Laschinger, leading nursing researcher, dies at 71

Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing professor Heather Laschinger, who received both a Distinguished University Professor and the Hellmuth Prize for Achievement in Research, died on Oct. 29 due to complications from a prolonged illness. She was 71.

Laschinger is best known in academic circles for her work leading a broad research agenda examining issues related to the planning and management of nursing health services to ensure high-quality, safe care across nursing and health-care sectors. She was the first member of the Faculty of Health Sciences to receive Western’s Distinguished University Professor Award in 2006 and was presented with the institution’s Hellmuth Prize for Achievement in Research in 2010.

Tributes to the acclaimed researcher from friends and former colleagues have poured in since news of her passing became public.

“Heather was a force to contend with in regard to research and scholarship and her passing is a huge loss to us all,” said Mary-Anne Andrusysyzyn, Director, School of Nursing. “She was more than just a colleague, but a friend and mentor and her guidance made those around her better scholars and teachers.”

Heather Laschinger

Heather Laschinger

Jayne Garland, Dean, Health Sciences, echoed those sentiments. “Heather’s impact on Western cannot be understated. She was a teacher and researcher of the highest order and her dedication to students and the profession of nursing set a standard for others to follow. We were so very fortunate to have called her a colleague and friend. She will be missed tremendously.”

After beginning her career as a practicing nurse in Montreal and transitioning to academia through various positions at the University of Ottawa, Laschinger came to Western in 1987 as an assistant professor in what was then called the Faculty of Nursing, earning tenure in 1993, and quickly established herself as a world-class scholar. In 2009, she was named the Arthur Labatt Family Nursing Research Chair in Health Human Resource Optimization as she continued to be a world leader in assessing the impact of nursing work environments on nursing and client outcomes.

She served in a variety of administrative roles during her time at Western, including terms as the Associate Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Nursing and the Assistant Dean (Interdisciplinary Studies) in Health Sciences, and held adjunct and visiting scholar appointments at institutions around the world, including Sapienza University of Rome (Italy) and the University of Technology Sydney (Australia).

“We will all miss her deeply at Western,” said Nursing professor Marilyn Ford-Gilboe. “She was a remarkable mentor, colleague and friend who touched so the lives of so many at Western, but also in the global nursing community. I will always admire how generous she was with her time and talents, and I will greatly miss our spirited debates, conversations and the laughter we have shared over many decades. She leaves an incredible legacy.”

The list of awards she received extended far beyond the walls of Western. She was elected as a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences in 2008, inducted as a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing in 2009, received the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing Award for Excellence in Nursing Research in 2014 and was presented with the American Organization of Nurse Executives Foundation Nurse Research Award in 2015.

Her academic body of work boasted more than 200 publications, including four books, and included supervision of more than 100 graduate students and postdoctoral scholars.

“I had the pleasure and privilege of working with Heather during my tenure as Dean of the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry,” said Dr. Carol Herbert. “She was a model professor, devoted to learning and scholarship. She shared her knowledge and skills graciously and unselfishly with her students and colleagues. She will be greatly missed at Western, and within the Canadian nursing academic community.”

Nursing professor Mickey Kerr expanded on those sentiments, “She was not just a mentor to me but also a wonderful colleague, friend and an inspiration as well, as she no doubt was for many other faculty members at Western and around the world. She was a giant in her field who will be sorely missed.”

Laschinger is survived by her son, Jamie; granddaughters, Caroline and Anna Laschinger; and sister, Barbara Hall.

A memorial service honouring her life was held on Nov. 2.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to The Dr. Heather Laschinger Graduate Student Research Scholarship in Health Services at Western via cheques payable to Western University and mailed to attention of Karmen Dowling, Western University, Westminster Hall, Suite 110, 1151 Richmond St. London, ON N6A 3K7), by calling 519-661-4200 or online at westernconnect.ca/tribute.