Liz Holliday

Communications Specialist
Archive for January, 2018

Columbia Nursing Showcases Its Global Handprint and Expanding Commitment to Global Health

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb

There are nearly 3 million(link is external) registered nurses and midwives in the United States. However it is nurses outside of the U.S.–nearly 19 million(link is external) of them–who help to make nurses the largest global health workforce in the world.

“Nurses have an ethical and moral responsibility to deal with injustice and disparity—that means everywhere,” said Jennifer Dohrn, DNP, who directs Columbia Nursing’s Office of Global Initiatives as well as its Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Advanced Practice Nursing. “When it comes to global health care, we are all in this together.”

Columbia University School of Nursing’s Global Health Program together with Columbia University School of Nursing’s Alumni Association welcomed faculty, alumni, and friends of the Columbia University community to discuss the school’s newly expanded Global Health Program and its continued commitment to health justice at its “Columbia’s Global Handprint Across the Globe” panel on December 6.

“When I came here seven and a half years ago, Columbia Nursing’s global programs were a fingerprint,” Bobbie Berkowitz, PhD, dean of Columbia University School of Nursing, told the crowd. “Now we have a global handprint, and soon it will be a global footprint.”

Columbia Nursing has established global clinical practicum sites for its students and has formed research and programmatic partnerships with institutions across 16 countries including the Southern and Eastern African, Eastern Mediterranean, and Latin-American and Caribbean regions. Its Global Health Program aims to contribute to global health equity by addressing health disparities through service, practice, education, research, and leadership.

 “This school has a commitment to global health education,” Dohrn said. “Last year we sent 22 students to study in countries around the world, and this year, we have so many applications – over 50 – that we’re not quite sure where we will place all of them!”

This global commitment is becoming ingrained in Columbia Nursing’s identity, and Dohrn says that a course on global health equity is now required for all students in the Master’s Direct Entry (MDE) Program. MDE student Vidya Goberdhan ’17 was one of the 22 students in the global program last year.

“I left part of me in Jamaica and part of Jamaica came back with me,” Goberdhan said. “I had experiences I never could have had here in the U.S.”

Goberdhan told the audience that Jamaica spends roughly five percent(link is external) of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health care, so nurses and doctors are tasked with stretching the dollar while providing care. She said it was her experience at Missionaries of the Poor during her six-week practicum that she will never forget.

“There was a little boy who had advanced pressure ulcers in several places and I helped to clean his wound,” Goberdhan said. “That was the moment I learned the importance of celebrating small victories in health care—like when I returned the following day and saw him smiling at us.”

The panel stressed that enhancing global education needs to be bidirectional, and on giving back as much as one takes, something the Global Health Program places great emphasis on.

“We have just as much to learn from the world as we have to contribute to it,” said Safwan Masri, PhD, executive vice president, Columbia’s Global Centers and Global Development. A point especially important when it comes to nursing, according to the panel.

“Inside the U.S. I think there is a notion that we are the experts of everything,” said Kenrick Cato, PhD, assistant professor. “However once you leave the country and see what nurses are doing around the world, you learn that even though some countries are resource poor, they are rich in solutions.”

This is why Columbia Nursing puts such a large focus on giving back as much as they get from their collaborating global partners, according to Dohrn.

“We are about reciprocity and asking how we can help partners in areas that they define,” Dohrn said. “For example, Columbia Nursing is currently helping the Jamaica site, where Goberdhan studied, figure out what a Master’s of Midwifery Program might look like in its country.”

The newest member of Columbia Nursing’s global team, Tonda Hughes, PhD, Henrik H. Professor of International Nursing and director, Office of Global Health Research, agrees giving back is important. Hughes told the crowd that 90 percent(link is external) of health care services worldwide are provided by nurses, and that nurses, perhaps more than other health care providers have a more human centric approach to health care.

 “Columbia Nursing is already a leader in global health, and my goal is to continue to develop new relationships with collaborators around the globe,” Hughes said. “I believe that any kind of global experience can be life-changing, and I truly believe Columbia Nursing can become the leader in global health research and education.”

The panel event also provided a platform for the school to announce the Global Development Fund sponsored by its own Elaine Larson, PhD, Anna C. Maxwell Professor of Nursing and associate dean of scholarship and research. More details will soon be released, but the new fund will support the growth of programmatic efforts and projects which expand and enhance the school’s scholarly and/or research contributions to improving global health.

“Columbia Nursing’s commitment to global health education can be found in the ‘three R’s: research, resources, and reach,” Larson said while announcing the new scholarship fund. “In research, the addition of Professor Hughes will widen our scope; in resources we have our Global Development Fund; and in reach, we continue to expand and collaborate with our growing list of global partnerships.”

Click here(link is external) to view photos from the evening.

To learn more about Columbia’s Global Centers click here. To learn about Columbia Nursing’s Office of Global Initiatives click here

Connecting Climate Change Effects to Respiratory Health

Most people with asthma or allergies don’t usually associate their worsening symptoms with the effects of climate change. However, according to a paper published by researchers at Columbia University School of Nursing, the connection between them is undeniable.

“The effects of climate change on respiratory health is probably the most established and yet poorly understood,” said lead author Maureen George, PhD, associate professor. “Whether it is air pollution, more extreme weather patterns, or flooding, every aspect of climate change is linked to threatened respiratory health.”

The paper, entitled “Climate Change Effects on Respiratory Health: Implications for Nursing,” published in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship(link is external), explores the adverse health effects of climate change on two particularly vulnerable patient populations: children and adults with respiratory conditions. It found that climate change produces a number of changes to the natural and built environment that may potentially increase respiratory disease prevalence, morbidity, and mortality.

“Education has been a challenge because nursing curricula has not really addressed nursing’s role in climate change,” George said. “We need to think about how we are educating the workforce to identify and deal with these worsening connections to health and environment. A nursing school is the perfect place to have information about what we can do to decrease exposure to climate change.”

George says the idea for the paper stemmed from original research she performed a few years ago. Her previous work(link is external), which sought to understand contextual factors affecting asthma control, found statistically significant evidence that environmental factors ranging from pollen, dirt, illegal dumping, traffic, etc., could create “hot spots” that worsen respiratory health symptoms. She says while advancements have been made in understanding the impact of climate change on respiratory health, nurses can play an important role in reducing the deleterious effects of climate change. This will require a multi-pronged approach of research, policy, and clinical action, according to the authors.

 “Many nurses are not aware of the impact of climate change on respiratory health, especially within children who are among the most vulnerable,” said second author Jean-Marie Bruzzese, PhD, associate professor. “We hoped to call attention to this important problem and suggest ways nurses can lessen the impact of climate change.”

The authors state that climate change is responsible for a number of changes in the environment, which in turn, increases the negative impact of pulmonary diseases in both children and adults. They say being mindful of what health implications are worsened with climate change will help address how they can better care for their patients.

“We need to be mindful that climate change exists, and that it leads to changes in the environment that have a negative impact on respiratory health,” Bruzzese said. “It is critical for patients to understand this and to learn ways to best protect themselves or their children.”

The authors say nurses can also help through research, practice, and policy “that strengthens community resilience, narrows health inequities, and facilitates positive adaptation in the face of climate stressors.” Bruzzese explains that all three facets–research, practice, and policy– must be addressed if we want to see change.

“They are equally important and have bi-directional relationships,” she said. “For example, research informs how nurses might treat patients, and also informs policy directed at climate change. Similarly, how patients respond to treatment and education may lead to new research questions.”

Both George and Bruzzese offer suggestions for future research to better understand climate change hazards, policies to support prevention and mitigation efforts targeting climate change, and clinical actions to reduce individual risk.