Nursing professor receives prestigious Carnegie Fellowship

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FDU Assistant Professor of Nursing Patricia Ukaigwe works with nursing students in Nigeria. (Photos courtesy of Ukaigwe)

By Kenna Caprio

At a conference in Geneva, Switzerland five years ago, a speaker from Nigeria appealed to the attendees for help in reducing the “brain drain” plaguing Africa.

“People like me left behind nurses with similar endowment, but limited opportunities,” says Patricia Ukaigwe, assistant professor of nursing at Fairleigh Dickinson University, who was born in Nigeria. Ukaigwe flew back to the United States from Geneva with Minerva Guttman, director of the Henry P. Becton School of Nursing and Allied Health, and much on her mind. How could she give back to her homeland?

She started small, volunteering her time in Nigeria. Then she partnered with the Department of Nursing Sciences at the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria. This year, thanks to the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program, Ukaigwe will be able to expand her work with African nursing students to Ghana.

“FDU is a household name in Nigeria and now I want it to be in Ghana, too. I brag about everything the University does and say, ‘You have to go to a global university!’ We speak it and live it,” says Ukaigwe.

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Ukaigwe (third from left) and her University of Nigeria colleagues, shortly after signing the partnership agreement establishing faculty and student exchange and research collaboration.

In 2012, Ukaigwe introduced the Global Capacity Program at FDU, which she developed with Guttman and Jason Scorza, vice provost for international education. The program, run in conjunction with the University of Nigeria, seeks to increase the number of nursing faculty in Africa. The online M.S. in Nursing education track, offered by FDU, prepares these nurses to teach in academic and clinical areas.

In a way, the Carnegie Fellowship continues that work. Alongside Mary Opare of Central University College in Ghana, Ukaigwe will develop a new graduate nursing curriculum.

“We’ll need to sit down and write the curriculum. And finish outlines, models, enrollment expectations and step-by-step learning outcomes,” Ukaigwe says.

With a graduate degree in nursing education, Ghanaian nurses will increase the quality of care that they give to patients, providing more care and becoming clinical leaders. “By training these nurses, we empower the healthcare system,” says Ukaigwe. “We want these nurses to take on a leadership role in the classroom and clinical areas.”

There’s a lot to do in little time — the fellowship stipulates that the project must be completed by August 25, 2015. Ukaigwe flew to Ghana in December for three weeks of face-to-face collaboration. She’ll work remotely with Opare on the rest of the curriculum, and then go back for the implementation and admission of the first cohort by fall 2015.

“Dr. Ukaigwe is a dedicated member of the faculty of the School of Nursing. She contributes actively to the accomplishment of the goals of the School of Nursing, especially the global initiatives. She is most deserving of the Carnegie Fellowship because she lives the tenets of the award,” says Guttman.

“This is a dream come true, something that I started way back in 2009. It’s been lots of ups and downs, but I am happy at last,” Ukaigwe says. “I want to give back and reduce ‘brain drain.’ Call it ‘brain gain.’”