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Finding purpose: chipping away at social injustice, one opportunity at a time

Students at foot care clinic
Sophomore Tiffany Pearson, right, with seniors Morgan Micari, left, and Alexandra Santamaria at a Nursing Without Borders (NWB) foot care clinic at Catholic Workers Free Health Clinic in the Kensington area of Philadelphia. This underserved area is known for its prevalent homeless population. Aware of this disparity, the members of NWB created a “foot clinic” where they could help treat and educate this community on common foot problems, a major concern in the homeless population.


Sophomore Tiffany Pearson, a Presidential Scholar with triple minors in global health, peace and justice, and honors, still vividly remembers one of the most defining moments in her journey to nursing. “I was interning at a local hospital’s ER through my high school’s clinical rotations program and a patient came in for alcohol detoxification. She was initially very calm but as the reality of her situation set in, she became fearful, overwhelmed, and ashamed,” Tiffany recalls.  This is when she found her purpose in pursuing nursing, when she felt “an instinctive need to alleviate her suffering and to be there for her.”

Tiffany’s interest began before high school. She has always been “fascinated by the science of nursing, even to the point of devouring books about medical pathology and treatments as a young child.” She views the foundation of her motivation to be a nurse as “finding purpose and fulfillment in caring for others during their most vulnerable times.”  

Tiffany Pearson at St. Agnes Nurses Clinic

Tiffany says that Villanova’s Fitzpatrick College of Nursing has given her the opportunity to explore the intersection between her passions for nursing and social justice. One of her biggest outlets for doing so is her experience as an executive board member of Nursing Without Borders. The group has given her the opportunity to provide care, health education, and advocacy for vulnerable populations such as those experiencing homelessness, immigrants, people living at or below the poverty line, and people who are otherwise from marginalized groups. It has also given her the opportunity to learn about pressing social justice issues, such as housing and food insecurity and psychological trauma due to experiences such as violence, and the way that it impedes people’s ability to pursue healthy lives.

Furthermore, Tiffany’s involvement in the Center for Global & Public Health and Center for Peace and Justice Education has given her the opportunity to explore her interest in social justice by learning about the many forms of social inequality and marginalization that exist in society, which has reignited her passion for bettering not just her patients but society as a whole.

During the summer of 2018, Tiffany was able to put her education in social justice into practice as an intern with the San Antonio Metropolitan Health’s Healthy Start program, “a maternal and child health focused public health organization that works to reduce infant mortality rates, particularly in areas with large numbers of impoverished people and people of color, through health promotion, case management, resources, and support,” she notes. Tiffany participated in a poverty simulation and health equity training to provide culturally and historically competent care and worked in community organizing, outreach and health education while working with an epidemiologist, case workers, a nutritionist, and other public health officials.

Supporting her interest in nursing science, Tiffany has assisted in nursing research during her freshman year through the Villanova Match Research Program for First Year Students. She worked as a research assistant for Associate Professor Jennifer Yost, PhD, RN on her study “Making Decisions in Healthcare,” addressing the conduct of redundant research, which is unethical, limits available funding for critical research, and diminishes the public’s trust in research.

And of the future? In May, Tiffany will be attending the United Nations International Nurses Day along with other Fitzpatrick College of Nursing administrators, faculty, staff and students. Following graduation, Tiffany hopes to combine her passions for humanitarian nursing and critical care or emergency nursing and eventually possibly pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.

You can follow NWB on Instagram @villanovanursingwithoutborders.