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Part I: Graduate Reflects on Influence of Nursing

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Bimala, pictured above with her daughter Ninama, is one of the first graduates of IUBAT’s College of Nursing (you may read about that here). She has been featured extensively in our blog, but she writes us again to share her preconceived notions of nursing and the impact of her training on her life, even long after she completed the program.  She shares how her perspective of nursing has evolved over the course of her schooling and how it continues to shape her experiences. She writes:

“When I had to choose a Bachelor’s degree program for my career, I chose nursing for two reasons: 1) The ever increasing demand for nurses and 2) Good salary for qualified nurses in developed countries. That would take me away from my meddling family for sure!  Hence, I chose the College of Nursing at IUBAT, Bangladesh, which was far away from family. It did not go as I planned but I am glad it is that way. Why? I’ll tell you.

My ideas about nurses and nursing took a complete 180 degree turn while at IUBAT. I used to think nurses carried out doctors’ orders: gave medications and maybe dress a wound sometimes. These notions were built up from my observations while visiting family members at hospitals in Nepal. However, through my nursing education in IUBAT, I learned that a nurse is supposed to be responsible and accountable for providing compassionate care to his/her client through a holistic approach, which integrates not just physical but social, psychological, and spiritual aspects that are interconnected and affect an individual as a whole. I learned that a nurse is a linchpin between patients and the rest of his/her multidisciplinary team, that a nurse is the patients’ advocate. I learned that nurses were highly respected professionals, not because of the salary they were paid, but because of the important roles and responsibilities they carried out in patient care (although, hence the salary!).  The IUBAT instructors were true role models for nurse professionals. They were kind, caring, respectful, and always trying to help improve the patient care of the health care facilities. They were also encouraging us, the students, to be the catalyst for a better nursing care practice. As I learned more about nursing, I became aware of the greater role of nurses in patient care and the wider scope of their practice. I then truly started to respect the nursing profession and was proud to call myself a nurse.

Aware of the true potential of a nurse, I came to understand that there is a greater need of professional nurses in countries like mine. I immediately realized that there was a big difference between IUBAT teachings and actual nursing care practices in most of the healthcare facilities of Nepal and Bangladesh.  It also became clear that the nominal and substandard roles of nurses and their scope of practices in these countries were a direct result of poor nursing regulations and education. This realization was life changing to me. I became more interested in improving the nursing care and healthcare standard of countries like mine and Bangladesh instead of working in developed countries. It has become my goal to help Nepal, and if possible, other similar countries, attain a health care system that provides quality healthcare to its citizens regardless of their race, gender, and social or financial status.  

Apart from finding my goal, the skills, knowledge and attitude that I obtained from the IUBAT Nursing Program has saved me from possible obstetric abuse during an important phase of my life – my childbirth. Through the program I have become passionate about advocating for the patients’ right to quality healthcare. The program taught me to become assertive, a critical thinker, and a lifelong learner of good health care practice. Because of these traits, I was able to research current practices around childbirth cases like mine and was empowered to humbly question practices of the doctors/nurses caring for me. I had the confidence to stand up against their professional misconduct and deny their intervention. I was also able to seek the right professionals and place for my childbirth. Because I had become a strong nurse (thanks to IUBAT’s Nursing Program!) I was able to give birth to a wonderful baby girl and experience a wonderful childbirth.”

We are grateful that you shared this lovely narrative for our readers and glad that you were able to give some insight as to how the program was transformative in a variety of ways.  Please stay tuned for the next post, wherein Bimala uses her personal and professional experiences to craft a presentation for healthcare professionals and industry experts.

Alumnus Lands Position with Médecins Sans Frontières‎ (Doctors Without Borders)

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The journey for some students through the rigorous training program at IUBAT is decidedly challenging, and the English language instruction, as well as comprehensive curriculum, require dedication and hard work in order to master.  Samir Chandra Das is a graduate from our College of Nursing and is now finding success in his career as a registered nurse, but he describes the bumps he encountered along the way, and the support he received in return.  He writes:

“My name is Samir, and I graduated from the College of Nursing at International University of Business Agriculture and Technology (IUBAT) in 2014.  As a child, I wanted to be a health care leader.  I love to serve those that are marginalized, poor and vulnerable.  As I love working with people, I selected nursing as a profession, since there are many opportunities to serve and benefit that population.  Furthermore, my brother inspired me greatly to pursue nursing.  He explained to me what nursing was all about and about the prospects and job fulfilment.

Once I made the final decision to become a nurse, I was looking for the most reputable nursing institution.  That is when I encountered IUBAT.  After my admission to IUBAT, I met with Dr. Karen Lund, the Faculty Chair for Health Sciences at IUBAT.  She spoke to me about the variety of job prospects that I could have after graduation, including other benefits regarding nursing jobs in Bangladesh and abroad.  At the beginning of my studies, I was quite depressed because of my poor English skills.  After some time, however, I met with our respected Alex Berland, Senior Advisor in Health Sciences at IUBAT.  I shared my problems regarding my studies with him, and he gave me some valuable suggestions that helped me with completion of my studies and with my English skills and competency.  I am really grateful to IUBAT and our faculty whom taught me, including our international volunteers and national staff.  Because of all of them, I am where I am now.

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Samir, shown here, working with the Kamrangirchar Urban Slum Project with MSF

Just after my graduation from IUBAT, I got an opportunity to work at Gastro Liver Hospital and Research Institute in Dhaka as a staff nurse.  Currently, I am working in Medecins Sans Frontieres-Holland (MSF-H), Bangladesh as an Occupational Health nurse since November, 2015.  

As an Occupational Health nurse, my role is to provide basic health care to the factory workers and to find out the occupational health diseases.  I am also responsible for providing vaccinations to the children, women and male factory workers, medication administration, IV cannulation, nebulization, dressing, history taking, room temperature monitoring, measuring of vital signs, maintenance of infection control protocols, patient counselling, maintenance of medicine inventory and consumption, maintenance of the cold chain of vaccine, and performance of laboratory tests such as urinalysis, pregnancy tests, syphilis etc.

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My opinion is that the College of Nursing at IUBAT is the best nursing college in Bangladesh.  The knowledge that I learned from IUBAT is really essential for my practical services.  I am thankful to IUBAT and our all faculty (national and international) for their valuable suggestions and time, which make me competent enough to provide standard quality of care to patients.  Again, thank you so much for everyone who was with me in my entire nursing journey.”

Thank you for sharing your accomplishments and challenges, Samir, and we are certain that your story will bolster and encourage students currently in the program who may be facing some difficulties of their own.  We congratulate you on your new position with Médecins Sans Frontières, and we hope that you continue to thrive and grow in your role as a nurse.

Snapshots of Student Life

The following are photos taken at Aysha Memorial Hospital on the last day of clinical practice of the Spring 2016 semester for the students in NUR219. These are second year students and the NUR219 class is the first time that students attend clinical practice. Prior to this experience, the students are in the lab classes on campus.

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On the left is Shuvashish Das Bala, the instructor for NUR219. It was Shuvashish’s first time in this role as Assistant Lecturer at IUBAT University, taking students on clinical.  This is significant as to highlight the importance of the volunteer faculty (in this case, Roslyn) to help support these new and eager faculty members transition into this role. Next to Shuvashish (from left to right) are nursing students Philomena, Khadiza, Roslyn (volunteer faculty) and Sumona.

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In this photo is Mohammad Ali (Kiron), Assistant Lecturer at IUBAT University, with Philomena, Khadiza, Roslyn and Sumona. Whilst not responsible for this class, Kiron participated with clinical to gain experience in this role and to prepare himself for when he will be responsible for taking his students on clinical placement.  He is also featured on our blog here.

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Nursing students, Philomena, Sumona and Khadiza are illustrating standard dress while on clinical. Students are expected to be neat, professional and in uniform, and ready to participate in any and every experience while on practical. They are expected to take notes, ask questions and learn as much as possible. The teachers supervising are available to help and ensure that international standards being taught at IUBAT University are being upheld in the clinical environment.

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Finally, this photo showcases nursing student, Sumona, at Aysha Memorial Hospital on the female ward at the nursing station, reading a patient’s chart.

In this course, students attend the hospital one day/week for clinical practice and according to volunteer faculty, Roslyn, “it was really great to see how excited and eager the students were. They would come to the teachers with charts to show us patients on the wards that had conditions related to what they had been learning in lectures. They would describe skills they had participated in with the nurses on the wards, follow doctors on rounds, tend to patient care and translate to English for the foreign faculty what they were discussing/asking patients. The students improved greatly over the semester and it was a pleasure to see them grow in their skills and confidence as student nurses.”

A huge thank you to Roslyn Coltheart who helped with the descriptions of the photos and elaborating on this course during the nursing curriculum.  To read more about Roslyn, please click here.

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Please visit our Flickr page for more photos!

Current IUBAT Faculty and Former Student Awarded with Scholarship

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Mohammad (Kiron) Ali is currently a faculty member at IUBAT, teaching students at the very same school where he learned to become a nurse himself.  When asked how he came into nursing and about his future vocational goals, Ali shares some wonderful news with our readers.  He writes:

“Greetings from Bangladesh! I am very sorry for the late reply, as you can imagine how busy we are during the semester end at IUBAT.  I came into nursing in 2007, a couple of months after successfully finishing the Higher School Certificate examination.  The decision I made to study nursing was against my family’s wishes.  Historically, nursing is locally viewed as a poor profession and dirty job.  Consequently, I faced discrimination and criticism from my family, friends, and neighbours.  In my youth, I had never dreamed of becoming a nurse, nor did I know what nursing truly entailed.  While I was studying in higher secondary school, I had a growing interest to enter the medical profession.  Fortunately, I had the opportunity to talk with Prof. Dr. Karen Lund, former Chair, College of Nursing at IUBAT.  She gave me full insight and knowledge about the nursing profession, and I applied for admission that same day.

Presently, I am working very hard for the residency permit (RP), which takes a lot of paperwork.  I’m happy to share the news to all of my well-wishers, nationally and internationally, after getting RP, and a scholarship!  I have been accepted to the Master’s of International Health program at Uppsala University, in Uppsala, Sweden.  The program will last two years and begins on August 29th, 2016.  Furthermore, the scholarship I have been awarded is called the Swedish Institute Study Scholarship (SISS), bestowed upon me by the Swedish Institute, a public agency whose commitment is to gain knowledge and understanding of different cultures, their people, and to promote Sweden and Swedish issues globally.   Here is more information about the scholarship and the Swedish Institute: SISS – Application procedure and key dates: Swedish Institute.

For my accomplishments in my career thus far, I would like to thank three special people in my life.  Prof. Dr. M Alimullan Miyan, Vice Chancellor of IUBAT, for giving me the opportunity to study at this university under the umbrella of the Knowledge-Based Area Development program (KBAD).  Secondly, Prof. Dr. Karen Lund has been the biggest motivator in my life.  Finally, Prof. Alex Berland, Senior International Adviser of College of Nursing, who has been my mentor.  I will continue writing with follow-ups and updates.  I deeply acknowledge the efforts of all those I mentioned and hope for a continued strong Bangla-Canadian relationship.”

We’re grateful for the update and even happier to hear the great news, Kiron.  All the best to you at the end of a busy semester of instruction, and for your two-year Master’s program in Uppsala!  Perhaps we will hear more about your international adventures further into your career.

Volunteer Faculty Discusses her Unique Role with Project

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A recent volunteer, Roslyn Coltheart, answered some questions to allow us to share her experiences as a visitor to Bangladesh and a staff mentor at IUBAT.  Roslyn held a unique volunteer position as she was not an instructor to the nursing students, but rather, a mentor to new permanent faculty at IUBAT.  She is pictured above with faculty members and students at the 71st orientation program for new students (“Fresher”), for spring semester.  In the picture from left to right: Faisal (nursing student), Roslyn, Tutal (IUBAT graduate and now faculty), Khadizia (IUBAT faculty, graduate of armed forces medical college and the first non-IUBAT trained staff), Tahamina (IUBAT graduate and now faculty), Tithi (nursing student), Shoykit (nursing student), Shuvashish (IUBAT graduate and now faculty), and Elma (nursing student).

What were your roles/responsibilities in Bangladesh and when did you become involved with the Bangladesh Health Project?

“I first came across the Bangladesh Health Project in 2013, when I read an article in the American Journal of Nursing. At the time, I had just moved from Australia to Canada but filed the information away for future reference. In early 2015, I applied to volunteer with the Project. Initially hopeful to be there for the September to December 2015 semester, I had to delay due to Canadian immigration difficulties and arrived January 7th 2016, staying until April 16 2016, during spring semester. 

At this time in the Project, six IUBAT graduates had been hired as teachers and I was the first volunteer to join the project, not as a teacher myself but as a mentor for these young teachers. My roles and responsibilities were very autonomous and self directed. My main focus was not to teach, but to help guide the teachers to develop their confidence, teaching styles, assignment setting, exam marking etc. I would sit with teachers before class and help them prepare, join classes and give support, answer questions, join in discussions, read assignments and give feedback on marking. I also accompanied teachers and students to attend clinical placements and updated some old lectures. 

As I was not directly responsible for classes each week, I had more flexibility to travel some parts of Bangladesh whilst there.”

What/where is your current position/role (i.e. are you a practicing nurse, writing/teaching full time?)?

I am an Australian registered nurse and have now been living and working in Canada for 3 years. I graduated in 2004 and have predominantly worked in Emergency in that time frame. I am currently registered in BC and working in Emergency.

Can you share your overall impressions of Bangladesh and your experiences with the Project?

“I had a truly great experience in Bangladesh, I can’t believe the availability of so many different foods! I’m very happy I came across the Project and was able to experience it. I am also happy I came across it in the stage that it was at: during the transition of the graduates into lecturers, rather than as a teacher myself. I found the role interesting, challenging, stimulating and worthwhile, although I had a few challenges along the way! All of the teachers said I made a difference, but a mentee faculty member probably gave me the greatest insight into this when he said something along the lines of, “You may not realize the difference you have made, but we know.” It was also interesting to hear the students talk at the end about things they had learned from having me there – a few off the cuff remarks I made seemed to have made an impact! I have encouraged them all to keep in contact and they are aware I’m happy to help over email when and if they need it.”

Thank you for sharing your insight during a pivotal time during the Project’s development, Roslyn, and it is without doubt that your assistance and guidance has helped strengthen the foundation and shaped the growth of the nursing program at IUBAT.  We’re sure the students and faculty alike can wholeheartedly agree that your influence has been positive and beneficial for the future direction of the Bangladesh Health Project!

IUBAT Graduate Overcomes Barriers for Dream Career

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One of our alumni, Firoza, recently wrote to us to describe how her lifelong dream of being a nurse came to fruition.  Firoza has wanted a career in nursing from a very young age, and she recalls her journey to get to IUBAT.  She writes,

“Even from early childhood, I wanted to be independent.  A female neighbour, who was a primary school teacher, helped me believe that this was an achievable goal for me.  Also, as a fourth grade student, I read a storybook about a nurse that piqued my interest in the field.  My first attempt to get into nursing college was not successful, but I did not lose hope, I still believed that I would be an RN one day.  I completed a three-year paramedic course and got a job as a ward clerk at Sajida Hospital in South Dhaka.  While working at the hospital, my dream of being a nurse became stronger, but I knew that my family could not afford to pay the tuition through nursing school.  During my time at the hospital, I met Bimala Rai, a graduate of IUBAT and the chief nurse, who encouraged me to complete a BSN at IUBAT with bursary support from Bangladesh Health Project donations.  It was then that I was introduced to Dr. Karen Lund.  Both of them helped me gain bursary support in order to enroll in IUBAT’s BSN program.

I cannot explain how much happy I was when I got chance to enroll in the BSN course at IUBAT.  IUBAT is an English medium-university and students are taught by local faculty and international visiting volunteers.  Students from other departments informed me that IUBAT’s college of nursing followed a strict method of instruction, and in order to pass the program, one would have to dedicate a lot of hard work into their studies.  I was not deterred because I know that a journey of thousand miles starts with a single step.  English doesn’t come naturally for me, as I have only ever spoken Bangla, but I studied hard and I passed the program with a high score.  I was able to achieve this with lots of help from local and foreign faculty, and of course, Dr. Karen Lund.  I could not speak a single English word when I was first admitted to IUBAT, now I can speak English in front of thousand people.  I am very thankful to Dr. Karen Lund and other faculty members who always supported and encouraged me to study in nursing and helped me become competent enough to work in any corner in the world.

Now, since January 2nd, 2016, I have worked at Sajida Hospital, Narayanganj, as a Nursing Supervisor (Quality Improvement).  In this position, I have many responsibilities, such as performing professional supervisory practice in the care of physically ill people, and ensuring quality nursing care offered at the hospital facility.  I am working to improve and maintain the quality of nursing practice, using standard precautions.  I am currently organizing a training program to improve knowledge, identifying and assisting in resolving professional, administrative and supervisory problems in assigned areas. This is a more challenging job for me, but I like this work and the challenge of bringing positive change in nursing care.”

Thank you for this story, Firoza, and congratulations on your new supervisory position.  That is a remarkable achievement!  We hope that your career as a nurse is filled with many more successes, and perhaps one day, you may mentor someone contemplating nursing and help a young nurse-hopeful towards the program.

IUBAT Graduate Charters New Journey in Canada

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At the Bangladesh Health Project, we love hearing from our alumni and getting updates on their lives and careers.  Sweta Sharma, one of the first graduates of the nursing program at IUBAT, has had quite the journey since she completed her BSc studies in 2009.  Her success has been featured here and here, and now, Sweta explains her initial impressions of the program and how she is furthering her career progress in a new country:

“When I enrolled in BSc Nursing, I had only a vague idea of what nursing entailed and what the roles and responsibilities of a nurse were, as I was the first person out of my family and close relatives to choose nursing as a career.  In addition, a BSc in Nursing was a new and emerging field at the time in Nepal and there were limited university offerings with very few seats.  That is why I went to Dhaka, Bangladesh to pursue my career.  I was excited about my journey, but at the same time I experienced the pain of leaving my family and friends, as the furthest distance I had ever travelled from home was 150 km, and Dhaka was 1000 km away!  For a few days, it was hard for me to adjust in a new country with a new language, culture and food, but within a few days, things started to become normal.

My first year as a student nurse was standard for most nurses, in essence, I was excited about learning new things, but at the same time, I was scared about everything.  I was usually consumed with such worries as, would I understand the theories of nursing?  Would I cope on the wards?  Would I be able to give my first IV?  However, after being exposed to the clinical practicum and being able to perform the hands-on nursing tasks, I have had the pleasure of caring for clients.  In every step of the learning process, the volunteer teachers always helped us, and their help was incredible.  They taught us to provide standard nursing care, to have effective communication with clients and family, to keep a journal, to make presentations, to do scientific research, guided us in our clinical and community placements and gave us constructive feedback when necessary.  Afterwards, I went back to Nepal and started working as a clinical nursing instructor to diploma and first-year BSc nursing students.  After starting my career as an instructor, I started to realize that my education from IUBAT was equal to other nursing instructors.  While working as an instructor, I often heard encouraging feedback from the students e.g. “Sweta was one of my best nursing instructors”, and “I want to be a nurse like Sweta in the future”.

After working almost 3 years in Nepal, I got a chance to pursue my Master’s degree in Emergency and Critical Care Nursing with an Erasmus Mundus Scholarship.  During that period, I saw exactly what it was to be a nurse in a developed country.  I was amazed to see their dedication towards their job, their level of knowledge, the respect they received, and the autonomy that they have.  I then realized why the instruction was the way it was at IUBAT, and why the volunteer faculty were so detail-oriented.

After I obtained my Master’s, I came to Canada in June 2015 and I have started paperwork to become a registered nurse. In the meantime, I have been trying to learn new skills and utilize my existing skills with hope of gaining work experience in Canada. To assist with that, I have begun to volunteer at Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre, in Ottawa, Canada, as a community development and health promotion assistant, supporting PQCHC catchment area neighbourhoods with health promotion activities.

Finally, I want to say that none of us are perfect in our profession, as this profession offers us an opportunity to learn something new each day, as we touch new life every day, and with a positive attitude, we can make any experience a great and rewarding one. Also, I would like to thank all the nursing faculty members at IUBAT as well as the Erasmus Mundus Scholarship for all of my training and experiences.”

We appreciate your updates, Sweta, and thank you for sharing some words of wisdom, which may influence more nursing hopefuls to fulfil and pursue their dreams.  Best of luck with your RN designation in Canada; you are one of the numerous success stories that have arisen out of IUBAT.  You have already accomplished so much, and we anticipate more of the same in the future.

Former Faculty Furthers Field of Medical Language Competency

Attending a student cultural event at IUBAT
Melodie Hull, seen above with students in Bangladesh, is a former volunteer instructor with IUBAT and is currently publishing an article regarding the need for language competency in healthcare settings.  Melodie has also been involved in many other written works, amongst them, textbooks that focus on medical English and healthcare terminology.  In commemoration of Melodie’s achievements, we have invited her to talk about teaching in Bangladesh and her prolific work as an author.

1) What was your role/responsibilities with the Bangladesh Health Project?

I taught several classes, one of which was on disaster nursing.  I used an example of disaster nursing at IUBAT and the adjacent community, wherein the students explored the potential role of nurses, the integration of other professionals at the university, and the logistics of how to work with spontaneous, emergency-response teams (for example, working with engineering students to solve problems such as collapsed buildings, access to water, flooding, etc.).  As a consultant and researcher, I also co-created a 100+ page summary of findings and recommendations for medical and nursing English, and English language education at the university level (and above).

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Teaching in an IUBAT classroom.

2) What is your current position/role (i.e. are you a practicing nurse, writing/teaching full time)?

I am a nurse-educator, academic and scholar.  I am full-time nursing faculty in the BSN program at College of the Rockies (in Cranbrook, BC), and part-time nursing faculty with Thompson Rivers University Open Learning (in Kamloops, BC).  I am fairly well-published and have presented at numerous nursing education, nursing, psychiatric/mental health, and medical English conferences worldwide.  I hope to speak at a mental health conference in Europe this year, if I am lucky.  My publications have largely been either nursing articles and textbooks, or in English language/English for specific purposes/medical English journals and textbooks.  I have been cited by others for a number of these topics.

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Teaching at English summer school in Chiapas, Mexico.

3) Can you please share more about your publications and your most recent article?

I wrote a textbook published by F A Davis Company, Philadelphia, USA in 2010: Medical English Clear & Simple: a Practice-Based Approach to English for ESL Healthcare Professionals.  This book sold quite well internationally, but less well here in North America.  As a result, like many books of this genre by other experts, this book is no longer in print.

I have another textbook still on the market: Medical Language: Terminology in Context.  This is a new approach to medical terminology, asserting my stance that medical language (which includes medical English) is an advanced subset of language and should be learned in the context of real healthcare situations.  This book is designed for all health and allied health students.

I have been working for years, drawing attention to the need for language competency in the health professions.  My latest article on this topic is currently in press and pending publication for February 2016: Hull, Melodie: Medical language proficiency: A discussion of interprofessional language competencies and potential for patient risk.  International Journal of Nursing Studies. 

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Teaching on Route 5 in Cancun, Mexico.

Melodie, thank you for sharing the extensive amount of accomplishments in your career, for which you have gained international recognition for.  The BSN students at IUBAT were lucky to have someone so well-versed in medical language instruct and guide them, and we hope to read many more of your publications in the future.

Our Latest Newsletter has been Published!

Our most recent newsletter entitled, “BHP 2015: New beginnings to strengthen nursing in Bangladesh”, is now available to view here.  This issue summarizes the accomplishments that the program has made in the official recognition of its graduates, and the various new areas of focus for the Project in 2016.

Prefer to subscribe and receive updates in your email?  Please write to us at: info@bangladeshhealthproject.com.

Thank you, as always, for your support and solidarity.

News from IUBAT College of Nursing

Dr. ASA Masud, Coordinator of the IUBAT College of Nursing, writes: “We are working hard to promote admissions for next semester. So far 10 students admitted for January admission and we are expecting another 7 or 8. The good news is we are getting some meritorious students with very good GPA. In the last semester we started extensive tutorial classes for the freshers as well as other students. We developed a separate schedule for conducting tutorial classes, which engaged our students 6 days a week for extra study. As a result, all students got highly satisfactory results on their end of term exams and none are now under probation. We now feel that we are making real progress with our new faculty.”