The Hub Research & teaching as a family affair
National Nursing Week

Research & teaching as a family affair

By: Dr. William Diehl-Jones

The passion for nursing, research and teaching runs deeply through AU’s Faculty of Health Disciplines. The roads faculty take throughout their lives and careers enable them to offer invaluable insights to students, and to inspire alumni and colleagues to expand knowledge that results in the best patient care. As we celebrate National Nursing Week in Canada, May 7 to 13, 2018, Dr. William Diehl-Jones shares the story of the journey he shares with his wife — and FHD colleague — Dr. Debra Fraser.

Debra Fraser (Associate Professor and Program Director of the Master of Nursing, Nurse Practitioner and Post-Masters Diploma: Nurse Practitioner programs) and I are partners in life and in academia. Together, we have four children, and we are both neonatal nurses, paediatric researchers, and Nurse Practitioner educators. On the surface, this may seem like “parallel evolution,” as our biologist colleagues at AU might say. However, our careers started on very different paths, and have converged to where they are today.

From the beginning, Deb began her training with a life in healthcare in mind. After years serving in newborn intensive care, she became one of the pioneers of the advanced practice role, and is a clinician/scholar with extensive publications, including research articles, reviews, book chapters and books (one of which won the American College of Nurses Book of the Year award). She has previously been the Director of the Nurse Practitioner Program at the University of Manitoba, and is currently in clinical at Winnipeg’s St. Boniface Hospital, while serving at AU.

My own path (I am an Associate Professor) began quite differently. My doctoral and postdoctoral training was in molecular physiology. Much of my career involved finding and manipulating tiny pieces of DNA. Life events, most notably being the parent of a premature infant, encouraged me to enter the worlds of nursing and neonatal intensive care. After going back to school at Western University, I entered nursing later in life with the express desire of becoming a NICU nurse. Eventually, clinical questions I kept having in NICU led me back to research and teaching.

Rewards of home

Deb and I both ultimately found academic homes at Athabasca University, where we enjoy our incredibly supportive colleagues, and our challenging, rewarding careers as educators and researchers.

We have evolved a fruitful collaboration as researchers and authors; we have collaborated on several research projects, and have co-authored several reviews and book chapters together. Interestingly, our disparate backgrounds seem to complement each other. With my particular skill sets, I can go after problems at the cellular levels. And while I get excited about some molecular pathway involving hypoxia, Deb will invariably ask the “so what?” question, as in, “How does that apply to specific problems of infant prematurity?” This grounding helps me keep “the object of the exercise” in mind — or, as our kids might say, “it keeps it real!”

The natural question here: Does sharing a home and overlapping careers ever get difficult? That may be a story for another time, although from where I sit, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Learn about AU’s baccalaureate, master’s and certificate nursing programs, and professional development opportunities for nurses on the Faculty of Health Disciplines website.

  • May 11, 2018
Guest Blog from:
Dr. William Diehl-Jones