It was fitting that the Keith Cox Scholarships were awarded on the same day as International Nurses Day, celebrated on the birthday of Florence Nightingale, another great pioneer in nursing.
Keith, who recently retired from Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, was one of the first cancer nurse practitioners in Australia. The scholarship was set up to help nurses and health workers to further their education through post-graduate studies, with a focus on Masters of Cancer Nursing and Cancer Nurse Practitioners.
“It’s taken Australia quite a long time to understand how nurse practitioners can actually add value to our health system. I think this is a very important moment,” said Donna Waters, Dean of Nursing and Midwifery from the University of Sydney at the launch.
“As a leader in cancer nursing Chris O’Brien Lifehouse champions professional development and the award of the Keith Cox Clinical Education Scholarships today is a wonderful celebration of that.”
Keith told the audience of guests, former patients, their families and VIPs, including Lifehouse CMO Michael Boyer and Lifehouse CEO Eileen Hannagan, that it was a huge honour to have the scholarship named after him.
“I remember being in Perugia in Italy when I got a text message from Gail O’Brien (wife of the late Chris O’Brien) asking me if I would accept to have this scholarship set up under my name. It was a huge honour and privilege for me as a cancer nurse,” he told the audience at the May 13 event.
Keith said there was little funding for nurses to undertake ongoing education, which could include overseas study tours, short courses and conferences. The result of the scholarships would be Lifehouse nurses speaking at international conferences, presenting papers or being part of workshops.
“I would like to see our nurses and allied health professionals at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse recognised on the world stage,” he said. “They will write chapters in books, they will present papers, they will write papers and they will get involved in all sorts of research. This is the first step in making it happen.”
The ceremony, at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, was attended by key donors including David Boyer – the brother of Michael Boyer – and Julian Hofer, both cared for by Keith at various stages in their cancer treatment. Julian said Keith had been a “nurse practitioner to the stars”.
“He genuinely cares for humanity, his connection with the human spirit is truly amazing. The holding of a hand, the listening to a patient’s concerns or worries, Keith can relate to everyone and was able to calm even the most scared and young adolescent patients like myself. This responsibility is now yours,” he told the more than 30 award recipients.
“Connect to the human side of cancer,” he added. “Treat the person with the disease, treat the human side of cancer. This is what Keith was able to do and sets him apart from many of his peers.”
Catherine Lambert, Director of Clinical Services at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse said Keith had more than 40 years’ experience in nursing and “has been a pillar in developing what we have at Lifehouse today”.
“Keith, it’s your passion and commitment to your patients and through the foundation and generous donors supporting the future of nursing and in particular supporting the develop of expert oncology nurses into the future that we celebrate today.”