1. Katz, Anne PhD, RN

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Twenty-five years ago in South Africa where I was born and raised, young women started their nursing training right out of high school and were finished by the time they were 20. I started late, at the age of 21, after six months on a kibbutz in Israel and a period spent studying to be an occupational therapist; despite the profession's lack of status in South Africa (nursing was seen as "dirty" work, for "nonacademic" women who could not succeed at a university), I finally shut out the negative voices and admitted to myself that this was what I really wanted to do. And from my very first day in a diploma program, I knew that I had found a profession that would allow me to push my own boundaries and create my own path.


Nursing in apartheid South Africa in many ways mirrored the divisions in the society as a whole. As a white nurse, I did not interact with my nonwhite colleagues. They worked on the "other" side of the hospital, taking care of nonwhite patients. It was as if there was an invisible wall that separated the two sides of the hospital. Most of my nursing colleagues didn't seem to think that this was strange. This experience of health care disparity in an unjust and inhumane political system only heightened my desire to live elsewhere, and I emigrated from South Africa to Canada in 1985.


My first position in my adopted country was in a community clinic as a nurse caring for people with HIV and AIDS. This was an exciting field in the late 1980s, as various treatments were becoming available, and every day I learned something new. It was also a time of sadness because so many died so quickly. Working in the HIV field at that time was a political statement, on the edge, and I knew that what I did every day made a difference.


I studied part time while doing this work, and within five years I earned a baccalaureate. In the process, I'd discovered that not only did I love learning, I was also good at it. I immediately enrolled in graduate school. With a master of nursing degree under my belt, wonderful opportunities presented themselves, and soon I found work as a clinical nurse specialist (CNS). This was the ideal position for me, involving research; clinical care; and the education of patients, their families, and others in the health care field. I reveled in every aspect of the job. At the same time, I continued my studies in a doctoral program, where I focused on HIV in pregnancy. After three years without a social life, I had the right to call myself "Doctor." I then moved into an academic position at the university, teaching in the area of women's health and community nursing.


I have now moved back into a CNS position and work with men with a recent diagnosis of prostate cancer. I try to help them negotiate their treatment options soon after diagnosis. This too can be cutting-edge nursing-often the patients have not been fully informed of their options; they feel pressured to have surgery or some other form of treatment that may have long-term, deleterious consequences in terms of the quality of their lives and intimate relationships. I'm also the sexuality counselor at the cancer agency where I work, and see men and women, both patients and partners, whose sexual function has been affected by cancer. Additional university courses in sex therapy have opened this door for me, and once again I find myself in an area of nursing that's unique and fulfilling. I still have opportunities for research and writing, but mostly I listen to stories and work with couples to improve this aspect of their lives.