Health Sciences Education master’s student delivers 2020 Last Lecture

You could say teaching runs in Lisa Sydora-Wood’s family. Her father retired from serving as a vice-principal in Parkland County after 39 years and her sister has been teaching for over a decade.

But even after she began working as an instructor in the UAlberta Faculty of Nursing in 2017 after a stint at NorQuest College, Sydora-Wood says doubts lingered about her abilities as an educator. That’s why she chose to follow her two University of Alberta undergraduate degrees (‘01 BCom,’12 BScN) by pursuing her Master of Education in Health Sciences Education (MHSE).

“It might have started with a bit of imposter syndrome,” she says. “I had no background in teaching when I started as a sessional, but I felt this would be the perfect way to teach about the profession I love.”

Being able to pursue her degree part-time over two years enabled Sydora-Wood to keep serving in her capacity as assistant head nurse in Misericordia Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, as well as working with prenatal patients in her hometown of Spruce Grove.

“Online learning really works for someone who wants to do it from wherever they are,” she says of the program, which blended in-person and online components. “I had done no online learning before, but the professors really knew what they were doing, they were very organized, and they were super-invested in every student.”

As someone who was already working as a health professional educator, Sydora-Wood adds, the content proved very practical.

“The program felt very real-life, very condensed. I felt like every time I did a course I went and used what I learned the next day.”

She says that getting to know the other students in her cohort was an important part of the experience.

“The best part of the MHSE is the interdisciplinarity. In a cohort of 21, there were several doctors, some registered nurses, dietitians, dental hygienists—a wide array of backgrounds meant we had a lot to share. I learned as much from my peers as from my instructors, and I’m sure I will maintain those relationships now that I’m almost done the program. It really gave me a whole different outlook on other health professions.”

Her imposter syndrome notwithstanding, Sydora-Wood was chosen by her students to deliver the 2020 Last Lecture, which was delivered virtually this year owing to the pandemic.

“I thought, I’ve only been teaching for two-and-a-half years, how did I have this impact?” she says.

It might be that Sydora-Wood exemplifies the practices she describes in her lecture.

“I talk about how the relationships you build during the [Nursing] program are just as important as the skills you learn,” she says. “The little things you do matter. I’ve always tried to treat my students like future colleagues.”