After 39 years at the University of Toronto, Professor Ellen Hodnett is retiring at the end of June. Hodnett came to the university in 1975 as a clinical instructor in nursing, before beginning graduate school in 1978. “I chose U of T because of the intellectual stimulation that comes from interacting with the best and brightest,” says Hodnett. In those 39 years at the university, Hodnett has had a full range of experiences, from being appointed to the first nursing research chair in Canada in 1996, to serving as Chair of the Academic Board and an elected member of the Governing Council, as well as sitting on important international and national research advisory groups.
Hodnett herself can now be counted among the best and brightest in her profession. Her randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews of care for childbearing women have influenced care standards around the world, and she leaves a legacy of excellence in the PhD students she has supervised. “I have had wonderful opportunities to ask and answer important research questions,” says Hodnett. “To have a lasting influence on practice and policy, and on students both undergraduate and graduate – this has been one of the best jobs in the world.”
Hodnett was selected to give the Convocation address on June 9, 2014, addressing master’s and PhD graduates of Bloomberg Nursing and other graduate programs from across the university. She told stories which illustrated her two main points: “First, do not be afraid to go outside your comfort zone when trying to address an important problem. This includes using non-traditional methods and working with those in disciplines far removed from your own. Second, how you act when you go outside your comfort zone can be an important factor in your success. Start by acting the part, and you will become the part.”
“We all have an obligation,” she concluded, “to make ‘it’ better, whatever ‘it’ is.”