Recognizing the "Big Picture" of Women's Health: Dr. Barbara Keddy

By OBOS — April 29, 2009

From 2009 – 2011, Our Bodies Ourselves honored the work of women’s health advocates worldwide by asking readers to nominate their favorite women’s health hero. View all nominees by year: 2009, 2010, 2011

Entrant: Josephine B. Etowa

Nominee: Dr. Barbara Keddy, Professor Emeritus, Dalhousie University

keddy_2521_I am writing to nominate Dr. Barbara Keddy of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada as a Women’s Health Hero. I have known her for over a period of ten years, in various capacities, including being my course professor, thesis supervisor, and more recently as a colleague, mentor and a partner in a number of research projects in the area of Black women’s health.

Based on my observation of Dr. Keddy in these capacities and from talking with other colleagues, I will describe Dr. Keddy as an exemplary health scholar and women’s health advocate. She goes beyond the call of duty to address the needs of the women around her, especially women from marginalized populations. This is evident in the nature of her personal research and those of her graduate students.

In acknowledgement of the need to promote diversity and social inclusion in nursing, Dr. Keddy has not only dedicated  her own research to addressing these issues, she has also encouraged beginning scholars like myself to engage in this area of research. Over the past few years, I had the opportunity to work with her on a number of research projects addressing the health needs of women with a focus on the health of Canadian women of African descent; a historically forgotten group in the health literature.

She has collaborated with women in the community to complete a number of capacity-building projects including two studies titled “Menopause and midlife health of African Nova Scotian women” and “Black women’s health in remote and rural Nova Scotian Communities.”  She has been an excellent role model, a great mentor and inspiration for many people including myself. My experience of doing research with Dr. Keddy has been one of the most positive. She makes me feel that my perspective is a vital aspect of the project.

Dr. Barbara Keddy is an outstanding individual who has great insights and shows exemplary integrity and leadership as a person, a professional nurse and as a scholar. I find her to be a warm and approachable colleague and mentor. Her exceptional ability to foster community capacity building and to recognize the “big picture” for the future of women’s health research is commendable. She has tremendous impact on my personal and professional growth, fostering an empowering environment that has enabled me to successfully develop a career as a university professor and a scholar from my early interactions with her as a minority student.

In conclusion, Dr. Keddy is someone I admire and respect for her personal integrity and many outstanding contributions to the nursing profession, women’s health movements and society in general. In particular, her collegiality, dedication to hard work, and readiness to encourage, mentor and support others into leadership roles is exceptional. She is a most deserving candidate for the Women’s Health Hero recognition.

9 responses to “Recognizing the “Big Picture” of Women’s Health: Dr. Barbara Keddy”

  1. I’m reading the descriptions of the nominees trying to choose who to vote for. From this nomination letter, Dr. Keddy sounds like an inclusive researcher but the letter doesn’t seem to mention the details of her research. I would like to know some details on her studies and papers in order to make an informed decision on who to vote for. Any details would be appreciated. Thanks.

  2. Dear Claire: Imagine my surprise when I found out a few minutes ago that I was nominated for such a great award. I never suspected. It is true that there isn’t much detail about my research and since I am now 70 years old and worked till I was 65 I can’t go into too many of the projects but I will name a few.

    Given my deep interest in elderly women I began early in my career to explore issues regarding social and political issues that affected women as we age. Some of those projects involved care giving, institutionalization of the elderly, housing and women, economics of aging in particular women who have not worked outside the home, the jeopardy of being unmarried without pensions, elder abuse, among many other topics regarding women and aging.

    Having been a single mother of three and beginning university later in life, suffering from early years with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue (please see my website and establishing a work career I then focused my interests on mid-life women. Since I was also experiencing menopause my research turned to menopause and the impact that had on women and their careers. I then worked at preserving stories of women who had worked outside the home in a variety of occupations (such as waitresses, telephone operators, nurses, teachers) during the 1920s and 1930s and I preserved those oral histories in the Public Archives of Nova Scotia.

    As I became older and the suffering from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue became worse I began intensive research with women who also carried these challenges through their everyday lives. My website is now my on-going research and my book on Women and Fibromyalgia: Living with an Invisible Dis-ease is one in which I describe the question “WHY”? By that I mean why do more women than men suffer from these conditions?

    But, I am the most proud of my advocacy regarding issues of social justice, in particular women of color, poor women, those who are lesbian/bi-sexual/transgendered, immigrant women, among other dis-enfranchised women. To that end I developed research projects based upon Black Nova Scotia women who lived in rural areas and whose lives had never been revealed for their hardships. Dr. Etowa is right when she says we were co-investigators on another project regarding the Myth of the Strong Black Woman. My privilege as a White woman has allowed me certain advantages. I have been poor, and lived with chronic pain, but never experienced racism nor homophobia. This honor that Dr. Etowas has bestowed upon me as a nominee is one which for which I am grateful. Thank you, Barbara Keddy

  3. I was unable to vote for Dr Barbara Keddy on the computer I am using. Please register a vote for her on my behalf—-I think she’s great ! Thank you, Vicki Burnham

  4. I am so pleased to hear that Dr. Barb Keddy has been nominated as a candidate for this award. For many years she has contributed so very much towards the advancement of midwifery in this province. Midwifery was recognized just one month ago here. Through champions like Barb we are finally seeing progress for birthing families.

    Please register my vote for this fine woman who has inspired many lives.

    Thank you.

    Charlene MacLellan

  5. Barb;

    It is delightful to see ones family members recognized for their dedication and exertion for excellence and fairness and most of all wellness in communities everywhere. Please register my vote for Barbara Keddy. I was unable to vote from the website.

    Dawn Carson

  6. I am delighted to hear that Barb has been nominated for such a great award. I have known her since our time together in nursing school in Yarmouth in the 50’s and she remains one of my best and greatest friends.

    Throughout these many years she has shown insite in and determination to influence health and understanding in many aspects of womens health. As well she has encouraged and supported others (myself included) to follow her lead to this end.

    I would like to register my vote for this remarkable woman. I am unable to vote from the website.

  7. I have known Barbara for 17 years and am delighted that she has been nominated for this award. It is an honor and a privilege to have an opportunity to acknowledge her work as an outstanding nurse, scholar and women’s advocate. I believe that all nurses have the potential to make an incredible difference in the lives of others, but as a nurse, educator and researcher, the scope of Barbara’s influence has extended well beyond the individual to impact the profession of nursing itself.

    During her tenure in the School of Nursing at Dalhousie University, Barbara supervised the greatest number of student theses and, more than any other teacher, she has shaped the scholarly development and social conscience of a whole generation of graduate prepared nurses in Nova Scotia and the Maritime provinces. I count myself as one of these nurses. Indeed, it was Barb’s mentorship that guided me through my own doctoral studies and eventually a career in nursing and more recently medical education. Now that I too am a teacher and researcher, I have a deep appreciation for the passion and unflagging curisoity that underpins the learning enterprise for teachers and students alike. Barbara’s curisoity knows no bounds and she has continued to write and publish. A most notable and recent accomplishment is her book about fibromyalgia based on interviews with suffering women.

    Before Barb retired from a 27 year career as a nurse educator/researcher she also paved the way for the first doctoral program in nursing in the Maritime provinces. This contribution represented the culmination of an outstanding career of promoting nurses and the profession of nursing. A notable example of this type of work is that Barb founded and was the first president of the Nova Scotia Association for the History of Nursing. She then took this initiative to the national level where she was a co-founder and the first president of the Canadian Association of History of Nursing. As a nurse historian herself, Barb collected and archived the stories of older nurses, most of whom have since died. I believe a book is in the works as a means of sharing these incredible stories.

    Beyond nursing, Barbara is recognized as a leader and advocate for women. She was the first Chair of the Inter-University Master of Arts in Women’s Studies Program, which today continues to represent a collaboration between three Halifax universities. As a researcher, Barbara has also received national recognition and funding for her work with women and the African Nova Scotian population. Her commitment to social justice guides all aspects of her work and indeed her life.

    In conclusion, it is with heartfelt pleasure that I support Barbara’s nomination for this much deserved award.

    I too would like to register my vote for Barbara and am unable to do this from the website.

  8. I am writing in support of Dr. Keddy’s nomination for Women’s Health Hero. I have known her for twenty eight years, in various capacities, including course professor, colleague and best friend.

    Dr. Keddy was a dedicated nurse educator who never hesitated to go beyond the call of duty. In fact, within the School of Nursing, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia she has the reputation for chairing the largest number of graduate student committees. Graduate students were drawn to her because of her warmth and abilty to empower them to reach their goals.

    Dr. Keddy is an academic, a person of integrity, a leader and a scholar. Her research is focussed on issues related to social justice and women’s health and the history of nursing. Even as a retired university professor, she continues her quest to improve women’s health. She recently published a book dealing with women and fibromyalgia.

    While teaching in the School of Nursing at Dalhousie University, School of Nursing, Dr. Keddy developed and taught a course entitled Women and Aging. This course was offered to both graduate and undergraduate students and was not limited to nursing students. The course was so popular that registration had to be limited. The course content dealt with issues encountered by ever single, divorced or widowed elderly women such as poverty, pension benefits, institutionalization, abuse and housing.

    In conclusion, Dr. Keddy is a most deserving candidate for the Women’s Health Hero award. She is an exemplary nurse educator, health scholar and women’s health advocate.

  9. Wow, it is wonderful to read these descriptions of our mentor and friend; Barb. These are all so true. Congratulations, Barb!

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