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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 registered nurses and midwives in the United States. However it is nurses outside of the U.S.–nearly 19 million 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 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 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 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