Heather McDonald (BSN’87, PhD’11)

Heather agreed to enroll in Nursing School at UBC as a compromise with her mother (a registered nurse), in exchange for her mother’s approval to move to Calgary for a year after high school. After experiencing the first few days of nursing school, Heather was firmly entrenched in the world of nursing. Amongst her other identities as a wife, mother of two grown boys, and outdoor enthusiast, Heather foregrounds her nursing identity in her life.

The undergraduate years at UBC were memorable for psychiatry (year two) and women’s studies (year four) with Sally Thorne. These courses fostered an understanding of how the mind, body, and environment interact to influence illness in humans. The inter-relatedness of people and their places has been an ongoing focus in Heather’s nursing career.

Heather’s career has shifted over time from the highly technical environment of Intensive Care Units, to the person-first environment of community health. During her first few years of work, Heather worked on Shaughnessy hospital’s acute spinal cord Injury unit, and in all the Intensive care units at Hotel Dieu and Kingston General Hospital in Kingston Ontario. After completing her Master’s (UofT ’92) she moved back home and worked as the Head Nurse at Sunny Hill hospital (pediatric rehabilitation) and then as the Clinical Nurse Specialist at GF Strong’s spinal cord injury rehabilitation unit. Heather stayed at GF Strong for ten years, where she cultivated knowledge in pain management and clinical research. This knowledge led Heather back to school, and ultimately to her current work world in community health.

Heather returned to UBC in 2004 to complete a PhD and graduated in 2011. This transformative experience sparked Heather’s current passion around health and healthcare equity, particularly as related to Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Influenced by Joan Anderson, Annette Browne, and Jennifer Baumbusch, Heather learned about colonialism, historical trauma, and the use of program planning and research for reconciliation. These teachings she has taken to her current work with Seabird Island, a First Nations community in the Fraser Valley

Heather works with Seabird Island on health programming, planning, evaluation and research. She is currently Acting Health Director. Seabird Health is an inspiring organization that provides health services to thousands of Indigenous people in the Fraser Valley and Canyon. It continues to both challenge and fuel Heather’s passion to understand the inter-relatedness of people (mind, body, spirit) and their places.

Photo 1 – Helping Seabird Health to achieve an inaugural accreditation certification
Photo 2 – Providing practice support to a Seabird Health staff member