Dr. Anita E. Molzahn

Dr. Anita E. Molzahn

I grew up in Edmonton and graduated with a diploma from the Royal Alexandra Hospital School of Nursing in 1974. On graduation, I already knew that I wanted to pursue advanced studies and went on to obtain a post-basic baccalaureate degree in 1980, an MN degree in 1986, and a PhD (Sociology) in 1989, all from the University of Alberta (U of A).

My clinical interests relate to dialysis and transplantation. I worked with a great team in the renal area at the University of Alberta Hospital (UAH), and to this day, when discussing interprofessional practice and education, I think of the wonderful collaborative working relationships there. After working as a staff nurse on an in-patient renal ward, the in-centre hemodialysis unit, and the home dialysis teaching unit, I held a number of other roles including Clinical Nurse Educator, Nephrology Nurse Clinician (an advanced practice role), and Special Projects Coordinator. Research questions relating to quality of life emerged from my experiences with people and families who struggled with chronic kidney disease and its various treatments.

In 1987, while completing my PhD dissertation, I started an academic career as an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Nursing at the U of A. I primarily taught third year undergraduate nursing students in both substantive areas and clinical practice. Opportunities to teach graduate students were few, and a personal desire for new challenges arose.

In 1992, I was offered the opportunity to become Director of the School of Nursing at the University of Victoria. My husband and I moved to Victoria with our two young children (aged 2 and 6). I was fortunate to work with a committed and dynamic team there. We accomplished a great deal together as we developed and implemented innovative new programs at the bachelor’s and master’s level.

I was appointed Dean, Faculty of Human and Social Development (HSD) at the University of Victoria in 1996, one of only two female Deans at UVic at the time. With the support of faculty and Directors of the Schools, we advanced numerous new programs and initiatives, including master’s degrees in Indigenous Governance and Dispute Resolution. I had the opportunity to Chair the Project Planning Committee for the First Peoples House, and serve as a member of the bargaining committee for the University for both the first Framework Agreement as well as salary negotiations. In 2005, following some new research opportunities and funding, I decided to return to the professoriate.

In 2008, my alma mater came calling. I was intrigued by the U of A’s goal to become one of the top 20 universities in the world, and it seemed as though the resources were available to accomplish that goal. Indeed, in 2016, in the first QS rankings of nursing schools globally, U of A Faculty of Nursing was ranked #4 in the world. Highlights of my career include this QS ranking and receipt of the Order of Canada in 2018, recognizing my leadership as well as research related to quality of life.

Reflections on Directorship

Dr. Anita Molzahn was the Fourth Director of the School of Nursing, 1992-1996

In 1992, after an international search, the University of Victoria (UVic) offered me the position of Director of the School of Nursing (SON). At the time, I was a newly promoted Associate Professor at the University of Alberta (U of A) Faculty of Nursing, and this opportunity enabled me to shift my career direction to academic administration. Although colleagues at the U of A were concerned that this decision would ruin my research career, the challenges offered by this leadership opportunity and the wonderful people at UVic were very attractive.  

In 1992, UVic SON offered a small on-campus post-diploma BSN program, as well as a large distance post-RN baccalaureate program, the latter in partnership with the Division of Extension (later called Continuing Studies). Although faculty for the distance program were appointed by the SONthe School had little control over the budget, and most of the development of courses and teaching of large class sections was performed by sessional lecturers. While the student numbers and revenue generated by this program were significant, the desire to ensure quality drove us to re-patriate the distance program to the School. The decision was not welcomed by Extension. Nevertheless, distance programs in other Schools in the Faculty did the same.  

In 1992, the SON was involved in development of a collaborative nursing program with colleges and university colleges across the provinceAfter extensive planning and work to obtain university and government approvals, and with the leadership of Drs. Marcia Hills, Liz Lindsey, Gweneth Doane (previously Hartrick) and Laurene Sheilds, we were able to offer the last two years of an innovative, high quality, pre-licensure baccalaureate nursing program using a caring curriculum model. This initiative offered opportunities for more students to obtain a baccalaureate degree in nursing and was aligned with the goals of the profession to require a degree as entry to practiceIt also resulted in significant expansion of the faculty and staff complement of UVic SON. As part of the collaborative partnership, we established a campus in Vancouver to support students continuing their degree from Langara and Douglas Colleges. 

Given aspirations to begin an MN program, we collaborated with other Schools in the Faculty of Human and Social Development to offer an MN degree within the structure of the Multidisciplinary Masters Program in Health and Social Policy. With aspirations to offer a PhD degree in nursing, we began admitting students as special case PhD students. A formal PhD program came years later. 

These years at UVic SON were busy ones but the collective commitment and positive work environment fostered successI very much appreciated the support and dedication of colleagues as we undertook new experiences together. It was a great team  collaborative, committed, cohesive, and effective.