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Dr. Kunkel in Monrovia, Liberia in 2014 as an international Ebola responder.

HQS professor lands Fulbright Specialist grant for work in Liberia

More than ten years after Dr. Dorcas Kunkel helped launch a M.S. in Nursing/Midwifery program in Monrovia, Liberia, she’s returning to the country as a Fulbright Specialist.

As an adjunct in JU’s Healthcare Quality and Safety department and an experienced nursing education specialist, Dr. Kunkel was originally tasked in 2010 with starting Mother Patern College of Health Sciences’ nursing/midwifery program. She returned in 2011, 2012 and 2014 to teach at the school as a visiting faculty member.  

Now, the dean of the MPCHS in Liberia asked Dr. Kunkel to lead an effort to start a Family Nurse Practitioner track to the nursing program at the college, the first of its kind in the country. 

“Liberia does not have any FNP nursing programs at the graduate level of study, and few Liberian colleges or universities could support such an endeavor,” Dr. Kunkel said. 

The country is lacking medical professionals, she said. Currently, the ratio of doctors to the population is .033 to 1,000. The World Health Organization recommends a 1 to 1,000 ratio. 

Programs like these can help fill that gap to provide more care to more Liberians. 

“In Liberia, there is a dearth of medical providers to deliver primary care for the population,” she said. “In several countries in Africa, the FNP role is beginning to emerge as a promising model of primary care provider and a new advanced practice nursing role, that can expand access to care for their populations. 

To complete the project, Dr. Kunkel applied to the Fulbright Specialist Program and received a grant to complete the project in Liberia.

The Fulbright Specialist Program allows international organizations and institutions to develop collaborative projects and host a U.S. academic or professional to work on it for two to six weeks. The projects support critical needs as determined by the organization, and are supported by U.S. Embassies and binational Fulbright Commissions.

She’ll be there for six weeks working on program planning, developing the curriculum and collaborating and consulting with stakeholders. She’ll be meeting with college faculty, the Ministry of Education, National Commission of Higher Education, Ministry of Health, other policymakers and the public to create the program. 

Dr. Kunkel said the project can improve access to primary care for the entire country of about 5 million people.

“This experience will expand the scope of my own educational expertise and competencies through engagement in global and international nursing education,” she said. “This work also falls into the scope of public health nursing at an advanced level, which is part of my own educational background and expertise.”

By Katie Garwood