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Q&A

University of Calgary-Qatar welcomes interim dean

sheila evans

Dr. Sheila Evans, interim dean University of Calgary-Qatar, recently arrived in Doha where she has taken over responsibility for the university’s first overseas campus. Evans, who has been associate dean, research in the Faculty of Nursing since 2003, has an extensive background in nursing education, practice and research.

Q: This will be a great new adventure for you. What interests you the most about moving to Doha and taking on this responsibility?

The students are the most compelling reason. My goal is to help the students in Qatar attain the same academic credentials as those available to students in Calgary. It is the students there now who will build the profession of nursing in Qatar. They are the ones who will be able to make a difference in the health of their country. The greatest joy throughout my career has been to watch students learn—soak up all they can—and then grow into fabulous nurses and launch wonderful careers.

Q: How did you end up in nursing yourself?

When I decided to go into nursing, it was perhaps one of a small handful of very traditional careers deemed suitable for women. The profession has evolved so much from then, and I have been able to witness—and participate—in nursing as it has changed and developed. That progression and growth has been what has kept me in nursing and made me absolutely passionate about what I do.

Nursing is a profession that doesn’t just treat a particular illness—it focuses on prevention and health promotion. We need to look at upstream causes of diseases or issues that affect the health of our population. I liken it to a contaminated water supply. You can continue to treat the water with chemicals and make it potable. Or, you can take a look upstream and discover that a dead cow has contaminated the water. If you remove the animal, you clean up the water supply. The upstream issues are really the focus in nursing. In nursing, you are giving people the knowledge and the skills they need to keep themselves and their families healthy.

Q: Tell us about your education background.

I was born in a small Alberta mountain community called Mountain Park; it actually doesn’t exist anymore. I spent most of my childhood in Edmonton and so I started my first year at the University of Alberta. I transferred to the University of Western Ontario. I finished my undergraduate degree there and ended up doing my master’s degree and my PhD there, too.

Q: Your PhD program took you in the direction of epidemiology and bio-statistics. How did that link to your background in public health, and in particular maternal health?

My focus evolved to look at reproduction health in large populations with the goal of identifying and addressing pregnancy risk factors. To have the impact on women and families that I wanted to have, I felt I needed to be able to undertake large-scale population studies. My research has largely focused on the various maternal behaviours that affect birth outcomes, such as weight gain, nutrition and tobacco use. I’ve also investigated the various maternal characteristics that affect outcomes such as Body Mass Index. This line of inquiry is so important because of the obesity epidemic.

Q: You continued to work in hospitals while also studying, then teaching and researching. You stopped practising at the Foothills Medical Centre about four and a half years ago. Why has it been so important to you to remain in clinical settings?

I love working with mothers as they give birth. So in addition to really wanting to make a difference in the lives of families, I wanted to stay current. Nurse educators who also practice earn a level of credibility with their hospital colleagues. That’s important for your research endeavours and it’s also important for the education of your students. For me, it was very compelling to do both. I’ve worked for more than 40 years in hospitals and interacted with a lot of mothers, babies and families.

Q: You are very involved in the research community. How does that ultimately benefit students?

In addition to my own research, and work with the Calgary research community, I’m involved with SEARCH Canada. The organization was originally launched by the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research to strengthen capacity in Alberta’s health system to develop, disseminate and use research in ways that would make a difference in Albertans’ health. I’ve worked with people from across the province and had the opportunity to mentor many students. The learning from those experiences will enable me to support our students and the nursing community in Qatar.

The point about nursing research is this—we as a society need to be able to implement the research that is being done. Students need to do research with their mentors to understand how research informs and changes practice. That is one of my goals in Qatar—to offer our undergraduates an opportunity to pursue research alongside faculty and our practice partners.

Q: What are your first steps in Doha?

The first thing that I’m really looking forward to is meeting the students, staff, faculty and the Doha nursing and medical communities. UC-Q is a small but thriving community and I am very excited about getting to know it. We’ll take things one step at a time from there.

Doha students elect
representatives

First-ever elections
for Qatar

Students at the University of Calgary-Qatar (UC-Q) campus recently elected their first-ever student representatives. One hundred percent of the student body participated in the election.

The five students will serve as advocates for the Doha student body and bring forth student suggestions and feedback.

“I will represent the student voice on any issue affecting the quality of the student experience within the university and ensure that student views are a priority,” said Asama Hassan Abu Hassan, one of the elected representatives.

The election of the student representatives is an example of the steps being taken to enhance the overall university experience of the students in Qatar and to connect them with their counterparts on the Calgary campus.

“These students are a wonderful representation of our students,” said Fred Rosmanitz, director of student services. “Their perspective is so valuable. In just a few weeks they’ve already brought forth suggestions for the new campus, told us that students would like additional social events, shared details on how to make technology work for them better and let us know that the air conditioning has been turned on too high for their liking.”

The new student representatives are: Asmaa Hassan Abu Hassan, Khadra Sofe Yassin, Houda Bent Moussa Al Kilani, Noor Abdulrahman Abuhamdeh representing the post-diploma Bachelor of Nursing degree students, and Faiza Hussein, representing the Bachelor of Nursing students in the regular program.

“It is important for me to listen to my peers to create a better study environment,” said Hussein. “My slogan is ‘Together for the good of our university.’ I also see that this experience will increase my chances to be a future in my career.”

In addition to speaking on behalf of their counterparts on issues of interest and concern to students, the elected representatives will participate in a range of activities from working on internal committees to speaking in public forums where nursing is discussed or promoted. They will also have the opportunity to collaborate with their elected student representatives at the University of Calgary in Canada to ensure that both campuses are moving forward together on student related issues.

University of Calgary-Qatar currently offers post-diploma and regular nursing degrees to approximately 60 students. The campus opened in 2007 and is a cornerstone of the State of Qatar’s drive to create a world class health-care system in the country.

qatar student reps