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Student Erin Mawhinney wins Wilson Award

Sep 26, 2022


Erin Mawhinney is one of 11 students at McMaster University to win the coveted Wilson Leadership Scholar Award this year. 

The award aims to give students transformative experiences while also helping to develop the next generation of leaders in Canada. It was founded by Chancellor Emeritus L.R. (Red) Wilson. It comes with $12,000 in direct funding, up to $2,000 for experiential learning, as well as mentorship and other opportunities.  

Mawhinney is in her second year of the course-based stream of the master’s program in nursing. “I was pleasantly surprised and excited when I found out. It was good news at the end of the summer,” she says. “I’m so grateful to Red Wilson for the program. It’s such a unique opportunity to be able to work with the mentors and the other students selected from a variety of faculties. People with other job experiences can give great input into your project. It’s also an opportunity to address some of the challenges and extremely difficult situations I witnessed both working at the hospital and continuing to live downtown during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.”  

Mawhinney’s project targets a population she encounters in her work as a nurse. “These are people who get missed a lot with public health interventions: those who were homeless for a while and are now in housing but without any support. No one ever checks in on them again. They are just recently housed but not necessarily used to living in their own space or shared quarters,” she says. The project will run from September to April.  

For the past four and a half years, Mawhinney has worked at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton. “I work in ICU but every so often, we float down to Emergency. Any given night, there are people sitting there not necessarily for medical problems, but for some concern with their housing situation. They often say they can’t take the space they’re living in anymore, in terms of cleanliness. They are usually looking for an escape, somewhere else to sit for the night. It affects people when their housing is unhygienic. This project will recruit volunteers, who would be screened and reference-checked, to go with myself into these spaces and give them a fresh-start clean. We would leave the tenants with the cleaning materials, and after that, if there was interest, we would provide a series of classes. The first class would be food safety and food storage. Another class would be pest management. What cleaning products are affordable and how do you dispose of them safely? The project is about having a clean home space as a facilitator of mental health.”  

Mawhinney graduated from McMaster’s BScN program in 2018 and is happy she made the choice to return to do her master’s degree. “The faculty members I’ve met and the placements I’ve had have let me dive deeper into the housing side of healthcare, which I am grateful for,” she says.

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