Helen Vandenberg (PhD ’15)

Originally from Lethbridge, Alberta, Helen began her post-secondary studies pursuing a degree in pharmacy, but was really drawn to nursing because she wanted to learn more about human health and the human condition. With a BSN and MSc in Nursing from the University of Lethbridge in hand, Helen had held several research assistant and teaching positions at the University of Lethbridge by the time she relocated to Vancouver in 2008. Here in Vancouver, she worked in the Travel Medicine and Vaccination Centre in the lower mainland, and as a research assistant for the School of Nursing’s “RICHER” project in the field of Social Pediatrics. Beginning her PhD program at UBC in 2009, she recalls being late for class on her very first day while navigating the city transit system. Other memories from her program include receiving feedback on her first assignment in the philosophy class, and really being pushed to defend and improve her thinking in her area of expertise. She has wonderful memories of all of the great talks she had about nursing, philosophy and history with her dissertation supervisor Dr. Geertje Boschma, and of working with Dr. Paddy Rodney on a moral distress research project. She remembers bringing her 8-month old baby to meet her supervisor and her committee after her final oral defense examination was complete. She was awarded the “Outstanding PhD Dissertation Award” given by the UBC School of Nursing in 2015. That same year, she was also offered a tenure track faculty appointment at the University of Saskatchewan, where she is now working toward tenure and – in keeping with her established pattern of balancing a busy academic and family life – is expecting a second child in 2018.

During Helen’s time in the UBC PhD program Helen also became involved in the nursing history world through work with the BC History of Nursing Society, the Consortium for Nursing History Inquiry and the Canadian Association for the History of Nursing. Continuing that active involvement to this day, Helen served a term as Newsletter Editor, Vice President and was subsequently elected for a two-year term (2017-2019) as President of the Canadian Association for the History of Nursing. In that role, she intends to work toward enhancing the organization’s membership and to improving undergraduate education related to nursing and health systems history in Canada. She is excited to see the enthusiasm about the history of nursing that this new generation of students is clearly showing. As her academic career progresses, she would like to continue to strengthen her expertise in the history of hospitals and health systems in Western Canada.