The Hamilton Spectator
Gina Browne ‘an extraordinary scholar’
Mac nursing professor won many awards for research into health care for the disadvantaged
Gina Browne had compassion for vulnerable families, children and adults.
Through pioneering research at McMaster University, she determined what makes up the best mix of health and social services, for what people, at the most effective cost.
It was a mission that consumed Browne — who died Jan. 1 at age 75 — and linked her to roots in Kentucky.
“I am a product of poverty,” she told The Spectator in 1995.
Her mother, Juliette, had 16 babies, 12 of whom lived. Her father, Robert, was a cost accountant at General Electric and earned $14,000 a year, but it did not go far enough to feed the family. Browne credited, however, her mother with not letting the family believe they were poor and having a positive outlook with the line, “To whom much has been given, much is expected.”
Browne went on to graduate from university, become a nurse and earn a PhD at Boston University. She arrived at McMaster in 1971 to become a professor in the Faculty of Nursing and went on to found and become director of the Health and Social Service Utilization Research Unit in 1991.
It received funding from the federal and provincial governments. Browne and her team of researchers looked into health issues for single mothers and their children, depression, lodging homes, the cognitively impaired, co-operative education and coping with chronic illness. The Burlington resident retired in 2015.
Two prominent studies conducted by the unit were called When the Bough Breaks and Benefiting All the Beneficiaries. The studies, which took five years to compile, came out in 1999 and indicated that providing a range of health and social services to social assistance recipients, including access to recreational programs for children, reduced the use of other publicly funded social, health and correctional services. The studies looked at 765 households and 1,300 children, from newborn to age 24, and were funded by Health Canada and the Hamilton Community Foundation.
The studies resulted in the creation of the GROW program and CORE (Community Organizations Reaching Everyone). Both aimed to give vulnerable youths access to the arts and recreation, respectively. CORE was run out of Browne’s office at McMaster.
Regina (Gina) Browne was born Sept. 23, 1947, in Louisville, Ky. She obtained her nursing degree from Spalding University in her hometown before she went to Boston.
McMaster issued a release in which former colleagues praised Browne’s work and her character.
“Dr. Gina Browne was an extraordinary scholar, teacher and mentor who challenged students to think in new ways,” said Maureen MarkleReid, professor emerita at the School of Nursing. “She used an engaging approach in all her interactions that endeavoured to bring out the best in everyone. She was a dynamic and visionary leader.”
Denise Bryant-Lukosius, a professor in the School of Nursing, said Browne was a “spellbinding” educator.
“She had an amazing presence and ability to excite, engage, and inspire learners across all disciplines,” said Bryant-Lukosius. “I was fortunate to be mentored by Gina in problem-based learning and she sits on my shoulder in every class I teach.”
Browne received many awards for her work. In 2002, When the Bough Breaks and Benefiting All the Beneficiaries brought her the President’s Award of Distinction from Parks and Recreation Ontario.
In 2005, she received the National Award for Excellence in Nursing Research from the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing. In 2012, she was inducted as a Fellow into the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. A year later, she received the Excellence through Evidence Award of the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement, which noted the creation of CORE.
In 2019, Browne was inducted into the Faculty of Health Sciences’ Community of Distinction.
Browne is survived by her sons, Joseph and Dillon, and three grandchildren. She was predeceased by her husband Joseph, who died in 2013. She is also survived by eight siblings.