Eugenia Canas Memorial Award in Health Equity

Headshot of Eugenia CanasIt was with profound sadness that the FIMS community said goodbye to Dr. Eugenia Canas on June 18, 2021, after she passed away from cancer at age 47. Eugenia was a Health Information Science PhD graduate and a post-doc with deep ties to both the Faculty of Information & Media Studies and the Faculty of Health Sciences at Western.

Eugenia was the model of an emerging scholar, who did her work in the right ways, and for the right reasons. Her commitment to social justice, health equity and the mental well-being of young people was truly inspirational and came, in part, from her own experiences. Among many other things, Eugenia was a founding member of the Centre for Research on Health Equity and Social Inclusion, and served as CRHESI’s first Centre Coordinator. As a doctoral student in the HIS program, she was supervised by Professors Nadine Wathen and Helene Berman. She is deeply missed.

About Eugenia

Eugenia Canas was a shining light and a beautiful human being who died much too soon, at the age of 47, several months after being diagnosed with cancer. To her colleagues, she was a source of strength and a role model, generous with her time and wisdom. To her friends, a beautiful, kind, and loving presence, always calm and compassionate, but with a sharp and unpredictable sense of humour.

Photo of Eugenia Canas at her dissertation defense
Eugenia at her thesis defense in 2019

Eugenia was born in El Salvador, where she spent her youth until her family moved to London, Canada in 1988. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Western University, followed by a Masters in Linguistics from York University. Wishing to follow her passion for art and writing, Eugenia spent a decade in Toronto working as an editor, including a 5-year tenure at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Eugenia’s interest in helping marginalized youth brought her back to London where she worked with various not-for-profit organizations and became involved in a national research study, using arts-based approaches to address structural violence in the lives of youth under the leadership of Dr. Helene Berman. Working on this project as the National Youth Coordinator re-kindled her enthusiasm for research & scholarly endeavours, prompting her to return to school to pursue doctoral studies. She completed her PhD in the Health Information Science program at Western in 2019 under the supervision of Drs. Helene Berman and Nadine Wathen. Her doctoral dissertation examined the important role of youth as decision makers in the design and implementation of youth mental health policy and programs. At the same time, Eugenia played a key role in the establishment of the Centre for Research on Health Equity & Social Inclusion (CRHESI), becoming CRHESI’s first Centre Coordinator. Upon completion of the PhD, she began a Post-Doctoral Fellowship under the supervision of Dr. Wathen, a position she held until her untimely death. Her Post-Doctoral work examined ways to support those most marginalized by trauma, violence and inequities. With Dr. Wathen, she co-led the development of an online and free e-learning curriculum to educate health and social service providers, and organizations, to practice in a trauma- and violence-informed way, and a knowledge mobilization project to share findings about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on services for women experiencing violence. In all of these contexts, she was a deeply valued friend and colleague, a source of strength, a wonderful mentor to graduate students, and a role model to diverse populations of youth.

Eugenia’s love for the fine arts carried on throughout her life. Both hers and her mother’s houses are adorned with her artwork. Eugenia also loved to travel. Some of her prior destinations included Spain, Ireland, Patagonia, as well as numerous trips throughout North America. She adored her wonderful dog Georgia that she raised from a puppy. She was active in her community and made many friends as a result of her compassion and positive energy. But above all, her greatest joy and accomplishment in life is her beautiful, curious, and affectionate son, Rayne and spending time with her cherished family, including her mother, Mercedes, and brothers, Fernando, Francisco, and Carlos.

Wherever she went, Eugenia lit up the lives of everyone who knew and loved her with her warmth and optimism, and we are pleased to establish this scholarship in her beautiful memory.

- Tribute provided by Nadine Wathen and Helene Berman

Eugenia on why she chose the HIS program at Western

Recorded in 2017:

To honour Eugenia’s passion to support students and young people more broadly, a scholarship was established in her name which provides funding support for a student in Western University’s Health Information Science Graduate Program. If you would like to make a donation, please visit: http://westernconnect.ca/canasmemorial.