Today, I am giving the keynote to our newest group of global nursing leaders at the University of Maryland Nurses for Global Health’s 5th Annual Conference on the Global Burden of Chronic Disease. What a great group of compassion and enthusiastic future nurse leaders!

I’ll be talking about non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Sixty percent of deaths worldwide are caused by chronic disease. Contrary to popular belief, the WHO estimates that 80% of these deaths occur in low and middle income countries.

As global health nurses we have a responsibility to call attention and address this epidemic.

One of the programs I am so excited to talk about is PIH’s new partnership with Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) to bring oncology care to our sites. In a strong show of support, DFCI has supported the creation of a nursing oncology partnership with Inshuti Mu Buzima, PIH’s sister organization in Rwanda.

Four experienced oncology nurses have committed to working alongside local nurses and physicians at IMB for three-month rotations, creating an unprecedented opportunity for local nurses to specialize and raise the quality of oncology care. I am particularly thrilled about this partnership because it’s allowing nurses the chance to work globally through their employer, an opportunity that has traditionally been made available only to physicians.

Today, we had our first team conference call with Anne Elperin, the first DFCI nurse to head to Rwanda for a three-month stint. The nurses back at DFCI are supporting Anne from afar and working on training materials and cheering her on. Already Anne and Di Longson (our Clinical Nurse Educator at Butaro Hospital) are seeing improvements in nursing care!

Nursing students attending a NCD training in Butaro, Rwanda.

I am continually amazed at the support and commitment for global health from the nursing community. I know that this partnership with DFCI is just the beginning of developing quality oncology nursing care at our sites, and I look forward to pushing these initiatives forward together.