Gift gives nursing students, faculty opportunity to study abroad

Anahita Modaresi
June 07, 2019
David Swain Jr., and Mary Swain, BSN Class of 1980
David Swain Jr., and Mary Swain, BSN Class of 1980

With health inequities and emerging diseases on the rise in today's interdependent global society, many nurses need to develop the skills to address complex global health challenges. By supporting and valuing global health and nursing education, the College aims to train nurses who are capable of developing appropriate and sustainable improvements in health and health care around the world. Through the establishment of the Mary Swain Global Initiatives Endowment, Mary Swain, BSN ’80, and her husband, David, the College will be able to provide the next generation of nurses with these essential skills.

The Swains feel that students can learn essential lessons from other countries and help others while serving as positive ambassadors for the nursing profession. The Mary Swain Global Initiatives Endowment will provide annual funding for six students and one faculty member to travel abroad to developing nations such as India, Indonesia, and Ghana. For two weeks, MUSC nursing students will gain invaluable clinical experience, strengthen cross-cultural competencies, and develop advanced nurse training and leadership skills.

Suparna Qanungo, Ph.D., associate professor, and global health and telehealth coordinator, will collaborate with MUSC's Center for Global Health so that the new endowment aligns with the College's tripartite mission of enriching practice, providing cross-cultural nursing education, and promoting research.

Swain, an avid traveler and great proponent of a student's exposure to developing nations, became interested in supporting the College's global experiences after meeting Qanungo a few years ago. Qaunungo had just returned to the U.S. from taking a small group of MUSC students to her home country of India to observe in clinics, visit a nursing school, and gather data for research.

"Dr. Suparna Qaunungo and I met a couple of years ago, and before I knew it we were talking about something we are both passionate about, cross-cultural experiences for student nurses," Swain said.

Through the Mary Swain Global Initiatives Endowment, students will shadow experienced health providers in clinics and learn about developing countries' health systems, sound health practices, and disease prevention specific to the region. They will also participate in community health camps in rural underserved areas that include local providers such as nurses, dentists, and physicians.

Students who are funded through this initiative will have an opportunity to visit a nursing school in a developing nation and interact with their students and faculty. When applicable, students can make a presentation in the foreign host institution to nurses and other health professionals.

Additionally, students will help collect data about the area's health risks and resources and use technology, like GIS (geographical information system) mapping, virtual reality, and telehealth, to perform simple projects. Upon returning to the U.S., students will present their findings in classes, seminars, or regional/national meetings with poster presentations and/or manuscript submissions.

A faculty member involved with global health practices will travel with and mentor the participating students. Faculty will work closely with local organizations and rural health care providers within the foreign country to help address gaps in their population's health care. Faculty will be able to use their experiences to integrate cross-cultural learning into the MUSC College of Nursing coursework using technology/telehealth and online distance learning.

The Swains are excited to be able to provide these opportunities to MUSC nursing students and shared that their desire to offer these types of experiences every year are what encouraged them to establish a fund to make this program possible.

About the Author

Anahita Modaresi

Keywords: Summer 2019