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CTV WINDSOR - Lawyer returns to first love as nurse to help remote community during pandemic

Posted on September 3, 2020 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (1350)

WINDSOR, ONT -- When courthouses suspended their operations in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Martina Dwyer made the decision to temporarily leave her law practice in Hamilton to fight on the frontlines in a Northern Ontario Indigenous community.

 

Prior to obtaining her law degree from Windsor Law in 2011, Dwyer graduated from the health science program at St. Clair College. She worked as registered nurse for over 20 years in many numerous areas including public health, intensive care unit, labour and delivery.

 

Still a member of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO), Dwyer received constant emails concerning the shortage of nurses due to the pandemic, especially public health nurses for Indigenous communities. She chose to answer the call for help by returning to her first love of nursing in a very unconventional way.

“I couldn’t believe that this was happening. I was actually leaving my life where I’m in a big city and going to a northern community where I had no experience whatsoever. I didn’t even know what to expect,” Dwyer recalls her first thoughts.

 

Indigenous Services Canada commissioned her to a nursing station in one the most northern communities in Ontario, Keewaywin First Nation, an Oji-Cree First Nation, accessible only by plane.

 

“They needed someone that was specialized in COVID and that’s what my training was. Indigenous Services taught us everything related to COVID such as how to swab and contact trace.”

 

The First Nation has a population about 400 people. Despite its isolated location, Dwyer quickly learned that even one case of COVID-19 can be catastrophic.

 

“Often many people live in one household. One case can turn into four cases. We don’t have the facilities like the southern communities, such as access to a hospital. We have a small clinic, that’s why we really needed Martina here,” says Lynn Sutherland, head of Keewaywin First Nation’s COVID team.

 

During Dwyer’s month-long assignment, a nursing tent was set up to screen residents. Much of her job was educating the community on how to prevent the spread of the virus through methods of proper face protection, social distancing and sanitization.

 

“When Martina came it was a really big help to us because we didn’t know what we’re dealing with, it was all new,” says Gloria Kakepetum, member of the Keeywaywin COVID team.

 

“The community was so open to learning. They love their elders, they will do anything to protect them from this virus,” says Dwyer.

 

Using a creative approach, Dwyer and Sutherland also hosted a weekly radio show allowing residents to call in with their questions and concerns related to the virus.

 

The efforts paid off for this COVID team who treated their assignment as a 24/7 job. The community has yet to report a single COVID-19 case.

 

“Everybody followed protocol there I was just so proud of them,” says Dwyer who returned home in peace knowing Keeywaywin residents are now equipped to fight the pandemic.

 

Dwyer has switched out of her nursing gown and is back to fighting cases in the southern Ontario courtrooms. However, she says the short time she spent in Keeywaywin First Nation has taught her priceless life lessons.

 

“Living in this community causes you to pause, reflect and treat each other and the world with respect. They live their lives richly and their success is measured with family.”


Law Alum Returns to Nursing to Serve Indigenous Community

Posted on September 3, 2020 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (432)

When Martina Dwyer '11 pursues something, her passion shines through. Upon learning of the public health nursing shortage due to COVID-19, she made the decision to temporarily leave her law practice in Hamilton to make an impact on the frontlines of the pandemic in Northern Ontario.

 

Indigenous health services dwindled significantly amid the pandemic, and Martina answered the call. Commissioned by Indigenous Services Canada, she was assigned to the nursing station in Keewaywin First Nation, an Oji-Cree First Nation and one of the northernmost communities in the province of Ontario. During her four-week appointment, Martina's duties include COVID-19 preparation and screening within the community.

 

Martina's education is expansive. In 1985 Martina graduated with a diploma in Health Sciences from St. Clair College and became a registered nurse. She continued her career in perinatal intensive care while obtaining a certificate in public health nursing from the University of Windsor in 1993. She then pursued a Pedorthics degree, as well as a Bachelor of Science and Nursing in 2008, before obtaining her law degree from Windsor Law in 2011. She was appointed to the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario) in January 2020 and was recently appointed as chair of the Governance Committee.

 

Martina travelled to Keewaywin First Nation with a month’s worth of medical supplies and scrubs. She is using her education and experience to help keep the community safe and ensure it can both protect itself from the first wave of this virus and prepare itself for the inevitable second wave as well.

 

"Not only do I have an immense feeling of self-satisfaction to help this community," says Martina. "But I am also humbled by the invaluable learning experience I am receiving about Indigenous Peoples in Northern Ontario, their culture, their challenges and their resilience.”

 

She says her days are intense, ensuring that no details are missed as she teaches other frontline workers essential processes ranging from how to properly gown before a shift to how to safely return home at the end of the day.

 

As if she wasn't busy enough already, Martina also hosts a one-hour radio program twice per week. The show provides an opportunity for community outreach, involving community members in the education process amid COVID-19.

 

Although she didn’t know it at the time of the COVID-19 outbreak, she was perfectly positioned to assist the community when they needed it most. As the courts suspended much of their operations due to the pandemic, more time became available for Martina to act. During her temporary leave from her law practice, Martina has entrusted the day-to-day operations to her daughter, Julianne Fogarty – also a lawyer and University of Windsor alum, obtaining her Bachelor of Science in 2014.

 

Founded in 2014, Martina's law practice offers 30 years of experience in pedorthics and nursing, which has uniquely situated Martina at the intersection of law and health. Moving forward, Martina's plan is to continue working in the areas of both law and nursing. She states, “being busy has taken on a whole new meaning. I am driven by helping people overcome their life challenges."

 

- Published May 19, 2020 at https://www.uwindsor.ca/law/alumni-respond-to-covid-pandemic" target="_blank">http://https://www.uwindsor.ca/law/alumni-respond-to-covid-pandemic


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