Sunday, March 24, 2013

Presenting at the John Wesley Powell Student Research Conference

Senior year at Illinois Wesleyan University, I presented my thesis on "Healthcare Without Harm", a discussion about ways to green healthcare practices.

Medical Mission Trip to Guatemala

Faith in Practice Medical Mission Trip: Post from my first trip to Guatemala

Well, I promised to talk more about Guatemala. It was awesome! The weather was great and even though I only had one day to sight-see it was nice to just be away from snow and cold! Everyday we got up early and went to the hospital by 7 for surgery. Since I was in the post-op area, we stayed two hours after the surgeons and surgical teams left. I left each day around 5 or 5:30PM. The patients were so grateful for their care. And for the most part, I think I did a good job of translating (not a great job). There were barriers to communication, like accents, different vocabularies, and the people that only spoke Mayan dialects. Luckily those people brought translators and I played telephone with them, translating from English (the doctor) into Spanish (the translator) and then to the Mayan dialect (the patient). When I commented on how I worried if I was understanding my patients correctly with the whole telephone conversation, the doctor just said, "Well, how do you know if you messed up or not? It's not like you can find out if you did." Good point. I stopped worrying because the Mayan translator knew a lot about what we were doing and the plan for the patient.
Antigua, Guatemala is gorgeous; a lot of Europeans visit and Ex-pats live there. The tour guide from my half day tour was American; she'd moved their 40 years ago as a teen with her family.

Alternative Spring Break in New Orleans, LA

During their week-long stay, the volunteers donned work gloves and dust masks and wielded sledgehammers and wheelbarrows, rising at dawn to gut buildings, paint houses, build a playground and assist local residents in rebuilding their lives.

Beyond their physical labor, though, the group also spread the word about their mission via a blog accessible at “This trip has caused us to reevaluate what we stand for and how we choose to live our lives,” one volunteer wrote anonymously on the blog after returning to campus. “We can all agree that what we have taken out of this trip is appreciating the smaller things that life has to offer, and that the simplest act of kindness can make a world of difference to someone else.”

Even two years after the hurricane, the Ninth Ward is a sobering reminder of just how much the region has suffered — and is still suffering. Expanses of tall grass and brush cover what were once vibrant neighborhoods, and many homes and buildings are still in ruins.
Nursing student Ginny Krawzak takes the blood pressure of a resident of the Lower 9th Ward.

“It seems, in the Ninth Ward, as though Katrina stopped time,” another volunteer wrote after a day spent working with residents of a local nursing home. A group of School of Nursing students led by Associate Professor of Nursing Kathryn Scherck screened residents for diabetes, checked blood pressure and performed other medical tasks.

The group volunteered with Operation Nehemiah, which has organized more than 13,000 workers to clean, gut and rebuild thousands of homes in and around New Orleans. The trip was organized through Break Away, a service-trip organization company that arranges volunteer projects for colleges and universities.

Planning for the trip began long before the group boarded their charter bus on the morning of March 15. According to assistant dean of students Kevin Clark, potential volunteers had to apply to be included. Once accepted, they attended a series of meetings and held numerous fundraisers — including bake sales, book drives and concession sales at Bloomington’s U.S. Cellular Coliseum — to raise money for the trip. ASB also benefited from the generosity of the IWU President’s Office, Dean of Students’ Office and the Student Volunteer Center.

Volunteers also took the opportunity to explore the city and enjoy the southern weather, sampling local cuisine and attending services at local churches. By chance, the trip coincided with the Christian Holy Week, and students were able to worship with the people of New Orleans before returning home to Illinois in time for Easter.

“Devastation, death and destruction are everywhere in New Orleans, and we got to witness that firsthand, and it was worse than any of us could have imagined,” Illinois Wesleyan Chaplain Hope Luckie wrote. “But the most amazing aspect of it all is that the people of New Orleans still have optimism, hope and faith that their city will be rebuilt — that their families and communities will be rebuilt.”

As the week went on, comments on the group’s blog reflected the emotions that characterize post-Katrina New Orleans: fear (some residents refused to open their doors to the volunteers), frustration, exhaustion, defiance — and hope.

“One day, things will get better here,” Erick Thronson ’10 wrote. “Neighborhoods will rebuild and communities will grow. For now, the people take it day by day. For us, it is about reaching out and helping one person at a time, showing the residents they aren’t forgotten, listening and doing what we can to build up this devastated community.”

Study Abroad in Mexico

For my junior year May Term, I studied abroad in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Here is more about my experience:
"Illinois Wesleyan's unique May Term experience allowed me to study abroad in Mexico through an independent study program. I studied at la Universidad Internacional in Cuernavaca, Mexico in a language immersion program. Not only did I gain confidence, fluency, and friends, but I also gained a lifetime of cultural experiences. Cuernavaca is called the city of eternal springtime because of its yearlong mild climate and its gorgeous scenery. Its European charm and Mexican warmth make it a safe and inviting town where international students interact freely with Mexican students and locals. At la Universidad Internacional, classes are made of no more than five students, and students can choose to take classes such as Hispanic short stories, art, history, and grammar. By going through Illinois Wesleyan University's Study Abroad Program, I pre-approved my credits to transfer Spanish credits for my Hispanic Studies minor and a literature general education flag. Traveling to Cuernavaca allowed me to meet people from Germany, Switzerland, France, Canada, and Japan! After school activities run by the university gave me an opportunity to learn salsa dancing, play soccer with the locals, cook Mexican food, and even learn capoeira, the Brazilian martial art. Each weekend, the school sponsors guided trips to various places in Mexico: Mexico City, Acapulco, Taxco, Teotihuacan, Mayan temples, the hacienda de Cortes, and more! Thanks to my experience at Illinois Wesleyan University, I know I will succeed as a nurse with cultural experience, fluency in Spanish, and a highly regarded degree from the School of Nursing."

Evidence Based Practice Council

Recent Graduate Joins Council at Mayo Clinic

March 25, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Alissa Sherman, a 2008 nursing graduate, was invited to join a council at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., which will be working toward encouraging nurses to use practices that have been proven effective, known as “evidence-based practice.”

“Evidence-based practice is a way of thinking,” said Marianne E. Olson, a registered nurse with a doctorate in nursing research, who is a member of the Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice Division at Mayo Clinic. “It is a commitment by all members of health care to incorporate the latest medical practices.”

Mayo Clinic has 10,000 nurses in its facilities reaching across five states, yet when it came time to create a council that would be dedicated to ensuring an efficient manner of sharing best-practices ideas, Olson thought of Sherman, who had only joined the clinic a year ago. “We tell all of our new nurses that your number one role is to keep asking us the question why – why are you doing what you are doing?” said Olson. “Alissa embodies that. She is exactly the type of nurse we are seeking at Mayo.”
Mayo Clinic

The council consists of only 40 members – 20 in ambulatory services, and 20 who work in in-patient care, where Sherman works as a staff nurse. These 40 members are working on policy that will initially affect the thousands of nurses working in the Mayo hospitals and health care facilities, with hopes of influencing an approach to nursing throughout the field. “Our mission is to provide the best nursing care in the world,” said Olson. “Mayo Clinic often leads the way.”

“It’s a huge honor to be on the council as a new employee and a new graduate,” said Sherman, who calls research a passion she developed at Illinois Wesleyan. “I wanted to continue the work I began at IWU learning about sustainable processes in hospitals, so I sought out Dr. Olson.

“Alissa came up to me and asked if she could meet me in my office to discuss research,” said Olson. “There she was, on her day off, talking with me about continuing the research she started in school. There was such a drive in her, a passion for helping people, a spirit of inquiry. When it came time to form the council on evidence-based practice, my mind automatically went to Alissa.” Olson said. “We want more of what Alissa brings to us,” said Olson. “Seeing a nurse like her is a sign of hope for the future of our profession. And I know her education had a lot to do with that.”

According to Olson, Sherman has already been an asset to the council. “She brings fresh eyes to each issue we discuss,” said Olson, who noted she is impressed with Sherman’s desire to challenge herself with new ideas. “The science of nursing is changing,” she said. “It’s no longer enough to graduate with a degree or earn a license. Everyone in health care, from doctors and pharmacists, to nurses and physical therapists must be committed to continual education, so the best choices in care can be made for patients.”

Sherman plans to continue her education, working toward her master’s degree in nursing, while remaining with the clinic.

Contact: Rachel Hatch, (309) 556-3960