News & Progress

Alumnus Obtains Master’s in Sweden

Kiron, in the front holding flowers, with his Master’s cohort

When we last heard from Kiron, he had just been rewarded a scholarship to pursue a two-year Master’s program in Uppsala, Sweden. Since then, he has come home to Bangladesh for a visit and to mentor current students, who appreciate his knowledge and wisdom from the field.  He also shares more of his current life since moving for his international studies:

I have recently finished a two-year Master’s program in International Health, Department of Women’s and Children’s Health/IMCH from Uppsala University in Sweden. My studies were funded by the Swedish Institute Study Scholarship/SISS. I express my heartfelt gratitude to the Swedish Institute; otherwise, it may would not have been possible. Teaching students to develop and build their problem-solving skills in the area of public health was the overall aim of the Master’s program. Studying in Sweden has thereby developed my critical thinking and learning skills needed for entry into health-related research and employment.

Presently, I work as a nurse assistant at the Burn Center at Uppsala University Hospital, which is the largest burn center in Sweden. Our unit provides care for any type of burn patients in both indoor and outdoor settings; therefore, I have encountered opportunities to improve my bedside nursing skills, particularly wound dressing and infection control. Moreover, I have the opportunity to closely observe the Swedish nurses’ roles in health care settings. It is important to note that not only are the Swedish nurses an integral part of healthcare settings, but they also have the freedom and the ability to lead major decisions in most cases. I am more than happy today to be a part of the Swedish healthcare system. My next goal is to work as a nurse here in Sweden and I hope I will write the national exam in the next year in order to become a registered nurse.

During my last visit in February to Bangladesh, I attended the picnic organized by IUBAT’s College of Nursing. It was a very special and highly memorable experience both for students and faculty. At the end of the picnic day, I shared some of my own thoughts and experiences to the present nursing students. It was wonderful to see that enrollment in the program is growing and increasing. I hope that the nursing students take pride in their nursing education – I believe with good reasons that our nursing students will go on to become qualified nurses, leaders, educators and so forth.

In conclusion, I would like to say that my goal is not only to work, but also to try to make a contribution to improve public health sectors, especially in the fields of sexual and reproductive health and disease. My Master’s thesis covered Bangladeshi adolescent sexual and reproductive health education. In addition, I presented my findings and my paper (entitled, “Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Education from the Perspective of Muslim Peoples in South Asia and Middle East”) at both the 13th International Knowledge Globalization Conference Dhaka 2018 and the Swedish Global Health Research Conference 2018.

Congratulations on your recent accomplishments, Kiron!  The students and faculty alike love it when you come back to Bangladesh and visit IUBAT.  Please keep us posted with your progress in Sweden and we all wish you the very best of luck on your upcoming goals and projects.

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.

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!

Updates from BHP’s Advisor of Health Sciences

Alex IUBAT 2017
Alex Berland, Advisor of Health Sciences at IUBAT and founding member of the Bangladesh Health Project, reports on his recent visit to IUBAT.  He writes:

“The university is overall busier than ever with new construction underway to meet the demand for good quality higher education. College of Nursing enrolment remains disappointing, mostly due to proliferation of private colleges with cheaper fees; guardians may not consider quality in making decisions, especially for their daughters. IUBAT is now reducing BSN tuition fees with scholarships for strong students.

On a brighter note, I was happy to observe in both classroom and hospital the quality of current students. Obviously, our faculty are doing a terrific job promoting English use, encouraging critical thinking and pushing students to use problem-solving skills. Dr. Masud, Coordinator of the College of Nursing, is building a strong faculty team of graduates from IUBAT as well as other good colleges. After several meetings with faculty, I feel very positive about their ability.

Our library collection and nursing lab benefitted from re-organization by visiting faculty Anne-Marie Hummelman. Spring semester volunteers, Emily Hagg and Nancy Campbell, shared their positive impressions of faculty that they have been mentoring. Also, I visited an excellent practice site, Universal Medical Hospital, led by a visionary chairwoman who has hired IUBAT graduates as senior managers. Similarly, at Sajida Health Programs, IUBAT graduates hold senior roles managing innovative programs. Several IUBAT graduates recently sent news about their career accomplishments, so I am feeling very positive about the impact of the Bangladesh Health Project through its many supporters and visiting faculty over the past 13 years.”

Bangladesh’s Progress Highlighted in Medical Publication

The BMJ, an international medical journal, recently published an article entitled, “Why has Bangladesh done so well?”  In the article, Richard Smith, the chair of the Board of Trustees of icddr,b (formerly known as the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh) discusses the elements that may have helped improve the standard of living in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has had a tumultous past, rife with episodes of civil unrest, war and famine, with each event resulting high mortality rates.  However, it has now become one of the few low income countries to achieve the Millenium Development Goals: life expectancy has increased from 50 to 70+, child deaths under 5 years have dropped from 25% to 4%, and maternal mortality has fallen from 700 per 100 000 to 150.  Almost all children go to school, and the literacy rate of ~67% is equal among both males and females.

The author discusses several relevant cases of health improvements in Bangladesh, exploring why the country has made such major strides in its development. For instance, Richard Smith explains the role of factors such as education, research, cultural sensitivity, social science and female empowerment in the usage of oral rehydration treatment (ORT) to treat roughly 80% of cases of childhood diarrhoea, the highest rate in the world.  Lessons such as these has helped Bangladesh work towards becoming a middle-income country within a decade.  Despite all of the progress, there are still obstacles that Bangladesh has yet to overcome; amongst the issues are a moderately high maternal mortality rate, security, child marriage and loss of land due to climate change.

For more details and an in-depth analysis, please read the blog post on


Bangladesh Health Project Plans for 2017

As the Bangladesh Health Project (BHP) progresses, we focus on new priorities and needs. With IUBAT alumni now taking more senior roles as nurse educators and managers, our volunteers offer more mentoring and coaching and less student teaching. Looking ahead, these are our objectives:

  1. Provide mentoring support for faculty of IUBAT College of Nursing

BHP has completed mentorship and training of several cohorts of BSN students.  Our next goal is to strengthen nursing faculty capacity.  Through phone contact, e-mail and visiting faculty volunteers, we will assist with program development, classroom teaching, clinical supervision and student evaluation. As feasible, we will continue to supply textbooks and teaching materials. We will provide demonstration lectures for IUBAT nursing students and for staff at our teaching hospital sites.

  1. Support IUBAT graduates in their professional development

In recent years, we have supported IUBAT alumni working in hospitals, colleges and NGOs with mentorship for issues related to advanced education, nursing administration and access to technical information. We will continue supporting our graduates as they advance in their careers and undertake leadership roles.

  1. Develop resources to promote nurse education in Bangladesh

We will continue to offer textbooks to local nursing colleges, ideally establishing a central library for advanced materials, to be used by faculty and senior hospital staff. We will continue developing our Open Education Resource, an open-source collection of BSN curriculum materials for faculty to use in lesson preparation:

  1. Build relationships with colleges and NGOs to improve health services in Bangladesh

We have good relationships with many health care organizations; some are practicum or internship sites for IUBAT, others offer good-quality education or health care services. Most are in Dhaka, while a few are in outlying areas. We will support these agencies as requested, with consultation and educational materials.

  1. Support research projects on quality of health education and health services

We will arrange student internships and projects to link local and global researchers. We have the potential to support some applied research projects on quality of health services, particularly for training and mentorship in research.

We continue to welcome volunteers, either working from home, or at our guest-house in Dhaka. Please contact us about current opportunities.