Devonne Canady is a fighter, in more ways than one. The New Haven native has been a respiratory therapist at Yale-New Haven Hospital for 15 years, where currently she assists breathing-impaired newborns through their neonatal struggles. As a teen mother, she worked hard to raise her now-grown daughter, completing a YNHH-sponsored training program to become a patient care associate (PCA). Then, while she was working full-time as a PCA, Devonne successfully completed the four-year respiratory therapy curriculum at Quinnipiac University to earn the position she has today. And in between those efforts she became a world champion boxer, and is now opening a youth boxing gym.
Devonne brought the same grit and determination she had demonatrated in her educational and career pursuits into the boxing ring. After months of rigorous training, Devonne won the heavyweight title at the first Women's Amateur World Boxing Championships in 2001. While her own motivation helped her persevere, Devonne wisely took advantage of the career opportunities provided by YNHH's community benefits programs, to keep her life moving forward.
"I've always had a great love for health care," she said. "Even as a young girl I wanted to grow up to become a nurse." Devonne first got her foot in the YNHH door as a patient transporter. Then she took advantage of the hospital's PCA training, a health education program offered by YNHH to prepare future healthcare professionals, including medical, nursing and dental students, physical, respiratory and occupational therapists, social workers, dieticians and radiology technicians.
In 2012, the cost to YNHH to provide funding for healthcare training and education programs was 59.4 million, and benefited more than 2,450 individuals.
For example, YNHH donated $1,000,000 toward a partnership with Gateway Community College to launch the school's associate degree program in nursing. The relationship serves a mutual community and hospital need, creating access to education for local residents, as well as current YNHH non-nurse employees, and creating a pipeline of future registered nurses.
Because she was a YNHH employee when she attended Quinnipiac, Devonne qualified for the hospital's tuition-reimbursement program. "After graduation I became a respiratory therapist at Yale-New Haven," she said, adding that her managers and fellow employees helped guide her through YNHH's various health education initiatives to work towards her career goals.
In the boxing ring, though, Devonne fought her way to the top mostly on her own, and today she's determined to develop a new generation of young boxers. She secured a former gas station in New Haven at the corner of Henry and Orchard Streets — a block from Hillhouse High School, her alma mater — persisted through months of zoning approvals and in July finally broke ground on what she's calling Elephant In the Room Boxing Club.
The name is a reference, she says, to doing something positive about persistent social problems affecting youth in that low-income neighborhood. "My goal is to train a young lady to compete in the Olympics someday," she contended. Looking at the gold medals she won is a solid indication that Devonne won't back down from that quest.