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Collaborative Effort for 'Health Talk' Program

Office of Health Promotion & Connell School of Nursing launch initiative that encourages students to talk about health experiences, issues

04/25/14
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By O. Angela Bowser | SPECIAL TO THE CHRONICLE

Published: Apr. 24, 2014

Dressed in traditional African garb, in front of a packed room of faculty, staff and students in a Cushing Hall classroom, Patience Marks ’15 shared her near-death experience as a child.

“Unlike the many other children in my village, I’m a survivor and this is my story,” Marks uttered in an emotional voice.

In 1999, while Marks was living with her family in Monrovia, Liberia, she became sick for several days. No one knew why she was in so much pain.

Marks told of the desperate search by her mother to find out what was wrong with her before she was later diagnosed with malaria. With medication, her health improved in a matter of days. And today, she is a student in the Connell School of Nursing with plans to be a family nurse practitioner — in part because of that experience.

 “I hope that people will get a sense of my health journey and an appreciation of their health as well,” said Marks, who was awarded the 2014 Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Scholarship in February. “My passion for improving health care led me to the nursing profession. Nurses are educators and patient advocates, and I believe they make a difference in the patient’s health experience and health maintenance.”

Marks was one of seven undergraduates to speak on March 26 at the first-ever Health Talk event, a collaboration between the Office of Health Promotion and the Connell School of Nursing, with support from Robsham Theater, that offers students the opportunity to discuss health experiences and how these influenced their personal views, lifestyles, educational choices and career interests.

Office of Health Promotion Director Elise Tofias Phillips praised the speakers’ willingness to talk about the impact of these events on their lives, and said she hoped other students would be encouraged to participate as the Health Talk program grows.

“These stories are examples of personal courage that can serve as a learning tool for others,” Phillips said.

CSON junior Sabrina Caraffa said she felt compelled to participate in the event to raise awareness that young people are not invincible and that life is quite fragile. Caraffa found that out for herself when she suffered a stroke during her sophomore year. Being hospitalized for three days, she said, gave her a unique and helpful perspective.

“I was never supposed to be the patient in the bed,” said Caraffa, who plans to go into labor and delivery and eventually become a nurse midwife. “My stroke solidified my career choice to become a nurse. I learned about the kind of nurse I did not want to be, and also about the kind of nurse I want to be.”

A third CSON student, senior Nora Jean-Baptiste, talked of being plagued with panic attacks, and BC Health Coaches – students who are trained and certified to coach peers on health-related matters – Mark Burns ’14, Griffin Sharp ’14, Alexandra Truglio ’15 and Xijun Zhu ’15 presented stories that focused on binge drinking, seeing a loved one undergo treatment in a hospital, an eating disorder, and thyroid cancer.

As part of their talks, students offered some personal advice to the audience. Caraffa’s was simple and direct: “Take care of the only body you’ll ever have,” she said, “and listen to it.” 

- O. Angela Bowser is a communications specialist for the Connell School of Nursing