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Nursing students and faculty co-present at national public health conference

Villanova, PA, December 6, 2010 — Elizabeth Keech, PhD, RN and Ruth McDermott-Levy, PhD, RN, assistant professors at Villanova University College of Nursing, were joined by their students, seniors Caitlin Krenek and Katie Weatherbie, respectively, for paper presentations at a recent national conference. Each pair presented their aspect of study for the multidisciplinary Villanova project "Improved Rural Health Care Through Low-cost Telecommunication in Waslala, Nicaragua" at the 138th American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting on November 10 in Denver. The theme of the meeting was Social Justice: A Public Health Imperative.

The nursing group has been working on the Nicaragua project with faculty and students from the College of Engineering and the Villanova School of Business. "Having the opportunity to collaborate here at Villanova with students of other disciplines broadens our students' perspectives," explains Dr. Keech.

Both nursing and engineering faculty and students have been promoting health and a clean accessible water supply in Waslala for years. With this project, the nurses are assessing the learning needs of community health workers (CHWs) and their understanding of health issues in the area, and will be aiding them in the use of cell phone technology to assess and treat their fellow community members with health concerns but who are at a distance from trained medical professionals. They are also working with local officials to gain support and collect more background information. Since health-related statistics such as births or deaths are either unreliable or not reported at all, the nurses are assisting the community with capturing data consistently and building a foundation of health records that can be used for evaluation of interventions.

Dr. Keech and Krenek presented "Assessing health outcomes using telehealth in remote areas of Nicaragua." Krenek enjoyed meeting other members of APHA with similar goals and collaborating with them. "It really opened my eyes to possible professional paths I can pursue in the future," she says of the large, multidisciplinary conference. Weatherbie agrees, "It showed the impact research can have on a population. Speaking to people interested in our project after we presented was encouraging as well." She presented "Self-indentified learning needs of lay health workers in rural Nicaragua" with Dr. McDermott-Levy.


College of Nursing faculty and students presented their multidisciplinary work at Villanova to an even larger multidisciplinary group in Denver at the fall APHA meeting. It was an "energizing experience" says Dr. Elizabeth Keech, right, joined by Dr. Ruth McDermott-Levy and senior nursing students Katie Weatherbie and Caitlin Krenek.