UAB Magazine Weekly - Features on Health Care
UAB Reaches Out Around the World
UAB School of Nursing student Michelle Blackburn in Honduras
“The power went out immediately, as soon as things started shaking,” Holcomb remembers. “The bridges were out; the roads were torn up. We thought about trying to get out, but when we found out how difficult it would be to get to the airport, we decided we would just continue with our plans as best we could. We had a cold breakfast of tortillas and went on about our business.”
Weighing the Value of Public Health
By Jo Lynn Orr
UAB Public Health students helped bring visibility to their future profession by taking part in the "This Is Public Health" campaign, placing stickers on examples of public health in action around Birmingham. See more of their handiwork here.
Public health has an image problem. This is somewhat surprising, considering that the field has spent the past hundred years transforming American life for the better. In 1900, the life expectancy of the average American was just over 47 years; a century later, it was 77 years and rising. And according to a 1994 study cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 25 years of this 30-plus year gain in life expectancy can be attributed to advances in public health. Vaccinations, food safety, workplace safety, motor-vehicle safety, infectious disease control, smoking prevention—each of these public health measures has played a part in extending the lives of millions in the United States and around the world.
The SON’s partnerships in Honduras have been dealt a setback by the country’s ongoing political instability; faculty members Karen Saenz, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S.N., C.P.N.P., and Lygia Holcomb, D.S.N., C.R.N.P., had to cancel a trip there with students earlier this summer. However, Saenz expresses confidence that the bonds SON faculty have built with their counterparts in Honduras have grown strong enough to weather any temporary disruptions. “We’re planning on having some of those faculty come here this year—I think we’ve gone to Honduras enough, and kept in close enough contact with them, that the political situation isn’t going to make a big, long-term impact on what we’re doing,” she says.
One approach to enhance global nursing capacity and leadership is an international nursing leadership program that is sponsored by the PAHO/WHO Collaborating Center every other year. In January 2008, 18 nurses from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Honduras participated in the three-week program in Birmingham. During the program, nurses lived with volunteer host families, participated in a class on global leadership, studied English at the UAB English Language and Culture Institute, and developed projects to improve health in their host countries, all in collaboration with UAB faculty.
“It has been wonderful to see those nurses come to Birmingham,” Saenz adds. “Many of them had never had passports before; some of them had never even left their area of the country. So it was such an amazing opportunity for them to come and see what a university hospital is like. We’re trying to integrate them into research, scholarship, and teaching, trying to raise their perception of what a nurse is and can be. Often they only think of a nurse as standing at a bedside or treating individual people in a certain area, but we’re trying to show them, ‘No, you can do more. You can set up entire shelters; you can influence political changes and make a difference in a community.’ And I think they’re starting to get that idea now.”
“We have a network now that involves nurses from many different countries,” Saenz says. “The Chileans can talk with the Hondurans, and the Hondurans can talk with the Brazilians—it’s not just us giving out the information. Their situations have a lot of similarities, and they have to be able to solve those problems by collaborating with others in the region. By partnering, we collaborate on problems that our counterparts in Latin America are able to help us with as well.”
Holcomb describes the Latin American nurses they’ve worked with as “cultural experts” in their own right. “Sometimes when we suggest things that we’d like to come and do, they say, ‘No, that’s not going to be important here. Let’s don’t focus on obesity in children—let’s get people food first.’ At the same time, it’s interesting to see cultures collaborate and share so many common experiences. They’re interested in wellness and health care, and they’re learning, just like we are. Together, we’re making a difference.”
This, too, is a long-term project, says Wilson. “Eventually we’ll need more funding to make this a distance-accessible program,” she points out. “Not Internet-based, because Internet access is not reliable there, but we want to put a lot of this material on CD, and my dream has been to involve our nurse-practitioner faculty who know how to deliver distance education. We have identified several faculty members who have expressed willingness to go to Zambia and work with the Zambian team, because they know that when you teach in a distance format, you have to teach differently to get the students to engage with the material. And that’s going to be a big paradigm shift in Zambia, where they’re accustomed to sitting in a classroom and just writing down what the teacher says.”
Wilson has identified another possible solution to the challenge of long-distance teaching in eGranary, an idea originated at the University of Iowa. The eGranary concept involves copying as much information as possible from the Internet, getting copyright permission where necessary, and downloading it onto servers that can be purchased for as little as $700. In this way, the information can be accessed even on older computers, and without the problems associated with Internet access and bandwidth. The Ministry of Health has expressed interest in setting up similar installations in each of Zambia’s provinces, which could grow into regional education centers for nurses’ HIV training.
UAB’s Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia has received a grant from the Doris Duke Foundation to send two nurses to Zambia twice a year for three weeks at a time to help build assessment and treatment skills among the country’s nurses. The SON’s Karen Saenz, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S.N., C.P.N.P., who has particular expertise in community and pediatric health, has been chosen as one of the nurses and will help identify and mentor a group of 12 potential nurse leaders.
A Mother’s Journey at UAB
By Lisa C. Bailey
Liz and Mike Lorbeer with their daughter, Sarah
After only nine months of marriage, Liz Lorbeer convinced her husband, Mike, to make a “big, bold jump” and move to Birmingham from Chicago. Liz’s new job as associate director for content management at UAB’s Lister Hill Library of Health Sciences was the primary motivating factor, although both she and Mike admit that the barbecue was a really big draw. Little did they know that it would be burritos, not barbecue, that would signal an even more significant change in their lives.
“We really wanted children, but we never thought about it, we never planned it,” Liz says. “We said if it happens, it happens; if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. So I didn’t even have a doctor here. But I did see a nurse practitioner at The Kirklin Clinic for the annual, routine gynecological checkup. And in June of 2007 I said to her, ‘Well, so is it possible to have a child? You don’t see any problems or anything?’ She answered, ‘No, you can have a baby if you want to have a baby.’ I think that was the first time I had ever asked anybody.”