Just over 15 years ago, the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Toronto was given a new name and a new opportunity to bolster its unique place within the University. Since that time, the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing has continued to excel as one of the top schools of nursing in the world, adding significant capabilities in the area of nursing research and continuing education for nurse leaders.
“Our students and faculty receive incredible support in the form of unique scholarship opportunities and ways to advance their research, thanks to the generosity of donors like Mr. Bloomberg who continue to give back to the future of nursing at the University of Toronto,” says Linda Johnston, Dean of the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing.
For Lawrence Bloomberg, success in the business world has always been about more than financial reward. It has been about the ability to help support the community around him, particularly in advancing health care education.
“It has always been a goal of mine to give back and play a role in the community. I always felt that if I was able to give a gift that would truly make a difference, then it needed to be in health care education, and what better place to provide that support than to nursing,” says Bloomberg.
Reflecting on this milestone anniversary, Mr. Bloomberg spoke with writer Rebecca Biason about his inspiration for giving, and his pride in the ongoing achievements of one of the leading faculties of nursing not only in Canada, but in the world.
What inspired you to give to the Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing at the University of Toronto?
I had been fortunate to be in a position to give back to health care for a number of years, but it was in my role as Chairman of the Board at Mount Sinai Hospital that I learned more about the importance of nursing within health care. Not only how integral nursing is to the health care system as a whole, but also the incredible difference nurses make in a patient’s experience, from the delivery of babies to the speed of recovery, to the quality of palliative care.
I have been fortunate in my life in not requiring nursing care myself. However, I know many who have, and each and every one of those I have spoken with has brought up the impact that nurses had on their care and the difference they made to their experience in a critical health situation. Moreover, nurses are often overlooked, and the complexity of the role is not completely understood by the public or policy makers.
In my mind, providing support for nursing education was a means of helping raise the profile of the profession and elevate the stature of nurses.
What are some of the achievements or accolades of the faculty over the past 15 years that have made you most proud?
When my family began its association with the University and the Faculty of Nursing, it was recognized as one of the top nursing schools not only in the country, but in the world. Over the past 15 years, the Faculty has maintained its top-tier status and proven consistent in its focus on excellence in nursing education, practice and research.
Research is incredibly important to me; it is the catalyst behind so many innovations and changes that have taken place in our lifetime, and U of T is a powerhouse of research expertise. As part of the gift I made, the Dean at the time, Professor Sioban Nelson, suggested that a portion of the funds be used to establish the Frances Bloomberg Visiting Professorship, named after my wife, and the Tom Kierans International Postdoctoral Fellowship, named after a dear friend. The aim of both was to provide a unique opportunity for knowledge exchange in nursing research. They allowed for the engagement of academics from Norway, Finland, Spain and the United States who focused on a variety of important topics like cardiovascular health in women, postnatal depression and nursing in the ICU. The exchanges accelerated the Faculty’s reputation across the global health care landscape and allowed for students and researchers to benefit from a broad cross fertilization of ideas.
In addition to its profound research capabilities, the Faculty has also been committed to continuous education and has established the Centre for Professional Development in nursing education. I think that life-long learning is mandatory in every profession, and that is certainly true in health care. The nursing profession changes so quickly, and the Centre provides this wonderful opportunity for nurses both in Canada and around the world to benefit from continuous learning, affording them an opportunity to adapt quickly to changes in the workforce. Working with Toronto-area hospitals, the Centre has been able to offer specialized theory and clinical training for nurses from Hong Kong and China, including hosting of a number of Chinese nursing academics who have learned more about Canadian nursing education and research.
Not everyone is able to fill this gap in health care education and collaboration, and it is likely one of the many reasons that the Bloomberg Nursing at U of T remains one of the most highly ranked nursing schools on the global stage.
What has been the most enjoyable part of your connection to the Faculty of Nursing and the University?
I have most definitely enjoyed my association with the Faculty. The Deans I have had the pleasure and opportunity to work with are superb and have done an excellent job.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a new focus on the role of nurses, and it has been wonderful to see graduates of Bloomberg Nursing in the field. I can recall countless times when provincial governments have felt that we had too few or too many nurses, and it is good to see the recognition that we need more nurses to operate the health care system safely.
Of course, Bloomberg Nursing would not exist without its students, and since the naming of the Faculty, it has been rewarding to see so many students supported through scholarship funds, provided by Seymour Schulich and others, that have allowed them to pursue their dreams. Many of these students go on to become world-class health care providers or researchers, caring for individuals across their life span. I have been able to witness the continued growth and achievements of Bloomberg Nursing alumni, individuals like Dr. Michelle Acorn, the Chief Nurse of the International Council for Nurses, and Dr. Karima Velji, the newly appointed Chief of Nursing and Professional Practice in Ontario. The demand today is especially high for their level of expertise, and being able to produce some terrific graduates is a success story that I feel privileged to be a part of.