Three-time alum returns to Dalhousie as a professor
Dr. Keisha Jefferies discovered a love of nursing as a Dalhousie student. Now, as a University Research Chair – Emerging Scholar, she is excited to share her research and experience in her new role as faculty.
By Andrew Pelrine
After an extensive educational career at Dalhousie, nurse scientist Keisha Jefferies (BScN’13, MN’17, PhD (Nursing)’22) is back on campus — but this time at the start of her career as a professor. In addition to her assistant professorship, Dr. Jefferies was also recently named one of Dalhousie’s inaugural University Research Chairs – Emerging Scholar for her critical research focused on population health and equity and inclusivity in nursing. The Emerging Scholar Research Chair targets “early career academics who have demonstrated research excellence and the potential for international recognition in the next five to ten years.”
When Dr. Jefferies found out about the appointment, she was excited and in disbelief. “I am amazed by the support from my Dalhousie and Nova Scotian communities,” she says. “I am excited to be in this position and to continue to strive towards change.” She will teach her first course N5140 – Community-Based Research Methodologies for Addressing Health Disparities at Dalhousie in January 2024.
Growth at Dalhousie
Dr. Jefferies can attribute aspects of her personal and professional growth to each of her Dalhousie degrees. During her BScN, she remembers the feeling of being a part of a community, due in part to the cohort design of the program. During her graduate studies, Dr. Jefferies was a Killam Scholar and developed a formative relationship with the Global Health Office in the Faculty of Medicine (Dalhousie). She travelled to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, for three months to work at one of the top universities in the country. “It was my master’s that opened my eyes to the world and all of the possibilities [for a career in health],” she says.
Importantly, her doctoral studies allowed Dr. Jefferies to better understand herself and her contributions to the world. Her dissertation examined the leadership experiences of African Nova Scotian nurses, to understand some of the barriers that exist. “We know of the underrepresentation of Black nurses in specialty care areas and nursing practice in general, but there are also challenges [obstacles] for Black nurses as they move into leadership roles,” explains Dr. Jefferies. “[I’ve been] trying to identify what is going on and how can we [build] pathways that will facilitate career advancement through the nursing profession.”
University Research Chair – Emerging Scholar
Dr. Jefferies describes her research as focusing on “health disparities as they present themselves in Black communities.” To Dr. Jefferies, this means understanding chronic health from an equity perspective, as well as examining how anti-Black racism shows up in nursing education and practice. “My goal is to help to improve the circumstances for communities that have been historically marginalized,” she says.
And it’s clear that her research is having an impact. Her inclusion in Dalhousie’s inaugural University Research Chair program speaks volumes. “These distinguished positions are designed to recognize exceptional achievement and pre-eminence in key fields of research and reflect Dalhousie’s commitment to academic excellence and equity in our research community,” says Dr. Alice Aiken, vice-president of research and innovation at Dal. “The scholars attracted through this program will serve as catalysts, drawing new faculty and student talent, forging global collaborations, and igniting the formation of dynamic hubs for research within Dalhousie.”
Learn about the other inaugural University Research Chairs →
A new but familiar beginning
Dr. Jefferies will start teaching in January and plans to bring teachings from her past professors to her position. “I had a professor who would start the semester with an opening circle (card reading) and reflection,” she remembers. “I am excited to incorporate an element of reflectivity and self-exploration [in my classroom], as it is so important to be able to reflect on and understand how we show up.”
On top of launching her program of research, teaching, and the Research Chair Emerging Scholar position, Dr. Jefferies had the opportunity to supervise a research student this past summer. “The student was interested in [my] work so, I jumped at the opportunity,” she says. Expanding her program of research, M-BRACe (Multidisciplinary Research & Advocacy Centre), has made for an exciting fall, with Dr. Jefferies growing her team with the addition of a research coordinator and a research associate.
Dr. Jefferies acknowledges that the research she is doing takes place at Dalhousie, which is in Mi’kma’ki amongst African Nova Scotian communities. “It’s appropriate, fitting, and poetic,” she says. “I’m very excited to do this work in a supportive institution and community and to collaborate with brilliant people with similar goals and visions. I see Dalhousie as the perfect fit for my work.”