Global Health Ambassadors Program

New scholarship introduces underrepresented students to global health nursing

A $10,000 grant from the University of Cincinnati was about to make a trip to Tanzania possible for several nursing students.

Then, the pandemic happened.

The grant, provided by the Next Lives Here Urban Health Pathway Seed Grant Program, was meant to support the College’s goal to increase global health experiences for underrepresented students, many of whom traditionally do not apply for available international trips.

“In the previous four years, we only had 10 minority students apply for international clinical experiences and we needed to change that,” says Angie Clark, PhD, RN, CNE, FAAN, associate professor and executive director of undergraduate and prelicensure programs.
When global travel came to a grinding halt, Clark, along with Kate York, PhD, RN, FNP, assistant professor and director of global health nursing, and Kiana Million, MHI, who helped secure the grant, were forced to quickly repurpose the funds. Thus, the College’s new Global Health Nursing Ambassadors scholarship program was created, allowing underrepresented students to experience global health from home—for now.

Following a competitive application process, in January, five freshmen and sophomores from underrepresented populations were chosen as the College’s first Global Health
Nursing Ambassadors. With a $2,500 scholarship for each student, the program required Kennedy Craig, Kendyl Mitchell, Maya Sanchez, Jessica Rocha Torres and Trinity Patterson to partner with students in Japan on a global health project and serve a one-year term on the College’s Committee for Equity and Inclusive Excellence (CEIE), co-chaired by York and Million.

Ultimately, the program’s creators aimed to introduce students to global health and whet their appetite for travel while increasing their cultural empathy and understanding of holistic health care.

“The Global Health Nursing Ambassadors program supports students to gain a holistic view of health and wellness in the context of global partnerships, the reasons why we have health disparities and how to look at those from a global perspective,” York says.

Faculty and staff responsible for Global Ambassadors Program

Angie Clark, PhD, RN, CNE, FAAN, Kate York, PhD, RN, FNP, and Kiana Million, MHI.

Contributing to CEIE

The requirement for ambassadors to join CEIE has been mutually beneficial for the students and the College. Students have been able to flex their global health perspective in
conversations and the College has made gains in inclusivity.

“By joining CEIE, these students could put their strengthened cultural empathy to practice by leading conversations among faculty, staff and students around topics like cultural humility, health care inequities, privilege and structural racism,” Million says. Although CEIE has existed since 2012, it did not include many student voices until the ambassadors joined.

“We had to make some real efforts to address structural racism at our College,” York says. “We think about it from the staff and faculty perspective but we’re such a small number
compared to the College’s more than 3,000 students. Once we added the ambassadors to CEIE, the other students felt empowered to share their experiences and perspectives.”

Even though the ambassadors could not travel abroad this spring, Clark says the new Global Health Nursing Ambassadors scholarship program was extremely beneficial to the College’s entire student population because of the conversations students have been able to lead in CEIE, which supports the College’s goal of working toward a community of inclusion.

“Not only did we achieve the growth within the five ambassadors, we also achieved the commitment to grow that connection with our student body, and that’s something
we didn’t have in our initial grant,” Clark says. “I think the new ambassador program enabled the betterment of our environment, since that’s what we could control during the pandemic, and turned into a big win for all of our student body.”

The ambassadors will also receive preference for future global health programming once it is safe to travel. Until then, Clark, York and Million say they will continue to create
innovative ways to make international nursing experiences accessible for all UC nursing students.

“We would love for all our students to be able to experience global immersion, because cultural empathy makes us better care providers,” Clark says. “Our patients don’t all look like
us and they don’t have our same needs. The more we can help students identify and respond to these needs, the better off we all are as a society.”

We asked Global Health Ambassadors to share some insights about their experiences as part of the program. Maya Sanchez, BSN 2023; Kendyl Mitchell, BSN 2024; and Trinity Patterson, BSN 2023; share their perspectives.

Three female nursing students

Three of the five students participating in the Global Health Ambassadors program

What is your role as Global Health Ambassador?

KM: My role is to interact with fellow students and faculty in my community and around the globe to have active conversations about equity and inclusion in health care and outside of it. The goal is to be hands-on within our communities and learn about other cultures as a learning experience to ultimately come up with solutions on how to provide better care for all.

What inspired you to apply for this opportunity?

MS: I have always been interested in connecting with people from other cultures and learning about nursing practices in other countries. I wanted to understand the culture of
nursing in Japan, as I did not know much about the Japanese health care system and was curious to dive deeper into that topic. My passion for health equity in the U.S. inspired me
to apply for this program, since it would grant me the opportunity to, starting at the College level, contribute to reducing health care disparities by participating in CEIE.

TP: After the broadcast of George Floyd’s murder, my YouTube feed was flooded with racially and culturally focused content. I was introduced to many platforms and
accounts that led open, positive conversations about the racial tension occurring. I wanted to be part of those conversations not just from behind the screen, so I decided to apply to be an ambassador. And I am glad I did!

Why did you feel you were a good fit for it?

MS: To become a well-rounded nurse, one must learn and practice cultural humility to provide the best care possible to diverse patient populations and eliminate disparities in
health care. I am dedicated and committed to practicing these principles to care for the various populations of patients in the U.S.

TP: I just hoped I would get the opportunity to listen and learn. To those wondering if they would be a good fit: the issues we discuss can be intimidating and uncomfortable, but
I think everyone should be a part of the discussion. There is a seat at the table for everyone!

How has this experience expanded/changed your perspective of global health?

MS: It helped me recognize that there are vast global differences in health care systems and delivery, but the common ground between health care in different cultures is the belief that patient-centered care is at the heart of nursing. We all strive to improve patient outcomes despite our cultural differences, which can help practitioners from all backgrounds work together to improve patient care.

KM: I learned the cost difference of health care in different countries and the factors that contribute to it. I have also learned the different responses of care in Japan and the U.S.
during the COVID-19 pandemic. Interacting with Japanese students has changed my perspective; the time difference and language barriers made our interactive project a little
challenging, but it was also a great learning experience about Japanese culture and how to better communicate with those who come from a different background then mine.

TP: I didn’t know much about global health, but I had always been curious to see the change that could happen from global collaboration. Now, I understand the importance of
investing in global health: improving wellness around the world ensures opportunities and change for all. I believe COVID-19 has opened our eyes to the need for global health
unity and understanding.

It helped me recognize that there are vast global differences in health care systems and delivery, but the common ground between health care in different cultures is the belief that patient-centered care is at the heart of nursing.

Maya Sanchez

How do you hope your learning from this experience will help you impact the sense of community on campus?

MS: I hope that my learning will help facilitate more discussion regarding the importance of cultural humility in all aspects of life and help bring students from different backgrounds together to create a place of mutual respect and understanding on campus.

KM: I hope my learning will help me interact with those in my community by better communicating with people from different backgrounds. I also hope to be able to teach others about culture, health care, equity and inclusion to promote change that benefits the campus community.

TP: I hope the example we set and the change we create by being ambassadors encourages our community to educate themselves, respect differences and improve cross-cultural
communication. I plan to continue educating myself by exploring different lifestyles and engaging with people from various backgrounds. And I want to encourage an
environment of inclusion and equity in every situation and discussion I’m a part of.

By: Katie Coburn  

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