New chair to focus on role of nurses in primary health care

By Sue Johnston, September 17, 2007

    Dorothy Hall and Ruta Valaitis, the inaugural holder of the Dorothy C. Hall Chair in Primary Health Care Nursing. Photo courtesy of FHS.
Expanding and promoting the crucial role of nurses in providing primary health care in the community will be a key focus for associate professor Ruta Valaitis in her role as the inaugural holder of the Dorothy C. Hall Chair in Primary Health Care Nursing.

An event was held today to announce her appointment to the chair, which is named in honour of Dorothy Hall, a pioneer in primary health care nursing and long-time international nursing consultant with the World Health Organization.

The endowed chair's work will focus on education and research into nursing roles in strengthening collaborations between primary care and public health. Valaitis also plans to help develop strategies to increase the capacity for primary health care with nurses working in multidisciplinary teams.

"I define primary health care in the broadest possible terms -- including emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention, community participation, intersectoral collaboration and accessibility to care," said Valaitis.

"I am very proud to have this Chair in the School of Nursing," said associate dean, Catherine Tompkins. "It holds a unique role -- indeed, it is the only endowed Chair in Primary Health Care in North America.

"With the recent focus on primary health care, this Chair is of importance nationally and internationally and we are grateful for the vision of Dorothy Hall in its conception. The work of Dr. Valaitis in her role will have a major impact on health care."

Hall, who spent 26 years abroad pursuing her passion, advanced the role of nursing in primary health care in Canada and in countries such as Afghanistan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and Denmark. She was also instrumental in helping the Ontario government implement the concept of the primary health care nurse practitioner in the provincial health care system. She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) degree by McMaster at the School of Nursing convocation in June this year.

The chair was created through various donations to the School of Nursing, including a bequest from the late Henrietta Alderson, one of three founding faculty members of the undergraduate nursing program, and a contribution from Hall.

Valaitis joined the School of Nursing at McMaster in 1987. She earned her master's degree in health science from McMaster, and a PhD from the University of Toronto.