by Nina Riccio, M.A. ’09
On June 2, the day before Dr. Lynn Babington drove down to Connecticut to begin her new position as dean of Fairfield’s School of Nursing, she cycled 100 miles from Boston to Cape Cod’s Hyannis Port in support of Best Buddies, a non-profit organization that pairs volunteers with developmentally disabled people in the community.
Suffice to say, Fairfield’s new dean is a dedicated woman.
Dr. Babington was most recently assistant dean of graduate programs at Boston’s Northeastern University. While there, she led the development of the Doctorate of Nursing (DNP) program and served as its first director. She also chaired the Ph.D. in Nursing committee as the University launched that program. Before joining Northeastern, she founded the Health Services Partnership to provide medical management services to community health centers in Boston, Mass.
On a muggy morning just three weeks after her arrival at Fairfield, Fairfield University Magazine spoke with Dr. Babington about her work overseas, her vision for the School, and the future direction of healthcare.
Was there a pivotal event that crystalized your decision to become a nurse?
Growing up, I had a very close friend who developed leukemia, and I spent a lot of time with her at home and in the hospital. The care that her nurses delivered — not only in healthcare but also their personal and psychological support — was unbelievable and made all the difference in the years she had. It was very impressive.
You recently returned from a short-term Fulbright grant to Israel. What were you doing there, and what were your impressions of the country?
Israel has a very advanced healthcare system, but they have no Doctor of Nursing Practice or Ph.D. in Nursing program in the country. Nurses do have doctorates, but in other subject areas. I was hosted by Ben Gurion [University of the Negev] Hospital and worked with the Ministry of Health to do a formal needs-assessment on the feasibility of developing a doctorate in nursing.
The people of Israel are very hard working, generous, and warm. I was up early one Saturday, their holy day, and I was walking as many Orthodox Jews were coming from prayers out of the Old City. As they walked past the thriving Arab market, there was just so much interaction, the greeting of neighbors, noise. The world views it all so differently than the reality. The daily life there is very different from what you’d expect from listening to the media.
You go down to the Dominican Republic to set up clinics regularly. Describe a day there.
I travel with Intercultural Nursing, a non-profit group that provides health clinics in poor, rural areas. We stay in a camp with no running water, cold bucket showers — you get the idea. In the morning, we load supplies into plastic buckets and ride on the back of a pickup truck that takes us to some remote village. We’ve set up stations in churches, funeral homes — even a cock-fighting arena! — and the patients just start coming. Most are there for primary care, but we have trained community members to do blood pressures and such, and we leave them with medicine, so they can refer others to the hospital if the need arises when we’re not there.
We see up to 200 people each day and we stay for two weeks, traveling to a different village each day. The government says it provides universal healthcare, but their clinics are empty and they have come to rely on volunteers as an essential part of their system.
Fairfield University is planning to expand its academic programs in the health sciences. What do you see as particularly important areas, and what challenges are we facing?
Dr. Robbin Crabtree (dean of the College of Arts and Sciences) and I have been co-chairing the University-wide Integrated Health Sciences Initiative. The goal of this effort is to position Fairfield University as a leader in integrative, interdisciplinary health sciences education and professional preparation. We’re examining our current courses, programs of study, faculty research and community partnerships and identifying where synergies exist and opportunities lie.
There are a lot of reasons to integrate and offer students the opportunity to learn about healthcare; it’s estimated that over half of our students will become involved in healthcare in their careers, whether it’s in direct care to patients, biotechnology, bioengineering, healthcare financing, leadership, or education. There’s a huge push both nationally and internationally to look at worldwide distribution of access and services, and to eliminate disparities in outcomes. And there is a call to revolutionize the way healthcare is taught, to focus more on teamwork, leadership, interdisciplinary education, and practice.
The challenges with developing new programs begin with getting buy-in, both externally and internally. There is excitement here, so I don’t see that as a big problem at Fairfield. Then, we need to develop financial models that are sustainable, and of course find the appropriate faculty and clinical placements to meet the additional requirements of these new programs. It is likely in the near future that students will have the opportunity to focus on interdisciplinary degrees; for example, graduate studies combining nursing and healthcare informatics or finance, and undergraduate studies in bioengineering or healthcare ethics.
Does Fairfield University have any advantages over other schools in the area of the health sciences?
Absolutely! The strong core in the undergraduate curriculum at Fairfield University is built on integrative thinking with a focus on ethics, culture, creativity, systems thinking, and social responsibility. Those all place our students at an advantage in the growing interdisciplinary health sciences field.
As healthcare changes, how will the role of the nurse change?
Nurses are on the front lines, delivering patient centered care where Americans live, work, learn, and play — in hospitals, schools, homes, workplaces, long-term care facilities, and community public health centers. Nurses of the future will not only continue to assume these very important roles, but will be leaders in redesigning the healthcare system to realize a nation where all Americans have access to high-quality, patient-centered care.
LEADERS IN HEALTHCARE
For the past few years, Fairfield University’s School of Nursing has stressed the leadership potential of nurses, educating our graduates to take charge in the changing face of healthcare. Below, some of our own who are doing just that:
MARY ANN CHRISTOPHER ’79, MSN, RN, FAAN, is president and CEO of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, the country’s largest non-profit home and community-based healthcare organization.
Christopher also serves on the boards of the Visiting Nurse Associations of America, the Board of Regents of Seton Hall University, and the National Association of Home Care and Hospice, and is Chair of the National Advisory Committee for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Jersey Nursing Initiative. She has participated on public policy commissions dealing with homelessness, public health, child welfare, the nursing shortage, and managed care. All that has earned her a reputation as an expert on home and community healthcare, and she is in demand as an author and lecturer both nationally and internationally.
“Having been educated in the Jesuit tradition in which cura personalis provides the framework for the academic immersion, I have been inspired to impact health in its broadest conceptualization,” said Christopher.
Last June, Christopher was honored at a reception in Washington, D.C., with the American Nurses Association (ANA) Honorary Human Rights Award in recognition of her commitment to human rights.
DR. SHEILA GROSSMAN, APRN, FNP-BC, longtime Fairfield faculty member, received the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculty’s 2011 Outstanding Nurse Practitioner Faculty Educator Award, presented annually to the nurse practitioner who has demonstrated national and international contributions to the advancement of nursing education as far as innovative curriculum development, outstanding teaching, educational policy development, and creative teaching techniques.
Dr. Grossman, who continues to work as a family nurse practitioner one day a week at an urban primary care clinic in Hartford, also coordinates Fairfield’s Family Nurse Practitioner track.
“Fairfield’s nurse practitioner program will prepare our students to advocate for health policy changes, administer evidenced-based primary care, and lead innovative changes to provide high quality, cost effective, multidisciplinary care,” said Dr. Grossman. Students work with faculty in a state-of-the-art simulation environment practicing primary care in the School of Nursing’s Geriatric Simulated Clinic. Dr. Grossman obtained funding for this project and is involved in ongoing research.
ROBIN KANAREK ’96, the new chair of the School of Nursing Advisory Board, is a familiar face at Fairfield. She’s been an active member of the Board since its inception in 2005, and has donated generously to the School of Nursing. Her 2007 challenge grant of $350,000 enabled the construction of the School’s Robin Kanarek ’96 Learning Resource Center, a simulation lab where students can practice skills in a safe, hands-on environment.
Kanarek has served for years on the boards of the Stamford Hospital Foundation and the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Foundation in Greenwich. The Kanarek Family Foundation was established by Robin and her husband Joe, in 2006, to honor the memory of their son David who died of cancer at age 15. Since then, Kanarek has become an advocate for pediatric palliative and end-of-life care education.
Kanarek believes that students entering all healthcare fields should be better prepared for encounters with patients who have life-threatening illnesses, and that such preparation involves practice in “having difficult conversations, being present, and listening actively.”
In 2011, Robin was the recipient of the Connecticut Nurses’ Association President’s Award for her dedication as a member of the Connecticut Nurses Foundation.