In memory of Dr. Beverley Antle

On November 11, 2006 Dr Beverley Antle died tragically in a car accident on the way to a conference. Her obituary by Catherine Dunphy, A force for good with a zeal for life records her close involvement with family and friends facing death, and powerfully conveys her success in paediatric social work and her fun side. This exerpt looks at her contribution:

"She was the powerhouse behind uniting frequently independent-minded provincial social work associations in adopting a substantial Canadian-wide code of ethics. For the past couple of years, she'd criss-crossed the country – travelling two weeks out of every month – to make that happen. She wasn't paid extra for this, but she got a lot of thank-you plaques. She was an academic and clinical specialist in the University of Toronto's department of social work, a job that involved getting funding for research into children's health. One of her last proposals was for a grant to study the effect of hope on terminal illness in children. The idea fascinated her, and the job fulfilled her, which is why she told her employers she would also do the previously full-time job of director of the PKU program at the Hospital for Sick Children – but on a part-time basis. Phenylketonuria is a genetic disorder, and Antle was the first social worker, a non-medical person, to head up such a program. She taught three courses at U of T and was about to take on a course at Ryerson University. She slept five hours a night, max. She'd be up at 1 a.m. doing a position paper and again at 5:30 a.m. cleaning the bathroom. Her dining-room table was usually covered in papers. There were outlets all over her small east end house for her laptop. She multi-tasked like few others. She could simultaneously cook a gourmet meal in her kitchen, dream up a grant proposal, critique the work of students, send off emails and watch TV. When she was working on her PhD dissertation, she was the only student ever allowed to have two computers and printers to work on simultaneously. Yes, she was in a hurry. "She wanted to do it all. She was making a better world," said her husband, Phil Ferguson. Antle, 47, believed that social work needed research to substantiate what it did, to be taken seriously. Single-handedly she wrote up 59 successful grant proposals to make that happen. Her broader goal was human rights for all, but especially children with disabilities, including HIV/AIDS. "Beverley was very focused on the profession needing to take a stand to be a voice," said MacKenzie Davies. "She was a visionary."

The In Memorium by the University of Toronto powerfully convey her focus on expanding family centred care practises and end of life decision making supports:

"Antle brought a 25-year history in pediatric health care and a long-standing interest in fostering family-centred care to her research activities. She played a lead role in developing and studying novel clinical approaches aimed at improving the overall quality of life for young people with PKU (phenylketonuria) — a genetic disorder characterized by the inability of the body to utilize the essential amino acid, phenylalanine — and other complex, chronic health conditions. As director of the PKU program at the Hospital for Sick Children, she was the first social scientist to hold a leadership position in metabolic genetics in Canada and developed innovative psychosocial interventions to enhance quality of life. Among her areas of interest and expertise were improving patient and family participation in treatment, fostering successful transitions for young people with chronic health conditions and physical disabilities and developing professional interventions to support parents of these young people, as well as bioethics and the complexity of treatment decision-making."

While reading her bio at the SickKids, I was struck by one research paper: Can we ease the burden? Parents experiences of end-of-life decision making Antle, B. J., Cottingham, D., Ghelani, K., Gorman, E., Harrison, C., Harrison, Ch., Martin, M., B. N. (2001-2002) Funded by The Bayer Institute On Health Care Communication (US)

Additional voices in memory are offered at the website of the Ontario Association of Social Worker.

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