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Law Alum Returns to Nursing to Serve Indigenous Community

Posted on September 3, 2020 at 3:40 PM

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" target="_blank">http://

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