Barbara Blackford, RN, MSN, assistant professor in the Marian University School of Nursing, is among four Central Indiana nursing educators chosen to travel to Tanzania, Africa to engage in a short-term mission trip from April 18-May 8, 2013.
The purpose of the trip is to engage nursing educators to build a lasting relationship with the faculty of the School of Nursing at Aga Khan University (AKU), an international university with 11 teaching sites spread over eight countries: Afghanistan, Kenya, Pakistan, Tanzania, Uganda, Syria, Egypt, and the United Kingdom. Blackford will be visiting the Tanzania campus in Dar es Salaam.
Anita Siccardi, Ph.D., dean of the School of Nursing, learned about the Tanzania trip from the Rotary International District 6560 Vocational Training Team (VTT) and communicated the opportunity to her faculty last year. Blackford, a nurse for 33 years in various areas of practice including medical/surgical, ICU/CCU, and cardiac rehabilitation among others, easily exceeded the very specific application criteria with respect to education level, experience, and overall commitment to World Health. She submitted her application to the program in November 2012, was formally interviewed and accepted into the program, and received a grant from The Rotary Foundation.
Blackford has participated in several cross-cultural mission trips to Haiti and Honduras, providing medical care to under privileged villages without access to health care on a regular basis. She has also participated in a sister-city exchange between Shelbyville, Indiana and Kambara, Japan, hosting nearly 20 students over a period of 10 years for one week each summer. This spring, however, will be Blackford’s first time in Africa.
With midwifery being a major component of the Aga Khan University School of Nursing curriculum (the fertility rate is approximately five children born per woman), Blackford expects to grapple with health concerns like HIV/AIDS, malaria, pneumonia, and rotavirus during her trip. She is hopeful that the experience will help establish an ongoing professional relationship with the AKU faculty, enabling both groups to develop best practices in assessment, evaluation, and testing.
Blackford feels incredibly grateful to have the support of her colleagues for this venture. “When I learned I was accepted to go, my fellow colleagues gave me a card congratulating me, and Dr. Siccardi arranged for a fellow faculty member (Kate Malarney) to cover my classes during my absence,” Blackford said. “I find these opportunities to serve [in cross-cultural mission trips] very rewarding…The more I can learn and experience related to global health, the better educator I will become.”