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Victoria Bruchhauser, a junior majoring in nursing, is one of the three students from the College of Nursing and Public Health who took part in the Innovation Center's virtual exchange program.

Even in the midst of a global pandemic, several Adelphi students were able to make a difference in the world this summer by collaborating with students in the United States and Iraq to find solutions to pandemic-related healthcare problems. Their focus included combatting misinformation regarding the coronavirus and vaccine hesitancy in both countries.

The project was a seven-week global public health virtual exchange program offered through United Planet—a nonprofit organization that promotes cross-cultural understanding by addressing shared challenges. United Planet is a partner of Adelphi’s Innovation Center.

“United Planet is an amazing company,” said Graziela Fusaro, assistant provost for innovation. “Once COVID-19 came along, United Planet quickly transitioned to online synchronous programs with different countries to continue to provide an international experience for students.”

Uniting to Help Others

Victoria Bruchhauser, Nursing Student

Adelphi’s College of Nursing and Public Health students Victoria Bruchhauser, Sabrina Galatioto ’19 and Chandni Shinha were among the 120 American students who took part in the program, which was funded by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Working virtually with both U.S. and Iraqi healthcare-related nonprofits, they sought solutions to pandemic-related public health problems facing the two nations. Twelve student teams completed weekly coursework assignments that helped them prepare to present their work to other United Planet teams, to their healthcare partner organizations and to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Junior nursing major Bruchhauser learned about the virtual exchange through Adelphi’s Levermore Global Scholars program. “I was attracted to the internship because I wanted to do anything I could to help others during the pandemic, without compromising either my family’s or my own health,” she said. “Since this program was virtual, our team was able to work together and make a change from the comfort and safety of our own homes.”

Bruchhauser captained a team of students from Massachusetts, Minnesota, north and south Iraq, and Kazakhstan who were located in three time zones, respectively. The student team partnered with Roca Inc., a Baltimore, Maryland, and Massachusetts-based nonprofit focused on driving change for urban youth.

Their challenge was to bust COVID-19 myths by separating fact from fiction in terms of virus spread and vaccine safety. Their “Roca Revived” campaign urges the Roca community to do everything from getting vaccinated and wearing masks to verifying information.

“I am so proud that our team was able to successfully present effective ways for Roca to encourage youth to abide by COVID-19 guidelines,” Bruchhauser said. “I’m also proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone to become a team leader.”

Gaining a Global Perspective

Learning from and making lasting friendships with people she might otherwise never have met proved to be a key benefit of the program for Bruchhauser. “We often had discussions outside of our meetings because we were so intrigued by what each of us had to say,” she recalled. “It was so interesting to hear personal stories about how the pandemic affected their lives. Health is a global matter and there is always something we can learn from each other.”

She learned, for instance, how different the experiences of the Iraqi students during the pandemic were from those of the U.S. students. “Many of the Iraqi students were forced to attend school in person to take their exams, while we had the online option,” she said. And without the option of designated vaccine centers, a teammate felt there was a real risk of getting COVID-19 by going to the hospital to be vaccinated.

When Bruchhauser mentioned that, in New York City, people raised their windows to clap at 7:00 p.m. for healthcare professionals, her Iraqi co-captain said that healthcare professionals were not revered as heroes. “She told us about a doctor who was attacked by a patient’s family members who wanted to visit their loved one in the hospital—and said that this was one of many such instances.”

She added, “When I become a nurse, I’ll be treating patients from various races, ethnicities and cultures, so it’s important to have a global outlook and respect patients’ perception of healthcare,” Bruchhauser said. “I plan to continue to pursue global studies, especially those focused on health, and to continue to learn and challenge the way I see the world and the constructs present in the healthcare field.”

It is through programs like this that Fusaro is fulfilling the Innovation Center’s mission to offer students across all disciplines opportunities for experiential learning and collaboration. “Students have the opportunity to apply what they learn in the class working with corporations, nonprofits or the government—locally or internationally—to solve real-life problems,” she said. “Since United Planet’s programs have been online during the pandemic, they have been a good option for our students wishing to gain some international experience at a time when international travel has been restricted.”

Bruchhauser is equally enthusiastic. “I encourage everyone to take classes that can give them a greater global perspective. And never feel like you are limited to just your field of study when it comes to participating in a program like this one!”

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