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Festivities at the Annual IUBAT Nursing Picnic

spring 2018 picnic - pot pinata

Students play “pot pinata” – where the participant is blindfolded and attempts to strike an upturned clay pot on the ground ahead

On March 15th, 2018, current BSN students planned a student/faculty/alumni picnic.  Every year, students have the opportunity to organize such an event in order to have some extracurricular social time, but also to develop their leadership and organizational skills whilst learning to work as a team.  The students organize the picnics themselves, including all the transportation, food, games, sound system, venue and budget.  The location often varies, with some examples in the past being resort parks or rural areas.  This year, approximately 80 people, including faculty, alumni, students and family members, attended the picnic, hosted at a park in Gazipur, about 2 hours by bus from the university.  There was a swimming pool that was enjoyed by many and games were played.  The students cooked food for the attendees and fun was had by all.

spring 2018 picnic - swimming

Students swimming in the park, an increasingly popular pastime.

Call for visiting faculty

Recent progress at IUBAT creates fresh opportunities for volunteers to support local faculty in the classroom and in clinical supervision. We heartily welcome Professor Dr Abdur Rab as the new Vice-Chancellor at IUBAT. He has expressed strong support for the College of Nursing and encouraged on-going involvement of BHP volunteers.  Under his direction, Nursing program enrollment has increased and the nursing lab improved. Also, our BSN graduates now work in various Dhaka hospitals so there are more opportunities for practice sites. For these reasons, we need visiting faculty who can strengthen IUBAT instructors’ skills in lecturing and supervising student practice. Formal teaching qualifications are desirable but not essential; many of our previous volunteers have been bedside nurses. IUBAT has arranged new guest-house facilities for visiting faculty in a modern building close to the campus; our familiar housekeeper will continue providing support. With these developments, we are ready to welcome visiting faculty for minimum four-week assignments. Please contact us for further information.

IUBAT College of Nursing Updates

We caught up with Dr. Karen Lund, Visiting Faculty Chair of the IUBAT BSN Program for the latest news from Dhaka.  She states:

“As the BSN Program at IUBAT is finding it’s own feet by hiring their own full-time faculty, it is a time of growth and transition, but also relative uncertainty for staff and students.  However, there is 100% support under the new Vice Chancellor of IUBAT, Dr. Abdur Rab.  He has been very encouraging in terms of helping to implement suggestions from the BSN faculty, particularly with regard to academic and quality assurance measures.  Admission is also increasing: in the spring semester of 2018, there were 28 freshmen, a much bigger cohort than the 3-5 members in our inaugural year!  Along with the admission spike, there are additions to the faculty as well.  We currently have five faculty, including three of our own alumni, and are happy to report that alumnus, Shuvashish Das Bala, is now the Coordinator of the College of Nursing.  We are also happy to report that former alumnus faculty, Mr. Ali Kiron, has just graduated with a Masters in Global Health from Sweden!

 From January to March of this year, a comprehensive quality assurance review was conducted by the Government of Bangladesh (funded by the World Bank Initiative and carried out by the University Grants Commission) of all universities in Bangladesh.  To complete this review, an external inspection team evaluated our self-assessment report and, over three days, meticulously examined facilities, documentation and teaching environments, and held interviews with students and faculty.  Each department at each university was inspected independently and we are proud to announce that according to the resulting detailed 200-page report, IUBAT’s BSN College of Nursing received a score of Very Good, which is rarely awarded.  The reported cited the CON’s potential as a “flagship program” for nursing education.”

Stories from the Heart of the Rohingya Refugee Crisis


Firoza, pictured here, with a patient from the camp.

We always love getting updates from previous graduates, especially from those working with unique populations and can give us insight into current world events and international aid efforts. One such graduate is Firoza (featured in this blog post), who had the opportunity to support and provide aid to Rohingya refugees amidst the refugee crisis in Bangladesh. Firoza works with Sajida Foundation, a non-profit social organization focused on providing quality healthcare and social development programs to disenfranchised and marginalized populations and communities. From October 4th, 2017 to December 31st, 2017, the Sajida Foundation sent a team of 22 staff (comprising of 4 doctors, 4 nurses – including Firoza, 10 volunteers in varying capacities, 1 pharmacy assistant and 3 administrative staff) to the Ukhia Rohingya Refugee Camp in order to reach the ultimate goal of, “…ensuring accesses to basic health and nutrition services among Rohingya refugees, including lactating mothers, newborns and children, to help them survive, recover and gain control on their healthy futures.” Firoza has very kindly recounted this experience for our readers (warning, please note that this passage includes details that some may find disturbing). She writes:

Our team operated at a health camp with a fixed location, where we offered primary healthcare with antenatal care, perinatal care, and emergency management. We also have ‘kid’s corners’ with extracurricular activities and drawing materials so that children can play, and consequently reduce their own stress levels. We provide them with healthcare and engaging activities to reduce the chance that they become involved with criminal activity.

We also have the volunteers provide field visits to offer assistance to those who are unable to visit our health camp. These volunteers visit each and every household, looking to help those who need it most, especially pregnant women, sick children and the elderly.

My responsibility in this team is to supervise the volunteers and nursing staff in our provision of healthcare to the residents of the refugee camp. We have encountered many barriers to care and hardships, for example, an unexpected crisis was when a Diphtheria outbreak occurred in the camp at the beginning of December.


Firoza, consulting with a group of patients.

The conditions in the camps are very difficult. When we first arrived, more than 5000 Rohingya refugees were arriving per day. They did not have food, clothes or shelter, many Rohingyans made use of a nearby tree for a makeshift shelter. There are often cries for food from children and the elderly, but because they are so dehydrated, there are no tears. These memories are painful to recall. The lack of shelter rendered the refugees defenseless from the forces of nature, contagious disease and other animals. For example, an eight-month old child was bitten several times by a fox overnight due to a shortage of indoor accommodations. There were also a variety of other complaints, ranging from skin disease, such as scabies and ringworm, to post traumatic stress disorder. Most of the Rohingya people had lost one or two family members, with some losing more than five. Equally distressing, there were many pregnant women who had lost their husbands at the hands of the Myanmar military and consequently had been sexually assaulted.

One patient’s ordeal that stands out in my memory is one of a woman presenting with complaints of vaginal bleeding. She tearfully expressed that two months prior, she was in Myanmar and was three months pregnant at the time. One day, three Myanmese military members arrived unannounced at their house and killed her 13-year old son. As she tried to stop them, one of them raped her and caused her to spontaneously abort her unborn child. I could feel that woman’s pain, and it stays with me until this day.

Another story that stuck with me was of a child who was playing in our ‘kid’s corner’, where more than 20 children could safely play and interact with one another. We had instructed the children to draw and write what was currently in their minds and hearts and one child, a five-year old, wrote, “ I want to go back home.” That statement touched me because it represented despair, but also hope for a future, in a place that was home for the Rohingya people, where they would be accepted and belong.

Much gratitude to Firoza for sharing her story, despite the sensitive nature of her work. Thank you for bringing light to the atrocities and difficulties being faced by the Rohingyan people and thank you so much for your contributions – extending a helping hand to a population who so urgently need our help. For more information on the Sajida Foundation or to donate, please click here. For more information on how you can help the Rohingya refugee crisis, please click here.

Dhaka Faced with Problems of Growth

The Guardian article features the overpopulation problem in Dhaka.

The Guardian article features the overpopulation problem in Dhaka.

In a special series on overstretched cities running in ‘The Guardian’, an article looks at the rapid urbanization and growth of Dhaka, Bangladesh.  Due to this growth, problems such as insufficient monsoon rain drainage in the sewer infrastructure have emerged, partially due to the administrative problems of Dhaka.  Beyond the difficulties faced by the sanitation workers lies the problem of a country of 160 million with no effective political decentralization of authority to regions and urban government.

According to UN Habitat, Dhaka is the world’s most crowded city and the fastest growing in terms of population.  This overpopulation means that Dhaka has grown faster than infrastructure development and that the management of the city is lagging.  In Dhaka, governance of the city systems are the responsibility of, “a chaotic mix of competing bodies”, which leads to a lack of coordination and many hands passing the blame.

The city sewer cleaners, dubbed as having the ‘worst job in the world’ by international media, face stigma and dangerous work conditions.  Many in the profession are Hindu dalits, significant because the majority of Bangladeshis are Muslim, and Hindus were singled out for persecution during Bangladesh’s war for independence from Pakistan.  Furthermore, dalits belong to the lowest caste level, known as ‘untouchables’, and often are given low-paying, lowly jobs in society.

Despite these serious issues of urbanization, there is hope: Bangladesh has won praise for it’s progressive responses in other arenas, such as climate-change, and experts deem that social movements borne from the confines of urban spaces can have the power to change and discipline governments.  According to Population Sciences Professor Nurun Nabi, “Many stories will be written by the people of this nation – forget about the political parties.  Someday they will wake up and be forced to comply with their speech.”

For more information and a fascination depiction of the strain experienced by this megacity, please click here.


Long-time Volunteer Examines the Progress in Bangladesh

In our last post, Sara Jackson, a long-time volunteer with the BHP, described her first visit to Bangladesh.  It serves as juxtaposition to her most recent visit, in 2017.  She recounts her most recent trip:

“I recently returned to Vancouver after three months in Bangladesh.  The IUBAT nursing program has their own Bangladeshi faculty these days; therefore, instead of teaching, I spent my time supporting the instructors by writing exam questions, filling in some knowledge gaps and accompanying them to hospital clinical practice sites with the students.  The faculty are all young, bright, passionate, and well-versed professionals.  I found the students to be open and willing to learn and succeed in this not so easy country.  I was able to offer some language instruction and was pleased to edit research papers and assist with academic writing.  I basically jumped in to help as needed.

Apart from work at IUBAT, I prepared a two-day workshop on hygiene and infection control for the Sajida Organization’s (an NGO-health organization) new homecare aid hires.  This was a very positive experience.  The Organization invited me to attend a three-day workshop on High Risk Labour and Delivery, facilitated by Team Broken Earth from Newfoundland.  The target audience was a large group of OBGYNs that the Sajida Organization employs at their progressive hospitals.

Another one of the highlights was a social event on a Saturday. We spent the day on a hired boat with large speakers and a DJ. One of the students prepared chicken biryani and snacks for the cruise. Bangladesh has a six-day work and study week, so this was a great opportunity to have some much needed leisure time. I was enjoying myself so much, I decided to extend my time in Bangladesh by an extra month. The work was so interesting and varied. Bangladeshis are warm, welcoming, kind, and not to mention, have a great sense of humour!

IUBAT is now fully staffed with Bangladeshi nursing faculty.  I was fortunate to connect with IUBAT Nursing graduates employed in research, with international NGOs, as nurse managers, coordinators and in other high functioning and demanding positions in healthcare.  These students have a bright future to pursue.  In and around Dhaka, growth and change is highly visible.  Many of the construction and mega projects are mind- boggling to see and strangely futuristic.

One week before returning to Vancouver, two volunteers from Alberta, Nancy and Eve, arrived.  This was Nancy’s second visit.  The time we spend as volunteers in Bangladesh is so appreciated.  Volunteers leave this country with more knowledge, indelible memories, but mostly an open heart.”

Sara, we appreciate your insight, expertise and your immense contributions to the success of the Bangladesh Health Project, both in North America and in Bangladesh.  This longitudinal description is helpful for our readers who are interested in the progress of the Program and the country, or are curious as to how things are currently, as compared to when they themselves last visited IUBAT!  We look forward to more of these types of stories from people who have been with the Program over the years as it grew.

Long-Time Volunteer Describes her First Visit to Dhaka

Sara Jackson, a long-time volunteer with the BHP (also featured here and here), wrote to us and reflected about her recent visit to IUBAT. Sara is a volunteer at home, as our return volunteer recognition liaison since 2013, and abroad, serving as visiting nursing faculty and student support when at IUBAT. She has also lent her expertise to the Sajida Organization (an NGO health-organization in Bangladesh) for the purposes of homecare program development. When she is not overseas, Sara is a Licensed Practical Nurse in Vancouver, and has culled her vast clinical experience from a variety of settings, spending the last 15 years working with HIV/AIDS and co-occurring disorders, including palliative care. She is presently employed as a clinical research associate with the BC Centre on Drug Use, and is also an ESL teacher to internationally educated nurses.

We have asked Sara to detail her first trip to Dhaka so that it truly illustrates the transformation and the extent of the change that the Program has undergone. She writes:

“My first trip to Bangladesh was in 2014.  I volunteered with the Project as visiting faculty and worked alongside a critical care nurse from the US, two Canadian nurse educators, and a retired orthopedic surgeon.  At that time, fourth-year BSN students from Vancouver Community College spent a six-week practicum in Dhaka studying community and global health.  We were all hosted at the IUBAT guesthouse.  In addition, a most wonderful American poet from Louisiana, Dorie LaRue, shared the space while she was volunteering with the English faculty.  Dorie later published a book of poetry about her experience in Bangladesh entitled, ‘Mad Rains’.  It’s a wonderful read.  I was fortunate to have shared many Dhaka adventures with Dorie.

The IUBAT campus is in Uttara, a model town in the suburbs of Dhaka.  The campus was more modern than I imagined.  All classes are taught in English and the senior students had a good command of the language.  I instructed first and second-year students in bedside nursing skills and vital signs in the Nursing Lab and theory in one of the bright classrooms.  The VCC and IUBAT students studied and mentored each other.

The 'Soul Train' during Eid

The ‘Soul Train’ during Eid

Dr. Nazmul Huda from Dhaka provided us with plenty of opportunities to visit various healthcare facilities, including a weekend trip to his family home near Barisal in the south.  The road trip alone was like watching a non-stop National Geographic documentary.  It is difficult to put into words the scenes of humanity witnessed.  Dr. Huda also arranged a paddle wheeler excursion on a restored vessel down the Mehgna River.  We were able to spend some time away from Dhaka, the chaos capital of the world, at the tea plantation area of Sylhet, as well as Rajshahi, the mango capital of Bangladesh.  Rajashi is a lush, green, and agricultural area uring the monsoon season.  It is located on the Padma River and is surprisingly quiet.  There are many ancient Hindu temples and mosques close by.  What a dream to experience such a place.”

Thank you Sara, for painting such a rich picture of your first glimpse of Bangladesh and of the BScN Program at IUBAT. Sara’s account will be continued in the next post, where she recounts her 2017 visit.

A ‘Do-It-Yourself’ Approach Published by IUBAT Advisor

CvAlex Berland, Advisor on Health Sciences at IUBAT for the BScN program, has recently published an article about the Bangladesh Health Project entitled, A ‘Do-It-Yourself’ Approach to International Nursing Education.  Featured in the October 2017 edition of the American Journal of Nursing, this article provides a practical framework for social entrepreneurs who wish to develop similar volunteer projects.  His advice is especially pragmatic, relevant and drawn from extensive experience, and amongst his suggestions: conduct research prior to committing to an endeavour and be aware of the possibility of relying heavily on your own resources.  With some hope, the Bangladesh Health Project may inspire similar initiatives elsewhere!

To purchase and read the article, please click here for the online article.

Alumnae Publishes Nutrition Textbook

COMMUNITY AREAA member of our first graduating class, Sushma Sapkota (previously mentioned here) has had quite a vocational journey since moving on from IUBAT.  She has worked in a variety of settings and occupied a number of roles, but now, she has also added the title ‘published author’ to her resume.  In her own words, she describes her career progress and how she came to write a textbook:

“After graduating with my Bachelor of Science in Nursing from IUBAT, I began working at an American super-specialty hospital in Uttara, Dhaka.  While working, I was able to see the difference that nurses make and the smiles on patients’ faces, which made me realize that IUBAT taught us the skills in order to make those smiles happen.  Soon after, I obtained my Master’s degree while working at Ayesha Memorial Hospital, a universal medical and nursing college.  All of the standard practices that I learned from IUBAT, I applied to my everyday regimen at Ayesha Memorial Hospital.  After completing my Master’s degree, I worked as a nursing supervisor at Sajida Foundation in Narayangong, Bangladesh, then came back to Nepal where I began working as a lecturer to BSc Nursing students, teaching Community Health Nursing, Nutrition and Dietetics, and some courses of Medical Surgical Nursing and Midwifery Part III (Postnatal).

Industrial visit with students

Sushma, in the field with her students

After starting my career as lecturer, I realized that my education from IUBAT was similar to some best colleges of Nepal, however, at times, I felt like I was spoon feeding information to the students.  It seemed like the teacher was doing more labour than the student.  I was then promoted to work as the coordinator of the Nursing program for 1st and 2nd year students.  I got a chance to learn more about leadership and management of students, and was even able to apply my leadership skills that I obtained from my own studies in Nursing Administration, part of the IUBAT Nursing Program.  While working as a clinical supervisor, I often heard positive and encouraging feedback from the students that they wanted to emulate my style and skillset.  Students were inspired by my class, teaching and clinical supervision style.

Nutrition Exhibition with Sushma and her students

Nutrition Exhibition with Sushma and her students

In addition to working as coordinator of the 1st and 2nd year program, I also got the chance to work as the coordinator of the 2nd and 3rd year program.  In the meantime, I also received my ‘Skilled Birth Attendant (SBA) training in Nepal.  Most recently, I am working as coordinator of the 4th year Nursing students; I design the curriculum, rotation plans (especially clinical postings), weekly class schedules, prepare exams and end of year assessments, and schedule clinical rosters for the students.  I also coordinate with the nursing chief, clinical supervisor, and hospital management team regarding clinical postings.  As the 4th year coordinator, I am responsible with selecting research topics and supervising 3-4 students in their research.

My greatest achievement to date is publishing my nutrition text entitled, “Comprehensive Textbook of Food and Nutrition”.  Preparing a book was challenging; I had to study many references to make it more credible and useful.  A large number of books on food and nutrition are available in the market, but some had much irrelevant material, or were missing content, or contained content that was far too tailored to one university’s curriculum to be considered comprehensive.  I have reviewed different national and international books, journals, reports, articles, guidelines, policies, strategies, and protocols related to food and nutrition in order to produce this text.  The book has 13 units, written to meet the course requirements of the nursing programs of many different universities; however, it will also be helpful for students enrolled in similar areas of study such as Public Health, food technology and so on. I have tried to incorporate all essential areas of food and nutrition in this book to provide a complete understanding of the subject.

sush cover book

Producing a book requires coordinated effort, which no author can accomplish without the involvement of friends, relatives, colleagues, seniors and especially teachers.  First of all, I want to thank God Almighty who made it possible to fulfill my vision of writing this book.  I feel grateful to, and want to acknowledge, Dr. Karen Lund, Senior Advisor of Health Sciences (ex-nursing program chief of IUBAT), and Adjunct Professor Alex Berland, for their support, guidance and inspiring words for my book.  They helped me tremendously in writing this text.  They were even kind enough to send me examples of texts in Canada as reference.

It would be unfair if I didn’t acknowledge the professionalism and diligence of my nutrition teacher: Judi Morton at IUBAT, who taught me the nuances of this subject.  My book delivers a comprehensive overview of nutrition, from introduction to food and nutrition, balanced diets, nutritional needs across the life span, to management of health and disease through therapeutic diets.  It contains numerous figures and tables which illustrate key concepts and conditions as well as explain details about the national nutrition policy in Nepal.

Last but not the least, I am grateful to IUBAT, as my education gave me a platform to write a book, as well as develop my skills as a nurse and a person.  I learned about plagiarism, which is a not a well-known concept amongst students of Nepal.  As a result, many of the books in Nepal are just copy and paste, but knowing this and trying to avoid it, I was able to produce a nutrition text that could exist as a standard of reference in Nepal.”

Congratulations to Sushma on her monumental achievement and on her contributions to healthcare knowledge and education in Nepal.  Publishing a textbook involves rigorous effort and is an extremely large undertaking.  Excellent work, Sushma, and we can hardly wait to hear about your next project!

Volunteers Recall Memories of Bangladesh

Nancy and Emily at the "Mini" Taj
Emily Hagg, a ICU RN at the Foothills Medical Center in Calgary, and Nancy Campbell, a Registered Nurse with Alberta Health Services, recently returned from Dhaka, where they volunteered with the Bangladesh Health Project. We asked Nancy and Emily to regale us with their favourite stories and most memorable moments from their trip.

Emily: “I was in Bangladesh from Jan. 11th to April 3th, so I was there for almost an entire semester. My official role was as a Post-Graduate Research Fellow, which mostly entailed being available as a mentor to the nursing instructors already in place and helping out with whatever I could in the classes and clinicals.

Nancy: “I arrived in Dhaka March 7th and left April 8th. My arrival was easy for me as Emily was already there! Emtiaz from the IUBAT Nursing College met me at the airport and I felt supported for the entire time. My official position was the same as Emily’s: Visiting Research Fellow, and my role was the same as well, to support the Nursing Faculty in the clinical and classroom settings. I also had the opportunity to work with the Sajeda Foundation on the development of their Home Care Program and their Seniors’ Supportive Housing Facility project.”

Emily: “What I especially loved about my experience was how friendly people were in Bangladesh, from the instructors, the students, to people on the street: just big smiles wherever I went. Initially, I had to adjust to the attention and the people just wanting to know about you and get close to you, which is very different from North American culture! I also will always remember how respectful the nursing students were! They stood when we instructors came into the room, calling us “ma’am”, earnestly listening to every word we ever said, and being protective of us when we were out in public together, etc. They were so polite and pleasant to work with!”

Emily at the Pink Palace in Old Dhaka

Emily at the Pink Palace in Old Dhaka

Nancy: “Yes! The thing I will always remember is walking into a classroom that first afternoon and all of the students standing up when the faculty entered. That just doesn’t happen in Canada. As I got to know them, I was humbled by their commitment to their education: the daily challenges they had just to get to school, on top of having to learn in English – nursing education is tough enough without these challenges. There wasn’t single day that I didn’t have an interaction with one of them that made me smile. They included us in their annual picnic and it was an incredible day, full of surprises and adventures.

IUBAT was similarly great: a sanctuary created by the school with the tea in the cafe, the guards that helped you cross the road in crazy traffic and of course, the long lineups to use the elevators. The faculty of the nursing college were simply amazing. They mentored us on “life” in Dhaka as much as we mentored them on nursing education.

It was interesting to be stared at and be asked to take pictures with total strangers. Add to that the population density that I hadn’t yet ever experienced – I didn’t know what to think at first. While it was unusual to have my activities/freedoms curtailed, I did not ever feel threatened or unsafe. Also, everyone should ride in a rickshaw at least once in their life! One cannot think of Dhaka without thinking of the traffic and the noise; there are absolutely no words that adequately describe the travel by van in that city.”

Emily: “I was definitely surprised by the instant celebrity status we seemed to develop by just entering the country and how hard that was to get used to. I didn’t think it would be quite the extreme that it was. It would have been nice (and easier to move around) if we were more ‘invisible’.” 

Emily and Nancy at the guest house

Emily and Nancy at the guest house

Emily: “If I had any advice for those interested in volunteering, it would be to be prepared to ‘go with the flow’! Things change rapidly and your day seldom works out as you initially planned it. It’s important not to get stressed out about stuff like that. Also, the accommodations are better than the volunteer manual makes them out to be! There’s hot water showers, a washing machine available, etc. It’s also so nice not having to prepare lunch and supper everyday! Finally, Caucasians should be extra prepared to be an object of fascination every where you go. It often takes longer to move around because of this fact.”

Nancy: “Anyone who is open to a new experience should go. I would encourage my nurse colleagues to go and experience a world where you can truly mentor nursing leadership AND grow an appreciation for the respect that nursing receives in Canada. Perhaps a practical piece of advice would be to get your visa before you arrive – I spent 2.5 hours in the VISA on arrival booth and an additional hour when I left because I had overstayed by 2 days. Despite that, it was amazing to be able to have a small impact and change the world of nursing in Bangladesh. I hope to go back very soon.”

A big thanks to Nancy and Emily for sharing their favourite recollections of Bangladesh; we love hearing from our volunteers! If any potential volunteers are interested and would like more information, please go to the Volunteer section on our website.