As a health care professional and an educator, my ultimate goal is to improve the health and well-being of people, and I do this not only through my care for patients and communities but by preparing health care professionals of excellence for today’s dynamic health care environment. I believe that to be an effective educator one must fully engage with and be a role model for students. Providing students opportunities to develop their own knowledge and challenging them to identify their strengths, weaknesses and biases are essential. John Dewey argued that genuine education grows from worthwhile, meaningful experiences that provide the student opportunity and motivation for learning. It is my job as an educator to facilitate these experiences.
My own work with vulnerable populations has been influenced by the teachings of Paulo Freire and I see that education and health care are neither neutral nor innocent. Health care professionals must critically examine the social determinants of health as well as the structures of health care and even the influence of their own education. They must take a critical look at the roles they play within this complex web. This examination of health care within a larger social context should be, I believe, lifelong. I continually evaluate my work in this regard, and facilitate student opportunities to do so as well. This requires that I remain open to diverse opinions and ideas. This, too, allows for modeling behaviors as I try to identify the biases and blinders I bring to encounters with students, patients and colleagues, even as I challenge students to do the same.
I believe my nursing and teaching are strongly intertwined. My work in global health has evolved from direct patient care to population-focused care to educating nurses to educating educators and preparing change-makers. As demonstrated by my work with the Carter Center in Liberia and Ethiopia, I educate educators from within a participatory framework, preparing them to reflect on the present conditions and adapt and develop educational methods appropriate to the local setting. I believe education is more powerful when it pushes us to reflect on the present and make change to improve it.
Influencing health through education is a powerful opportunity and presents many challenges. My aim is to demonstrate enthusiasm, curiosity, respect and compassion as I seek to cultivate these traits in students.