Anna Maria de Souza, who passed away in September of 2007, was a legend of Canadian philanthropy, and even as she herself was being treated for cancer at The Princess Margaret, she was planning her annual Brazilian Ball to raise funds for the hospital. She wanted the 2008 Ball to pay tribute to the extraordinary oncology nurses who support patients and their families as they deal with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Together with her beloved husband, Ivan, she also planted a seed that has already germinated and borne fruit for oncology nurses in Ontario. The funds raised by the Brazilian Ball for oncology nursing laid the groundwork for the de Souza Institute, an organization dedicated to helping meet the increasing demand for more nurses trained in oncology.
The mandate of the de Souza Institute is to work in concert with academic and accreditation bodies to develop and deliver a broad range of oncology-related training as well as mentorship programs for nurses across the province.
The inaugural director for the institute is Dr. Mary Jane Esplen, a clinician, professor, author and scientist, well-regarded for her work in psychosocial oncology, women’s health and palliative care.
Dr. Esplen has put in place an ambitious plan for the de Souza Institute and has already over-achieved in many areas. Just some of the accomplishments of the first six months include:
14 Ontario regional cancer centres received a total of $1.4 million from the de Souza Institute for information technology and physical space for nurses to study
31 oncology nurses in Ontario who are enrolled in graduate-level programs received de Souza fellowship awards to advance their career development in clinical practice, research and nursing leadership
Over 150 oncology nurses either enrolled in de Souza study groups or received funding to prepare for the 2009 Canadian Nurses Association national certification exam in oncology or hospice palliative care.