Global Nurses Lead Across Institutions

BWH has a rich legacy of global health work in partnership with a number of sister institutions, including Partners In Health (PIH) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

Three outstanding nurse leaders recently came together to discuss the importance of nursing in global health efforts. Sheila Davis, DNP, ANP-BC, FAAN, Chief Nursing Officer at PIH and staff member in the BWH Division of Global Health Equity; Patricia Daoust, RN, MSN, Chief Nursing Officer at SEED Global Health and Associate Director for the MGH Center for Global Health; and Julie Anathan, RN, MPH, International Nursing Coordinator at the MGH Center for Global Health and Deputy Chief Nursing Officer at SEED have extensive experience in global health work, both nationally and internationally.

Davis shared an important success story of PIH in Lesotho, where community health workers are engaged in the Maternal Mortality Reduction Program (MMRP). The health workers are active in the community, frequently visiting with pregnant women in the rural areas. About two weeks prior to delivery, they bring the women to a labor home. The community health workers are paid for their successful outcomes, and as a result there has been a 60-70% reduction in maternal and neonatal mortality.

PIH in Lesotho also focuses on orphans and vulnerable children. This is a critical aspect of health amidst the HIV epidemic, which often affects parents, leaving their children orphaned and in need of assistance. With more widely available access to antiretroviral medications, many of those living with HIV are able to raise their children and live healthy lives.

Both Davis’s and Daoust’s passion for global health began during the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. Both were involved in the care of those living with HIV and working on issues related to HIV policy as well as direct caregiving.

Currently, Daoust wears two hats as the Chief Nursing Officer for Global SEED and the Associate Director of the MGH Center for Global Health. The mission of the MGH Global Health Center is to improve the health of the most vulnerable in our global community by leveraging MGH’s 200-year legacy of innovation in medical care, education, and scientific discovery. Global SEED is a partnership with the Peace Corps that deploys physicians and nurses to Tanzania, Uganda, and Malawi. Kerry and Daoust share a vision of instilling a team approach to health care through the Peace Corps.

Anathan was first inspired to engage in global health when she volunteered at a hospital in southern India as a college student. She was struck by the lack of equipment, poor sanitation, and lack of nurses and other health care workers. Anathan realized that her future would involve “helping to advocate for nurses in the field who are working in situations that are certainly not ideal.”

After obtaining a Master of Public Health degree from Boston University, Anathan was invited to spend three months in St. Marc in Haiti with PIH. Initially Anathan worked with her Haitian nurse colleagues at an existing hospital but two months later, she traveled to Mirebalais to work with PIH in establishing the new hospital and working to establish a solid foundation for the nursing program—even at a time when the hospital barely consisted of cement walls and a table. Anathan worked as a clinical nurse mentor to develop the clinical education vision for the nurses. Her contributions were so noteworthy that she was asked to stay on as a nurse consultant at Mirebalais.

All three nurses emphasized the importance of understanding the culture and the need to support the work of their Haitian clinical colleagues. “It is so important to refer to the nurses and doctors who really know how the health systems work in Haiti,” says Anathan.

The three nurse leaders strongly believed in the importance of “leading from behind” in order to help further the goals of the health care workers who reside in country, which has been instrumental in the success of their programs and nursing leadership. As Davis noted, “Nursing and global health leadership requires the ability to support those who are engaged in country to lead on health initiatives. Our role is to provide a bridge and support the local leadership of those who are on the front lines in caring for those who understand the culture and landscape of the health challenges.”