News at the University of New Brunswick

PhD candidate receives national Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on Jul 20, 2021

Category: UNB Saint John , UNB Fredericton

Patricia Morris

Patricia Morris (BN'15, MN'21), a PhD candidate in interdisciplinary studies at the University of New Brunswick, has received a prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship to continue her doctoral studies.

The recipients were announced on July 15 by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and several federal funding agencies: The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The scholarship is valued at $50,000 per year for three years during the recipient’s doctoral studies and candidates must be nominated by a Canadian institution.

Morris will use her scholarship to continue her studies in gerontological nursing. Her research will focus on residents’ experience of declining personal hygiene care on dementia units in residential care facilities, a subject she has experience with as a previous floor nurse in a long-term care facility.

“Person-centered care is absolutely critical to providing care that promotes the dignity of people with dementia, but I also know that in practice there are times when personal care has to be rendered even though the person with dementia does not wish to receive it,” she says. “This is an incredibly fraught moment for resident and nurse, and it brings up questions of power and vulnerability, and agency and capacity that require more attention.”

Morris’s academic career is already established, having received her BA and MA before pursuing a career in nursing. She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from UNB with a focus on geriatric medicine, an area which Morris feels is rewarding and deserving of further research.

“As a gerontological nurse, I get invited into some of the most vulnerable parts of peoples’ journeys and I am always so grateful that clients and families open their lives up and make space for me. The world is such an unjust place for so many marginalized people, but there are little moments in my work with humans when I can see the power and beauty of human connection and how it might usher us into a new way of living.

“There is so much to learn and so many ways we can grow our practice in the care of older adults, and this funding really validates how important that work is.”

Morris was in disbelief when she heard the news of her award. After calling her wife, she spoke with her supervisor, Dr. Rose McCloskey, and committee members. Her classmates sent her flowers to celebrate.

“I cannot imagine a more deserving student for such as prestigious award,” says Dr. McCloskey. “Patricia is a stellar student with high academic standards and a deep passion for older adults. This award will provide Patricia with the support she requires to improve the lives of older adults who live with cognitive impairment and those who care for them.”

Receiving the Vanier Scholarship means Morris can focus on her studies full-time without working another job, an important factor for a scholar with a young family. Morris and her wife recently adopted a two-year-old boy and are foster parents to a one-year-old child.

“This is an incredible opportunity to build in more work-life balance and role model for my family how joyful education can be to pursue,” Morris says.

“On behalf of the federal granting agencies, I wish to congratulate and extend best wishes to the recipients of these prestigious awards. We are proud to support these outstanding research trainees and look forward to following their progress in the years ahead,” says Dr. Michael Strong, president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Media contact: Kelsey Pye

Photo: Patricia Morris