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In Finland, a Far-sighted Look at Climate Change

Dr. Ruth McDermott-Levy and female colleague at table
Ruth A. McDermott-Levy ’96 MSN, ’08 PhD, MPH, RN (left) is grateful to faculty, staff and students at the University of Eastern Finland (UEF), especially her host, Hannele Turunen, PhD, RN, director of the Department of Nursing Science (right). Dr. Turunen “helped me navigate my research and life at UEF,” says the Fulbright Scholar.

As a Fulbright Scholar in Finland last fall, Ruth A. McDermott-Levy ’96 MSN, ’08 PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN especially appreciated learning about the country’s culture and introducing to Finnish colleagues climate change and health as part of nursing practice, education and research. Associate professor and director of the Fitzpatrick College of Nursing’s Center for Global and Public Health, Dr. McDermott-Levy was a Fulbright-Saastamoinen Foundation Health and Environmental Sciences Scholar at the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) in Kuopio, from last August to December.

While in this Scandinavian country that reaches into the Arctic, Dr. McDermott-Levy:

• worked with a student in UEF’s new nursing Master’s in Public Health on her thesis, a qualitative study of Finnish nurses’ observations of health changes related to climate change in Finland. This work will be the foundation of Dr. McDermott-Levy’s Delphi study to quantify what health changes the nurses are observing related to climate change in various patient populations. The Delphi will be completed this year in collaboration with two UEF nursing faculty members and the graduate student;

• met with the Finnish Nurses Association (FNA) to discuss climate change and health related to how the country’s nurses prepare to address patient needs. Dr. McDermottLevy posted a blog and collaborated with the graduate student to deliver a webinar. FNA will assist with recruiting nurses for the Delphi study;

• spoke at The Global Climate and Health Summit in Katowice, Poland, last December on “Nurses, Climate Change and Health: A Growing Movement.” The summit, held in conjunction with COP24 (the United Nations climate meeting), was sponsored by the World Health Organization, the Global Climate and Health Alliance, the European Committee of the Regions and Pro Silesia; and

• guest lectured in four graduate nursing courses at UEF on the environment, climate change and global health, as well as at Laurea University of Allied Technology in Vantaa on “Megatrends in Global Health.” 

Dr. McDermott-Levy stands with U.S. Ambassador Robert Pence and Gabriel Lopez ’18 COE.
It was Vs up at a reception for Fulbright Scholars, held at the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki last fall. Dr. McDermott-Levy enjoyed speaking with U.S. Ambassador Robert Pence (right) and Gabriel Lopez ’18 COE.

She played street hockey, enjoyed salmon, saw ambulatory devices adapted for icy conditions and learned the transportation system as she traveled throughout Finland. “I developed a lasting collaboration with nursing, public health, and environmental and climate scientists. I also saw what can be possible as far as living sustainably and learned to appreciate the darkness, cold and quiet,” she reflects. The semester abroad was an “amazing opportunity to represent the United States.” 

Back in Driscoll Hall, Dr. McDermott-Levy has been meeting electronically with UEF nursing and public health faculty, as well as medical faculty in Nigeria and public health faculty in India, to develop an asynchronous climate and health course for students from Villanova and those three universities. On May 10, at the United Nations in New York City, she spoke on “Engaging Nurses in the Health Impact of Climate Change in Finland” for the 3rd Annual International Nurses Day.