By Dr. Lynda Wilson
It has been a wonderful first three days here in Blantyre, Malawi! I arrived on Sunday, August 3, and was greeted at the airport by Dr. Ellen Chirwa Mbweza, Professor and Vice-Principal of the University of Malawi Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN). Dr. Chirwa directs the PhD program that I will be teaching in while in Malawi.
Dr. Chirwa and the KCN driver, Mr. Daruni, took me to the Leslie Lodge, a delightful Bed and Breakfast, where I will make my home for the next 3 weeks. Here are some photos of my new home. I have a nice room with a small kitchen where I can cook dinners if I like, and even a private courtyard. There is a small antelope on the grounds of the lodge so I really feel like I am in Africa!
I spent Monday getting to know the town of Blantyre – visiting the market, shopping for groceries, and walking to the huge 1300 bed St. Elizabeth’s Hospital which is only a 20 minute walk from the Leslie Lodge. I am attaching some photos below of the market and the hospital grounds,. I was especially interested to note that there is an entire unit devoted to Kangaroo care for preterm infants!
Tuesday was my first day with the group of seven PhD students at KCN. I participated in the qualitative methods research course that is being taught by Dr. Chirwa and Dr. Rachel Rodriguez, an American nursing faculty member who came to KCN two years ago on a Fulbright grant, and decided to stay! She has been hired on a 2-year contract at KCN to help to teach in the MSN and PhD program! The students are fantastic – they include six nurses (the Chief Nurse for the Ministry of Health, the Chief Nursing Officer for St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, the head of the Reproductive Health Unit at the Ministry of Health, a Community Health Clinical Officer, two nursing faculty members, and the chief nursing officer for a district hospital in northern Malawi. The focus of the PhD program is interprofessional collaboration and education, and many of the students are interested in developing research that will focus on strategies to enhance interprofessional collaboration and thereby improve health care. It is exciting to be a part of this program in some small way! I am attaching here a photo of me with the seven students, taken outside of the new campus of the KCN in Blantyre. It is a lovely campus with views of the nearby hills and mountains from the windows. It feels like a nice place to learn!
On Wednesday (today) I taught the first class in the quantitative research methods course that I have developed in collaboration with Drs. Chirwa and Rodriguez. The time flew by and I felt that we had only scratched the surface before it was time to head to lunch! The students are on campus for the first four weeks of the semester, then go back to their homes for the next 10 weeks, and finally return to campus for the final four weeks of the term. As a result, we are trying to cover as much of the content as we can before they leave so that they will have the basis for completing the assignments for the semester!
I spent the afternoon meeting with Dr. Chirwa who coordinates the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on Interprofessional Education (IPE) and Collaboration, (IPC) at KCN. We discussed the objectives (or terms of reference for the center) and worked on drafting a report to summarize the many accomplishments to promote IPE, including the development and launching of the country’s first PhD program in a School of Nursing! It is an honor to be working here with such a group of dedicated professionals!