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Nurse Angela Kennedy honoured for 47 years of impact in diabetes education
It was in elementary school that Angela first decided she was going to be a nurse.
“I saw it as a worthwhile career that was both hands on and you get to care for people,” she says.
What began as a childhood dream has transformed into an accomplished nursing career. On May 3, Angela was honoured with the Banting & Best Diabetes Educator of the Year Award from the University of Toronto for her outstanding efforts and achievements in her role as a diabetes nurse educator.
Angela's nursing career at Michael Garron Hospital started in September 1969, three months after graduating from nursing school. While she honed her skills and experiences in many different areas of the Hospital, including surgery and medicine, she eventually made her way to a nursing role in the outpatient clinics. It was in the clinic in in the early 1990s where her physician colleague, Endocrinologist Dr. Malcolm Pike, suggested to her that diabetes was going to be an epidemic and encouraged her to get certified in this area.
‘Fearless idea-generator and system-improver'
As the number of patients with diabetes increased across the Hospital, Angela became known as someone who would regularly come out of the comforts of her clinic to educate anyone in need. She often taught newly diagnosed patients on inpatient units about the management of their disease.
“What Angela was doing was more than helping them treat their illness, she was creating hope for people with a new diagnosis and empowering them to take control of their illness, before patient empowerment was even a thing,” shared her colleague of 15 years, Diabetes Nurse Educator Lisa Sparrow.
In nominating Angela, colleagues noted her tenacity and innovative approach, “She continues to be a leader by example, an activist for positive change, and is fearless as an idea-generator, system-improver and team educator in both the hospital and community.” Receiving this award has enabled Angela to pause and reflect on all that she has helped to accomplish.
“When doing the work, you're always so focused on what else we could be done because so much more is always needed. But looking back – a lot has been achieved,” she says.
Ontario pilot project supporting individuals with diabetes takes shape
One of Angela's most noteworthy contributions was the development of the Diabetes Education Community Network of East Toronto (DECNET) which began as a pilot project but has become the format for the rest of Ontario.
“We were asked by the Ministry to figure out a model. I wanted to be involved in every decision because I didn't want to fail. I was in every Level 1 [intake] centre so I could be a part of the initial visit with patients because I wanted to motivate them to stay with the program.”
The program expanded based on her philosophy of going to where people are and reducing barriers to participation. During the early 2000's Angela could be found running group education sessions in party rooms at an apartment building in Jamestown and Malvern neighbourhoods, developing culturally inclusive Indigenous programs with community members or offering sessions via Tamil interpreters at Providence Centre.
Paying it forward
At a reception surrounded by her family, colleagues, and friends, Angela revealed that she will be paying it forward with her award honorarium. Angela is not only donating proceeds to the Michael Garron Hospital Foundation, earmarked for the MGH Staff Wellness program, but she is topping it off with a personal contribution. This will allow 20 staff members who do not currently belong to the Wellness Program to be awarded six-month memberships over the course of 2018.