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Changing Worlds: Judith Harris

Sue Daulton

Since 2002, UNM’s College of Nursing has had the pleasure of counting Judith Harris as one of our Clinical Educators. In 2007, Judith’s passion for international work led her to Project Helping Hands (PHH), a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing health and medical intervention programs for those lacking access to care. It was then that Judith made her first trip with PHH to Bolivia, where she was captivated by the experience. Thanks to the support of Dean Nancy Ridenour, Judith has been able to bring this same opportunity to her students since 2009.

UNM’s nursing students are only one group out of many that travel with PHH, and all visits are by invitation of the communities to which they travel. Every visit is unique. In Bolivia, our nursing students have offered mobile health clinics in very rural, underserved areas, and in Kenya, our students have worked in a community-built clinic. The key component in all of these visits is an educational focus to the health care services that our students are providing.

Of course, turning the world into a classroom does not come without a cost. Despite the success of their fundraising efforts, Judith knew that there had to be a way to generate a broader and longer lasting funding stream for her students. After all, the cost of just being a student is substantial in and of itself; adding the additional costs of a trip overseas can be staggering.

In 2011, she created the Judith Harris Global Health Endowment, which is entirely dedicated to providing financial support to students who would like to make a difference internationally. Ultimately, Judith hopes that this will mean all students who want to take advantage of the opportunity of traveling abroad can – and without the worry of how they are going to pay for it and their classes: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, one year, we could say each student can receive money towards the amount needed to finance the trip?”

In December 2011, the College of Nursing’s graduating seniors pledged $2,795 to Judith’s endowment so that the students who come after them can continue to benefit from the same experience many of them were able to share. The overwhelming support from her students touched her greatly: “It was very emotional for me when I heard the news about the amount. It would be great if we could continue to get that kind of support from the students, faculty, and others in the future.”

In the end, Judith hopes that “a lasting benefit of the experience” is the cultural awareness that being in a different country provides.