El Haïk-Wagner

Representatives from a broad spectrum of the nursing/history community join celebrations. L to R: Shelagh Smith, Nan Martin, Lenore Radom, Sally Thorne, Fuchsia Howard, Suzanne Campbell, Francis Mansbridge, Kathy Murphy, Elizabeth Saewyc, Cathy Ebbehoj, Wendy Hall, and Ellen Siu. Photo: Nicolas El Haïk-Wagner

History of Nursing Symposium 2019

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History of Nursing Symposium 2019

100 Years of University Nursing Education at UBC

Keynote speaker Dr Susan Duncan, Professor and Director, School of Nursing, UVic

Ranjit Dhari and Frances Affleck present on “Wellness Wednesdays.”

Guests visit displays including a book table staffed by UBC Press.

Looking Back and Looking Forward


“Do you think we can rest satisfied with what we have? It is good, yes, but not good enough. Now what are we nurses going to do about it?” This is the question posed in 1919 by UBC School of Nursing’s first Director Ethel Johns in an address to staff and pupils at Vancouver General Hospital. Dr Susan Duncan, Professor and Director at the University of Victoria School of Nursing, offered this quote in the conclusion of her keynote address and it resonated throughout the daylong History Symposium that the School’s Consortium for Nursing History Inquiry convened on March 14, 2019. Sixty participants sought to “look back and look forward” at the 100 years of university nursing education at UBC in the delightful setting of UBC’s Cecil Green Park House.

UBC alumna Dr Duncan opened the symposium with some critical reflections on the legacy of Ethel Johns and other leaders of nursing education and with the conviction that history may enlighten current issues and debates in public health nursing. As the themes of knowledge, leadership, and social accountability that have historically shaped the nursing curriculum continue to resound with nursing education today, Dr Duncan called for a more vocal advocacy in favour of the BSN program and for the voice of nurses to be stronger in media. Increasingly moving towards social justice-oriented education and practices, drawing on feminist and postcolonial critical perspectives, and learning from Indigenous perspectives may be steps to include in defining a common agenda for Canadian nurses in the twenty-first century.

In the panel that followed, a number of former and current faculty members shared their experiences and reflections about nursing knowledge and practice. Professor Emerita Dr Joan Anderson discussed the culture of scholarship in the 1980s. She showed how both qualitative and quantitative paradigms developed into legitimate methods of scientific inquiry. Drawing on life stories, obtained through ethnographic research, she sought to better understand the social determinants of health and how the sociocultural context shapes the context of suffering. These new theoretical developments were a response to a new immigration and multicultural context and to a shared conviction about the need to provide equitable health care to everyone. This philosophy also informed the theorization of UBC Model of Nursing, which was the subject of Dr Geertje Boschma’s presentation. In her comments, Dr Boschma developed the context within which nursing laid claim to the cultural rules governing science, research, and theory development, and highlighted the need not only to understand the “what” of behaviours, but also the “how,” as well as the essential subjective meaning humans attach to critical periods of their lives.

The next presentation took up this theme and expanded on learning from clients’ lived experiences and resilience in a description of Wellness Wednesdays. This initiative was developed within the context of the Primary Health Care Course. In their presentation, UBC Clinical Associate Frances Affleck and UBC Instructor Ranjit Dhari showed how this innovative program offers students an opportunity to provide general health information to underprivileged communities. “It helped me to humanize these communities we learn about theoretically,” one of the BSN students explained.

Students were at the heart of the workday experiences of Marion Clauson, Senior Instructor Emerita and nurse educator for almost 40 years. She offered her perspectives on the evolution of nursing education from the 1970s to the present, expanding on her involvements in hospital, college, and university-based programs. She recounted how developments in clinical learning helped her become a “guide on the side rather than the sage on the stage for students.” The development of distance and online learning further fostered this learner-centred approach in Canadian nursing education. Sheila J. Rankin Zerr, who was involved in teaching complete computer-based courses at UBC in the 1990s, and PhD Candidate Catherine Haney reviewed these pedagogical strategies in a stirring presentation. Sheila recounted how she shared the development of a comprehensive national television teaching and learning initiative from the 1980s, while Catherine reflected on the student-centred and multisensorial aspect of these developments.

Passion was a recurring theme on everyone’s lips, and it is indeed with a renewed enthusiasm and determination that our panelists and guests will continue crafting a plan for today and tomorrow’s nursing education.

Nicolas El Haïk-Wagner

Nursing archivists Francis Mansbridge and Nan Martin chat with Tassia Teles S. de Macedo, PhD Student (UVic).

Dawn Tisdale has a question for the keynote speaker.


Centenary Gala

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Centenary Gala

A Special Evening for Special People

Elder Roberta Price, Medal of Distinction Awardee. Photos by Martin Dee.


The Honourable Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education and Training

“We really set the bar!” Elizabeth Saewyc announced, after hosting the School of Nursing’s Centenary Gala on May 2, 2019. The sold-out event had received the generous support of the Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science, James Olson, and benefited from the enthusiastic presence of UBC’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Santa J. Ono and other luminaries. The energy was high, the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver was sparkling, the plated meal was delicious, the formal program proceeded swiftly and was full of interesting and humourous content. It was all guided by the ever-entertaining Fred Lee, UBC’s Director of Alumni Engagement. In spite of the dynamic buzz at every table, Mr Lee expertly drew the attention of the delighted guests to view the special video address by the Honourable Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education and Training, and to hear the letters from members of the Royal Family. Somehow, without slowing the pace of the evening, Dr Saewyc managed to grant a moment in the sun to each one of the honoured guests who wore the coveted Centenary Medal of Distinction (see list to read their short biographies).

Dr James Olson, Dean of Applied Science

President Santa Ono takes a selfie

This level of success is not easy to attain and the school cannot offer enough thanks to members of the Centenary Committee who coordinated the event, especially those at Applied Science Alumni Engagement. Once again we acknowledge the generous support of the Faculty of Applied Science, and send kudos to several faculty members who sponsored tables for student attendees. To all of these people as well as those who work in the background quietly making things splendid, we extend heartfelt thanks for an evening that truly raised the bar.

For more memories, visit

Director’s Message 2019SS

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At this halfway point in our centenary celebrations, the School of Nursing is thrilled with the support and good wishes received from colleagues, partners, politicians, and others among our nursing community. Our last issue encapsulated some of the excitement we felt as we began planning for our year-long celebration. Now, the events are unfolding, and this issue is dedicated to keeping you up-to-date and informed about our memorable events, including: the Ethel Johns Plaque, honouring a woman of national historic importance as the founder of our School; our History Symposium, which considered the past as it set current goals; our dialogue on the role of nursing in promoting Indigenous health, at the First Nations Longhouse; and our third annual Edge Festival, which showcased innovative ways of sharing nursing research.

The Gala—which you can relive in these pages—was fantastic! Weeks after the event, I continued to receive email and comments from people who attended, and even from people who heard about the celebration from others! So many mentioned they were impressed and inspired by our Centenary Medalists, whose leadership and achievements reveal the School’s influence in nursing here in BC, and throughout the world. I offer my heartfelt thanks to our faculty, students, staff, nursing partners, and community members who brought such energy and enthusiasm to the evening. You made the room hum with your excitement at sharing great memories and strong partnerships. Working together, we are a group that can achieve anything! We hope to keep this energy blazing as we look to the future of nursing in British Columbia and beyond.

While much of our centenary we are looking back in celebration, we are also looking forward, to consider how the School will remain an innovator and leader, a facilitator of “Nursing Now” and into the future. May the events shared in these pages keep you enthusiastic for the continuing celebration of UBC’s School of Nursing. We have more to come!


Elizabeth Saewyc, PhD, RN, FSAHM, FCAHS, FAAN
Director and Professor