Compassionate and caring

York University nursing graduate Mumtaz Sawadi has received a 2004 Sopman Humanitarian Award for humanity in patient care. The Sopman Humanitarian Award is given to students placed at the University Health Network (UHN) in nursing, medicine and surgery who demonstrate humanitarian care, and clinical and academic excellence. Sawadi received one of three $1,000 awards designated for nursing students placed at UHN, which includes Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital.

Right: Mumtaz Sawadi (left) with Eleanor Pask

Sawadi, a 2004 graduate of York’s joint nursing program with Seneca College, did her clinical placement in neuroscience at the Toronto Western Hospital. She is now employed as a full time nurse in the neuroscience department at the Toronto Western Hospital.

“I work with acute care patients in the neuroscience area,” explained Sawadi. “We have patients who have had an aneurysm, hemorrhage, stroke or tumors in the brain and those who are recovering from brain or spinal cord surgery. There is also a patient population with various movement disorders including Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Guillain-Barre syndrome, Myasthenia gravis and Epilepsy.”

Sawadi sees compassion and humanity in nursing as the primary focus in her role as a nurse. “I believe that nursing is not just physical care, it is much more than that and involves the mind, body and spirit.” she said. “One of my beliefs is that whenever I do anything, including love and compassion can make all the difference.  I care for patients as if they were a member of my family. I try to promote in my patients healing in way they can identify as being important and necessary.”

The award selection committee sought information about each candidate nominated for the award from both the clinical placement area within the UHN and York’s Faculty of Nursing. The selection criteria for the award include a demonstration of excellence in the science and art of humanitarian care, above-average interpersonal skills exhibited through interaction with patients and their families, demonstrated evidence of compassion and support while providing care to patients, and clinical and academic excellence.

Born in Nairobi, Kenya to parents of Indian nationality, Sawadi came to Canada in 1992. “I worked as a legal assistant and wanted to study law but changed my mind,” she said. “I wanted to do something that would make a difference in people’s lives, so I enrolled in the collaborative nursing program at Seneca and York.”

“The program was excellent,” she said. “Seneca provided the basics and York fine tuned us in terms of our role as nurses. The York component stressed professionalism and patient-focused care. It encouraged global thinking and taught us how to be advocates for patients.”

“I want to gain some experience and I hope to return to school to do a masters degree in nursing,” said Sawadi. “Eventually, I would like to work in oncology or palliative care in community nursing and I hope to continue to make a difference through compassionate care.”

Twenty-five years ago, the compassion of a young student nurse at Toronto General Hospital who cared for his dying wife, Belle, inspired Archie Sopman to create this special award to honour care beyond the call of duty.

Since then, more than 200 exceptional doctors and nurses in training who do clinical placements at University Health Network have received the annual Sopman Humanitarian Awards (totalling approx. $150,000) in recognition of their humanity in patient care. They are selected for their ability to communicate with their UHN patients and colleagues and, most importantly, for their compassion when providing care.

Michael Sopman and his wife, Judy, have continued his father’s legacy.

Left, from left to right: Mary Ferguson-Pare, vice-president, Professional Affairs & Chief Nurse Executive, UHN; Mumtaz Sawadi; Michael Sopman and Judy Sopman

This year, nine recipients were honoured at the 25th anniversary event, which was held June 16 (Belle’s birthday) at the Sopman’s home in Thornhill. Also honoured at the event was Linda Kirby, the student nurse who inspired the award and was its first recipient.

Sawadi was not able to bring her parents to the ceremony because her father is ill. Instead she brought her mentor, Eleanor Pask, the undergraduate program director for the collaborative nursing program to the ceremony.