2023 David Thomson Award for Graduate Supervision and Teaching

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Nancy Heath
Lucy Lach | Pierre Pluye



Prof. Nancy Heath, Winner of the 2023 David Thomson Award for Graduate Supervision and TeachingNancy Heath, Educational & Counselling Psychology

Perfect’ is impossible- there is always room to learn and grow.”


Over my 30-year career at McGill, my research on understanding and enhancing student mental health has resulted in over 160 publications and 350 conferences, continuous substantial funding, as well as a Dawson Scholar Award, a James McGill Professorship and most recently a Distinguished James McGill Professorship. I have supervised more than 85 graduate students who, as part of my team, have been central to all my work and have contributed immeasurably to the success and, more importantly, my enjoyment of my career.

Approach to graduate supervision

I am known by my students to have very high standards. My students are not always the best applicants at admissions; however, they almost always end up being ranked top in their areas (research, community leadership, clinically) due to the intense focus on tailored professional development. At the outset, I have them immerse themselves in understanding growth mindset, the idea of embracing learning, gaining skills, taking chances, and seeing ‘failure’ as an excellent opportunity to learn. I share my harshest publication/grant reviews, to model how to deal with corrective feedback. I encourage them to support each other in using corrective feedback to achieve next level performance. I strongly reject perfectionism, with the idea that anything ‘perfect’ is impossible- there is always room to learn and grow. Accomplishment is not a goal but a process.


Nancy herself serves as an inspirational role model for how a healthy work-life balance can be maintained in academia across a variety of professional and personal roles and responsibilities. Her mentorship style and work ethic are uncompromising in her high expectations for research productivity and exacting standards of the quality of the research her team conducts. However, she pairs this with a truly outstanding ability to scaffold her students’ learning and professional development in a way that makes it entirely feasible for students at different levels to meet these high standards. Indeed, Nancy’s approach to mentoring her students truly focuses on maximising each student’s potential in alignment with the student’s own goals and ambition and in true partnership with the student. I truly believe that Nancy’s outstanding mentorship has had a deep and longstanding influence on who I am both professionally as an emerging researcher but also personally in my ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance. I can say without hesitation that Nancy has been and continues to be an inspirational role model for women in academia and I feel privileged to have her as my mentor.

Jessica Mettler, MA, Tomlinson Scholar, PhD Candidate
Human Development, Faculty of Education, McGill University

I feel incredibly privileged to have had Nancy as my supervisor and mentor at McGill. Since the time I graduated from my PhD program in 2011, I have come to value Nancy’s mentorship even more as I’ve built my own research team, taught hundreds of graduate students, and mentored doctoral scholars working under my supervision at The University of Texas at Austin. Her influence is present in so much of what I do—and my deep commitment to teaching and learning on campus was modeled for me in the way Nancy prioritized student success and wellbeing. I first supported Nancy’s nomination for this award a decade ago and I am thrilled that she is finally receiving recognition for her outstanding mentorship!

Jessica Toste, Associate Professor
Department of Special Education, The University of Texas at Austin


Prof. Lucyna Lach, Nominee of the 2023 David Thomson Award for Graduate Supervision and TeachingLucyna Lach, School of Social Work

I see my role as one that should prepare students for what lies ahead by getting to know and working with their unique trajectory and helping them to build a program of study that is based on their strengths and interests.


I am an associate professor in the School of Social Work, and am an associate member of the Departments of Paediatrics, Neurology and Neurosurgery, Faculty of Medicine. My program of research has two main streams, the first focusses on documenting social determinants of living a life of quality among children, youth and young adults who are neurodivergent, and their families, and the second focuses on the co-construction of systems of care that promote navigation of, and access to, care. I have (co)-produced 75 peer reviewed publications, 13 chapters, have received just over $5M in research funds as principal or co-principal investigator, and another $5.2M as co-investigator.

Approach to graduate supervision

Teaching graduate social work students is deeply informed by my personal values and beliefs, as well as my relationship with students who will become leaders in the profession and in the discipline of social work. Graduates of the MSW and PhD programs in social work follow diverse post-graduate trajectories. Some will take on practice and leadership roles in government and non-government agencies that support neurodivergent children and adults, their families, and the communities within which they are embedded. Others will follow a more academic path to carry forward a legacy of ensuring that social work has a voice in the field of disability. I see my role as one that should prepare both these groups for what lies ahead by getting to know and working with each student’s unique trajectory and helping them to build a program of study that is based on their strengths and interests.


In addition to being an inspirational mentor, researcher, supervisor and teacher, Lucy is an inspirational person. She is a deep listener, a strategic and forward thinker, and can arouse excitement and connection among communities of people who might not naturally unite. Always enthusiastic, full of ideas and creativity, unwavering in her ethical stance, she demonstrates trust and faith in people, puts people at ease with her and with each over. Throughout the years, and to present day, Lucy’s passion, enthusiasm in teaching, graduate supervision, and service have left a lasting impression and have shaped and inspired the way I think about my role with my students and on my program of research.

Aline Bogossian, Assistant Professor
École de travail social, Université de Montréal

Dr. Lucyna Lach's unwavering support was crucial in shaping my career. With her mentorship, I achieved remarkable success, becoming one of the most well-funded students at McGill's School of Social Work. Dr. Lach's guidance propelled me to publish multiple articles, complete my dissertation ahead of schedule, and consider tenure-track faculty positions. The nurturing environment she created, affectionately known as the "Womb Room," allowed me to envision and develop my future. Her endless support, timely guidance, and shared resources helped me overcome imposter syndrome and excel in my research and career. Reflecting on my early struggles, I am eternally grateful for Dr. Lach's patience and wisdom in following my rhythm. Without her, my career would have stagnated. I decided to give my daughter the middle name Lucyna as a reminder to guide her with wisdom and follow her rhythm as she finds her own path, just as Dr. Lach has done with me. Dr. Lach's mentorship has been transformative, and I owe my success to her unparalleled dedication and encouragement.

Jeffrey McCrossin, PhD Candidate
School of Social Work, McGill University

Prof. Pierre Pluye, nominee of the David Thomson Award for Graduate Supervision and TeachingPierre Pluye, Family Medicine (1962-2023)

I believe that students learn best when they have opportunities to reflect on their own practice.

Pierre Pluye passed away on August 1, 2023. We extend our condolences to his family and friends. Consult this article to read more on his remarkable career.

I am MD, PhD, full-time researcher, Professor at the Department of Family Medicine (McGill University), Associate Member of the School of Information Studies (McGill University), and Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS). I am a co-director of the Axis ‘Data Valorization’ of the Quebec SPOR SUPPORT Unit (Unité SSA Québec). I have expertise in mixed methods research and mixed studies literature reviews. My current studies are aimed to assess and improve the outcomes of online health information (e.g., webpages) including outcomes on clinicians, managers, patients and the public, and on health services and policies.

Approach to graduate supervision

Overall, I adopt a practice-based problem-solving philosophy, which has been continuously supported by research results since the Flanagan and colleagues’ pioneering work on critical incidents in the 1940s. I always include in my sessions a period for participants to reflect on their daily practice and do practical exercises. In lectures and seminars, group discussions permit participants to think aloud about their activities and research interests. In workshops, I put the emphasis on hands-on practice, providing assistance when asked. Workshops constitute opportunities to reflect on current research activities since participants are encouraged to come and work with their own datasets. I enjoy helping students to learn. I share my enthusiasm for gaining new knowledge while providing explicit knowledge (demonstrations, discussions, lectures) and mobilizing tacit knowledge in an apprenticeship context (hands on exercises and workshops). I believe that students learn best when they have opportunities to reflect on their own practice, e.g., in contact with peers.


Pierre is the epitome of a good supervisor and a passionate, patient, and excellent teacher, he is truly a mentor. Pierre is very generous with his students: he never fails to be available when needed, scheduling time to review a manuscript, write a reference letter or analyze data. We had weekly meetings and an annual one where we set a plan for the year: which conferences I would submit to, which projects I would be working on, and which courses I would be taking. Pierre also creates and nurtures a sense of community among his students; we are still faithfully “Team Pluye”, long after graduating. We participated in each other's projects as demonstrated in his CV, all within a true sense of working together and mutual benefit rather than competition. It is thanks to his training, support, and still ongoing guidance, that I have landed my dream job, and I could not be more grateful.

Reem El Sherif, PhD, MSc, MBChB (CADTH)
Family Medicine, McGill University

Prof. Pierre Pluye is an outstanding supervisor and mentor. I have known Pierre since 2012 and he has always been available to guide me throughout my training. He is dedicated and passionate about his work. Although very busy with his own projects, he always makes time to meet his students. He is supportive and genuinely cares about his students’ success. Also, he is kind, funny and modest. He provides me a strong foundation for a career in research. I have had several opportunities to work on international and interdisciplinary research projects, publish scientific papers, present at conferences, and teach in the graduate program in Family Medicine. He has also built a friendly, respectful, and mutually supportive environment among our team. Our team met every week to explore new ideas, share our project, and receive constructive feedback. I have learned so much from Pierre and feel extremely privileged to have been supervised by him.

Quan Nha Hong, Assistant Professor
Université de Montréal

Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License.
Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, McGill University.

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