Statement issued Monday:
FORT WAYNE, Ind.—Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre Y Maestra in the Dominican Republic that will allow the university to create a sustainable healthcare program for the underserved population of Cienfuegos, a small area just outside Santiago.
Last spring a team of graduate nursing students visited Cienfuegos in conjunction with Barnabas Project, a nonprofit organization run by Nancy and Tom Hinton that helps bring clean water, health education, and microfinance opportunities to the Cienfuegos area. Nancy Hinton is an adult health nurse practitioner graduate student at IPFW.
Once the IPFW group, led by Carol Sternberger, associate vice chancellor for faculty development, and Deb Baresic, director of the Lafayette Street Family Health Clinic and IPFW faculty member, got to Cienfuegos they knew they wanted to come back again and do more.
Cienfuegos, which means 100 fires, has a population of 300,000 people. An accidental fire in the area several years ago left everyone who lived there displaced from their homes.
“Nearly all the people in Cienfuegos have no permanent residence or birth certificate, so they can’t vote and they can’t get healthcare,” said Sternberger. “They are basically invisible to their government and living in a part of town that is the city’s trash dump.”
Graduate nursing practitioner students under the direct supervision of physicians and IPFW faculty nurse practitioners provide primary health care and much needed health education on ailments such as diabetes and hypertension. Nursing education graduate students also provide health education and triage in the local clinic. Medications and supplies are all donated and medical students from the Dominican Republic served as translators for the patients and students.
“There is a language barrier but we found we could communicate in different ways,” said Baresic. “A smile, a hug. Love is an international language and their appreciation for our work didn’t take words.”
The recently signed MOU between IPFW and Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre Y Maestra will allow for joint research activities, including faculty and student exchanges, special academic programs, and the exchange of scholars and academic materials.
“This agreement allows us to continue our work in Cienfuegos and expand the programs for our undergraduate and graduate students at IPFW,” said Sternberger. “We will be able to collect data and understand more about the population we are serving in the Dominican Republic. At the same time their nursing and medical students can visit
IPFW for extended practicums and healthcare collaboration to continue their studies.”
Students from IPFW will return to Cienfuegos in March 2012 to continue their work in the clinic. This includes graduate nursing students as well as undergraduates who will accompany medical students on home visits to collect important health data on the local population.
“It is a great opportunity to help a community in need, and students have the opportunity to participate in service learning as well,” said Baresic. “Now we have a chance to continue the efforts we’ve started there and give back to those who really need it.”