Dr. Anita Molzahn has been awarded the Order of Canada. (Submitted/Richard Siemens Photo)

Order of Canada recipient returns to Sidney for a working sabbatical

Tim Collins/News staff

Sidney native, Dr. Anita Molzahn, has been chosen to receive the Order of Canada for her work in the nursing profession.

Molzahn began her career in Victoria where she graduated in 1974 to become an registered nurse. By 1989 she had earned a doctorate, not in nursing, but in sociology since, at the time, there were no PhD programs for nursing.

It was her clinical work in dialysis and transplantation at the University of Alberta that led her to develop an interest in studying the quality of life of those patients. She worked to develop measurement tools to compare quality of life across different cultures utilizing multicultural and multi-lingual surveys. In this way it was possible to determine how the methods and practices in Canada stacked up against 21 other countries around the world.

In that work Molzahn worked as part of a team working with the World Health Organization.

“We were pleasantly surprised to find that Canada ranked first in that comparative study. It helped us to begin to define what was working and where improvements still needed to be made,” she explained.

The problem, said Molzahn, was that, in the past, the effectiveness of medical practices were measured primarily by mortality and morbidity numbers (how many people died or became ill). Those numbers did not measure the quality of peoples lives in those final days before the end of life.

“It allowed us to to look at new treatments and discard treatments that weren’t making any difference. If you’re doing something that doesn’tmake a difference, why do it?” she said.

Having stepped down as Dean of Nursing at the University of Alberta, Molzahn has now begun a year’s sabbatical at her home in Sidney.

But being on sabbatical doesn’t mean Molzahn will be idle. She has joined a group of colleagues at the University of Victoria and is engaged in studying the stories of people approaching the end of life.

“We’re now transcending the numbers, surveys and statistics and getting into the real, human stories of these remarkable people. We talk about their challenges, their joys and what they can teach us about what’s important at the end of life.”

Molzahn was notified on June 30 of her Order of Canada honour, but hasn’t physically been awarded the medal as yet. Apparently there are a number of ceremonies throughout the year and it’s a matter of finding the best fit to be present for the award.

For now, she is enjoying her seaside home and is happy to be home, at least for a while.