India Springs Eternal
April 29, 2018
A 14-hour flight followed by a ten hour train and car rides brings Jane Greene-Ryan, PhD up 6,500 feet into the Himalayas. This is a trip that Greene-Ryan has made many times since being at CNHP. And one she makes with great enthusiasm. She’s there now, from March 21 to April 28, but before she left, we caught up with Greene-Ryan to ask about her work at Eternal University Akal College of Nursing (Akal).
OTC: How did your work in India come about?
Jane Greene-Ryan: Jill Derstine, EdD, RN, FAAN, an associate clinical professor in CNHP’s graduate nursing program did a lot of global work before being asked to come to the College to help with faculty development. Eight years ago she and Marylou McHugh, EdD, CNE, RN, also an associate clinical professor in graduate nursing, created a program with a university in northern India. Akal College of Nursing now has graduate students, but at that time, it was just undergraduate students and faculty with limited teaching experience. They wanted Drs. Derstine and McHugh to help mentor faculty roles. It’s grown so much since then. CNHP nursing leadership is extraordinarily supportive of this initiative, and I wouldn't be able to do it without them, specifically my director, Karen Goldschmidt, PhD, assistant clinical professor and RN to BSN completion department chair, and Al Rundio, PhD, DNP, associate dean for academic nursing programs and clinical professor.
OTC: What will you be doing there?
JGR: Because of Drexel's technology, I can continue to be fully engaged at Drexel with all of my full-time faculty responsibilities, including teaching my course and teaching graduate students in India. That’s what I'm going to be doing this time—teaching nursing research. I’m also going to be running a global classroom, which means that my graduate students in India will be joining my online RN to BSN students in a course in global health.
In addition, I’ll be helping the second-year master’s students finalize their research projects and get them ready for presentation and publication. And the first years, I'll be helping them design their research projects, and then hopefully helping them implement them. I really like the kind of research they do— community-based research.
OTC: What are some projects you’ve done previously?
JGR: I've presented at each of their four research conferences on various aspects of global health—women's health issues, premature births, gender equity and maternal and child health topics. I'm a qualitative researcher, so the last time I was over there, I presented qualitative research methodology, which they enjoyed quite a bit. And when I'm there, I also teach. In the past, I’ve taught undergraduates, but increasingly, I've been teaching the graduate students.
OTC: Are there other things that Drexel is doing with Akal?
JGR: Faculty are interested in getting a joint Drexel-Akal research project going. That's been my goal for the last five years; "What kind of research do you guys want to do and how can we help you do it?" We have so many amazing resources we could share.
OTC: You mentioned that they do a lot of community-based research. Is there a specific thing they want to really dig into?
JGR: One of the largest problems that's there is HIV/AIDS. Eternal University is quite remote. Many men are farmers who have small plots of land, so the younger sons often need to go out and find jobs doing something else. One of the common jobs their sons get are as truckers. When the men are traveling as truckers, they visit prostitutes who may or may not use condoms allowing HIV/AIDS comes back home to the community.
When I was over there in the fall, one of their community health instructors, also a nurse midwife like myself, said she would really like it if we would do something with HIV/AIDS in the community. So I think that would be one area.
Early childhood intervention is another area. The death to children under the age of five can be pretty grim and is something that epidemiologists follow pretty carefully as a marker of the general health of a community. In Baru Sahib, they would like to do school-based education projects—like teaching hand washing or tooth brushing and basic dental care—then conduct some research to see if the intervention was effective. I would like to do something with the rural villages as the people living in them have the most needs. Maybe HIV/AIDS but really it’s up to our whole Akal Drexel team to decide.
OTC: What drew you to India?
JGR: I've traveled throughout my whole life. My doctorate was in nurse migration I asked nurses who had come here from other countries about their experience working as a nurse in the US. Basically, I love learning about other cultures; I'm kind of an anthropologist at heart. Of course, I'm a nurse, but friends describe me as an anthropologist in scrubs.
Eternal University is a faith-based Sihk university. Their belief system is quite profound— they believe in equality, they believe in gender equity, they absolutely believe in education. They also have free healthcare. They have a hospital where Sikh doctors from all over the world come in to do things like eye operations and for specialized clinics. It's an amazing place. From a global health perspective, it's incredible that people are willing to go to this extraordinarily small, remote part of the globe and provide care for people who absolutely would not otherwise have it. The work that this university is doing for their local region is astonishing.
That may be part of what draws me back. I feel very aligned with their values, which are also Drexel values of, we live in a community, we're responsible to our community, let's see what we can do to make it better.
OTC: Have you done similar work in other parts of the world?
JGR: I went to Ghana in West Africa with a very dear friend of mine. She is originally from a well-resourced and wealthy family in Ghana but has been living and working in the US for a long time. There was a nursing and healthcare provider shortage particularly for both rural and urban poor. We went to see whether or not we could get nurse practitioner programs established. We were there for five weeks in the summer of 2010. There were so many stumbling blocks. We met with the ministers of health and the equivalent of the deans of Drexel or Penn, the University of Accra, in their capital city, but we were unable to get it started. Then Dr. Derstine asked me if I wanted to join her project in India, and I've just kept going.
I've been to Bolivia and Ghana, as part of Drexel initiatives. I’ve presented in Thailand, India, Ireland, Barcelona and Norway. I've had many different kinds of opportunities, but I think back under lessons learned, for me, it’s better to go one place, stay and do deeply relevant research than fly around from one place to another. It’s a marriage rather than dating. I would rather have deep roots in one place than shallow roots in lots of other places.
OTC: What are some of the things that you've accomplished in your travels that you are really proud of and what have you learned about yourself?
JGR: What I’m most proud of, is that the students at Drexel are able to have a taste of what's really happening in other parts of the world. I ran a global classroom in the fall for nurses, students from relationship-based care, as well as students from my two online classes that I was teaching at the time. My students were just thrilled at the opportunity to learn and work with students in other parts of the country and the world—students in India specifically. I have the ability to take students with me anywhere I go. That's what I'm most proud of, and helping the students in India further their own careers.
I've learned how blessed I am to be able to make my own decisions, to be able to live and work where I wish, to work. What an amazing thing to have my doctorate when there are women all over the world that don't even have primary level education. I appreciate the gifts of education and the doors that it open. There is an old saying: "To whom much is given, much is expected." I have a responsibility to give back and share, share what I've been blessed with.
OTC: How important is it for Drexel to have these kinds of relationships with places around the world?
JGR: It's crucial. Global engagement is one of our learning priorities. It helps my students in global health, the main course that I teach. My students are forever saying to me that they're really grateful for where they are and what they have, particularly as most nurses across the world are women. Women in the US have tremendous opportunities like education and career advancement. We make our own decisions, decide what happens with our children and our children's live and can advocate for ourselves. Students can learn about that intellectually in and through our courses, but having faculty who are actually doing this kind of work and then sharing it with them live-time while they're in other parts of the globe, particularly parts of the globe that the students are currently studying about, is just invaluable.
OTC: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
JGR: I have a bachelor's in liberal arts, a second bachelor's in nursing from Penn, a master's from Penn as a nurse midwife, PhD from Widener University in nursing education/anthropology. I'm originally from Springfield, Illinois, but I've been here since I went to school at Penn. I graduated in 1986. I've been here really my whole life. I have a bluegrass band—I play guitar and sing.
OTC: We usually ask everyone to tell us about their favorite things. Do you have some recommendations you would like to make?
JGR: I'm so glad you asked this. There are two books I recommend. I have a very liberal arts viewpoint for science-based education so in my global health course, I often throw in a novel I want students to think about. My students in global health as well as my students in India, are going to read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon then talk to me about their views on it.
The other book is The Bookseller of Kabul by Åsne Seierstad. It talks about women's rights—the lives of women in other parts of the world. This one is written from the viewpoint of women in Afghanistan.
TV or movie: I love The Crown. It's historically accurate. I also really liked Dunkirk.