The Human Foundations Awardee – Shirley L. Fenton

It is with great pleasure that we share with you a bit of the story of a very noteworthy person who is 2016 inaugural recipient of The Human Foundations Award. 

Shirley Fenton
Bus. Dev. Director, Centre for Bioeng. & Biotech., University of Waterloo. VP, National Institutes of Health Informatics

Shirley Fenton was born near Chatham Ontario. The actual date of her birth is a closely-held secret similar to Donald Drumpf’s income tax returns. If we told you about it, we’d be in real trouble!

Throughout her academic career, Shirley has attended the University of Waterloo, where she obtained her Bachelor of Environmental Studies in 1975 and her Master of Arts in 1977. Her career continues at the University of Waterloo even today. Shirley started as a Tutor in a number of programs and served as a Computer Consultant in the Department of Computing Services. She stepped into the computer area quite early, providing educational programs and doing microcomputer support when that was brand new. But she didn’t stop there. In the early 1980s she served as an Instructor in Continuing Education and in Part-Time Studies related to microcomputers and a variety of major applications. In 1983, she began a stint as an Adjunct Assistant Professor and Adjunct Lecturer in Computer Science at Waterloo, while also serving as the Manager of Project Development in computing and communications. The late 1980s saw Shirley become a Research Associate with the Computer Systems Group (CSG), a well-known mover and shaker in Computer Science that continues its work even now.

In addition to these academic positions, Shirley went over to the dark side for a while, becoming the Manager of Space Information and Planning for Waterloo’s Administration. This is that hated group that determines how many square feet of space you get to occupy in the ivory tower. Somehow she survived that!

Dominic’s first connection with Shirley was in the early 2000s, when we began the planning for Health Informatics at the Waterloo. Between 2003 and 2010, Shirley served as the Managing Director of the Waterloo Institute for Health Informatics Research (WIHIR), UW’s first and only University-wide Health Informatics Institute. This made a permanent mark on Health Informatics at Waterloo. At the present time, Shirley – as usual – carries out a number of significant roles. She serves as the Vice President and a Director of the National Institutes of Health Informatics (NIHI), as a Research Associate with the Computer Systems Group, and as the Director of the InfraNET Project, as well as being the Business Development Director for the Center for Bioengineering and Biotechnology at the University of Waterloo. Amazing! And, as far as we’ve been able to determine, there is only one of her!

She has been honored many times, including by the Zonta Club of Kitchener-Waterloo, which gave her the “Women of Achievement” award in 2011. She was a judge for the annual “Top Intelligent Community of the Year” award for the Intelligent Community Forum in New York in 2008. In the late 1970s, she received the WATFAC Study Fellowship, an Ontario University Scholarship and a University of Waterloo Scholarship.

Her areas of experience include: program management, project management, community building, synergistic collaborations, and research and teaching. In the last 17 years, she has become deeply knowledgeable regarding eHealth and Health Informatics and has organized and carried out many conferences, courses, lectures and webinars both in Canada and in China.

If all of that is not amazing enough and worthy of being honored, then also note that she has published four articles in peer-reviewed journals, is the author of co-author on 15 articles in peer-reviewed proceedings of conferences, and has been a presenter or co-presenter of many papers at national and international conferences. In addition, she has been an invited speaker and served in many other roles at a whole passel of workshops and conferences.

The rationale for this award

Shirley has, without question, led a career that can only be described as both extensive and excellent. In particular, her two decades of work related to Health Informatics in an academic setting sets her apart from many others in our field.

There is, in both articles and education-related materials she has produced, ample evidence of the results she has delivered and the quality of her contributions. In addition, we are aware of her ability to work with people, including those to whom she reports, those with whom she works, as well as those who work for her.

Dominic attests particularly to her contributions related to the two institutes that she helped create and that her efforts maintained.
One consideration in establishing this award was to choose for its inaugural recipient a person who would serve as an exemplar of the kind of person it is intended to honor. Shirley Fenton, without any doubt, is the model of the kind of person that we have called a King or Queen-maker. What is interesting, is that those with whom she deals would bestow on her the title of ‘Queen’ as well!

In Closing

We hope we have given you a picture of this amazing person and some idea of what she has done.

The variety of crops that are farmed in Western Ontario’s great open spaces is quite amazing. Lucky for us, Shirley is a product of one of these farms who was transplanted into the high-tech academic environment at the University of Waterloo and flourished there. Those of us with whom she has worked have immensely benefited.

For those of you who did not have time or the opportunity to read about this award in the October 2016 issue of this magazine, please take a look at the text box herein. It will explain what this award is about.

We both know Shirley very well. Elaine knows her from her educational and conference-related collaborations as well as interaction between Shirley and COACH, ITAC Health and this magazine. Neither of us could possibly wish for more in a collaborator than we have found in her. We only hope that Shirley has another four decades to put her mark on other organizations and people and to continue her contributions to our field.

Congratulations Shirley!

Criteria for Selection
We wish to recognize the work, the time and the energy the awardee has dedicated to providing support, as well as the positivity of the atmosphere generated by the person. The primary criteria that a candidate for this award must satisfy include:

  1. A nominator must provide evidence of the candidate’s excellence of assistance in achieving recognized results in the areas of eHealth or Health Informatics in academic or professional settings. The candidate must be perceived by leadership or management to have provided exemplary and positive contributions to key projects, programs, or the equivalent;
  2. The candidate must have demonstrated longevity, by documenting at least 10 years of service to a project, program, organization or the equivalent;
  3. The nominator must provide documented attestations regarding the candidate’s work, results, excellence and longevity, sourced from both leadership/ management and at least two coworkers of the candidate in their organization, as well as from one person external to the

The Goal
The intention is to set a reasonably high bar, but to make achievement possible by a variety of individuals. For example, the awardee could be a professional assistant, a project manager, a research assistant, a student, or any other type of support person. This award does not apply to the primary individuals responsible for, leading or serving as the principal investigator in a project, but rather it is only intended for those providing support.

Healthcare Information Management & Communications Canada will make the award to a candidate selected by a team convened by the Editor. This team will comprise at least three senior individuals in the eHealth/Health Informatics community, one of whom must be an academic.

The Award
The award will include a plaque and $500, but future enhancements to this will be pursued. The awardee will be recognized in an article in this magazine (as in this case). The individual to receive the award will be decided annually by the selection team, unless, in its judgment, no individual has emerged as an appropriate recipient.

On request to the Editor of this magazine ( , a document will be provided that will solicit appropriate information that will inform the judgment of the selection team. This document will be completed by the person nominating the individual and will be submitted with supporting information as defined above. A proposal submission date and an announcement will also be provided.

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