A clinical instructor in mental health nursing, Allan Tobacca (BN’80) included Dalhousie in his estate plans to help free nursing students of financial challenges so they can focus on the future.

Allan Tobacca (BN’80) didn’t plan to go into nursing. “It was the furthest thought from my mind,” he says. “I wasn’t a particularly gifted student in high school; in fact, the guidance counselor told me I shouldn’t even think about university.”

It was while working as a porter at the Victoria General Hospital back in the early 70s that someone first suggested to the young man from Western Shore that he should consider nursing. “I remember she said, ‘You seem to enjoy people and you like the hospital environment,’” Tobacca says. “In retrospect, it was a pivotal point in my life.”

“Throughout my career, people have believed in me and encouraged me to aspire, be it in terms of education, taking on new work responsibilities, even moving into psychiatric nursing,” adds Tobacca.

Today, the one-time hospital porter can look back on a successful and satisfying career in both nursing and teaching. Not only did Tobacca make it to nursing school and later, university – earning his Bachelor of Nursing from Dalhousie – but he went on to take his Master of Science, Clinical Nurse Specialist in psychiatric nursing at Syracuse University.

In the early 90s, Tobacca’s career took a new direction when he joined the faculty of the then-Victoria General Hospital School of Nursing. By 1998, Tobacca had joined Dalhousie University as a clinical instructor in mental health nursing, while continuing to work full-time at the Nova Scotia Hospital.

“I deal with the practical side, the application of the theory,” explains Tobacca, who leads nursing students through their clinical placements in mental health.

“My greatest satisfaction is always when a student comes into the rotation with no interest in doing psychiatry and says at the end, “I think I might like to do this,’” he says. “I realize I’ve likely played a role in that decision.”

While now retired from nursing, Tobacca continues to teach part-time. “Teaching is a two-way street,” he says. “They learn from me and my life is enriched by what I learn from them.”

And in gratitude to those who helped him grow in the profession, Tobacca is paying it forward. “My concern is that we’ve nurses graduating with horrific debt loads,” he says. So, Tobacca has established a bursary as his legacy gift to Dalhousie University. “I would never want anyone to have to withdraw from the program because they’re short of funds, so this award will be based on the student’s financial need.”

“It’s my hope this bursary will help lift some of the financial burden from students, freeing them to focus on their program and their future.”


Want to learn more? Contact Siobhan Doherty at Siobhan.Doherty@dal.ca or 902.494.6853

Collage of donor photos Donors on the cover of "Your Passion. Your Legacy. Your Impact"
Read more stories » Learn more about legacy giving »