Former Red Deer College nursing student returns for honorary degree

Bernie Pauly has become renowned nurse, educator and researcher

Pauly granted honorary degree

For Bernie Pauly, it all started in Red Deer.

The nationally recognized nurse, educator, researcher and nurse ethicist with a passion for reducing health inequities began what would become her life’s work in Red Deer College’s nursing program.

On Friday, Pauly received an Honorary Bachelor or Arts Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies degree from Red Deer College at its 53rd convocation at Westerner Park.

Pauly graduated from the college in 1983 and would later return to teach from 1992-99. She would go on to get her PhD in nursing from the University of Victoria in 2005.

She still lives in B.C.’s capital, where she is an associate professor at her alma mater, a scientist for the Centre for Addictions Research, a member of the Renewal of Public Health Services Research Team and priority lead for the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness. She has authored or co-authored more than 130 publications.

“I think one of the biggest public health crises we’ve faced in the last decade are the overdose deaths,” she said. “In Alberta, there’s been a 60 per cent increase in overdose deaths this year over last year.”

Pauly said the country needs to scale up intervention strategies such as supervised injection sites. Tackling the problem also means going further up the chain to the country’s drug policy, which requires immediate reform, she said.

Issues such as homelessness and overdose deaths and their impact on the larger community need to be considered when forming policy.

She credits Red Deer College for recognized the importance of evidence-based public health, advocacy and social justice.

Pauly, who came to Red Deer College from a small town in Saskatchewan, said she had a “fantastic experience” here.

She started out as a business student but switched over to nursing, a change of direction supported by the college.

“I would say that they did everything they could to facilitate my move into nursing.”

Her message to students is to recognize what draws you and to pursue that passion. Also, students should understand they it may take some time and a number of experiences before that passion becomes clear.

“It doesn’t have to be something that looks the same for everybody. It’s going to be a very individual experience based on people’s history and the background from which they come.”


Danielle Klassen, Karley Rae Sachiko Kabayama and Breanne May Huhn (left to right) pass the time as they wait to walk to their seats at Westerner Park. The three Red Deer College Bachelor of Arts and Psychology graduates joined hundreds of other graduates Friday for their graduation ceremony. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff) Red Deer College bachelor of education students make their way to their seats as their graduation commencement begins Friday afternoon at Westerner Park. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

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