News Release

BYU Nursing Students Serve in Uttarakhand


Ten students and two professors from the Brigham Young University (BYU) College of Nursing have spent three weeks in India this spring working with the Divya Prem Sewa Mission clinic and schools in Uttarakhand.

The Mission runs a clinic and school in a slum area of Haridwar and another school in nearby Chilla. The clinic and schools primarily service victims of leprosy and their children. According to Prashant Khare, Assistant Director of the Mission, “Leprosy is a social problem because of the stigma it carries in Indian society. Because of it, people discarded from rural areas come here to this slum. The lives of their children are very difficult. We focus our work on the children, hoping to provide a better future.”

Denise Cummins, an assistant teaching professor of nursing explains, “There are five small communities in the slum, three of those are leper communities. The clinic provides services for everyone. The problem is that while lepers can generally get services on an emergency basis in Haridwar, scheduled and outpatient services are difficult because of the fact that they have leprosy.”

The students have been working in the clinic treating leprosy patients who are free of the disease but suffer from its effects, cleaning and dressing their wounds. They have also enjoyed interacting with the children. Cummins explains, “The children from the slums have loved the students so much. We have five assigned to the clinic, but we found that we have so many children swarming around us that we have assigned two students each day to play with them.”

In addition to their work at the clinic, students have provided health assessments and hygiene training at the two Mission schools.

“We have had a good experience with the nursing students,” says Prasant. “This is the largest group of non-Indians we have ever had come to work with us.”

When asked, the BYU group echoes those sentiments. “This is my first ever visit to India,” says Cummins. “It’s been very difficult but so rewarding. There is such great need. The people wrap their hearts right around you and you just wrap yours right back. It’s amazing how you walk into the slum communities and start talking to someone, and within five minutes everyone is coming over, and pretty soon you are surrounded by thirty people, and they invite you into their homes.  Its just wonderful!”

Katelyn Bretiz, a second-year student from Washington state, agrees, “It’s been good to get to know the people and culture. The people are kind, loving, inclusive, patient and selfless. Seeing their situation makes me feel grateful.” 

“Their priorities are family, survival and community,” adds Abby Anderson, another student from Arizona. “The people are affectionate, always saying ‘I love you.’ We could feel the love.”

Rachel Lutz from Utah was impressed by the creativity and resourcefulness of the people she met. “We don’t need to give them cars and houses,” she says. “We just need to help them to live healthier lives.” 

This experience is part of the BYU College of Nursing’s Public and Global Health course, which provides students with the chance to experience another culture and learn how its public health works. Craig Nuttall, assistant teaching professor, was tasked with finding an India program, because there was so much interest among the students. “Out of 170 students,” he says, “about 120 put India as their first or second choice of location for the course.”

“India was the first choice for all of us,” says Amy Jensen, a second-year student from Utah.  

“Many more people put it as their first choice, so we were really lucky to come. I have loved it here. I think our program is the most humanitarian-focused of all those offered this spring, and I love that.”

Craig has been pleased with the partnership with the Divya Prem Sewa Mission. “This is our first year,” he explains, “and I hope we come back. Our plan is to run these programs ten to fifteen years in a row so we can make a difference.” 

The BYU College of Nursing is one of sixteen colleges at the university sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The College of Nursing’s vision is to “lead with faith and integrity; advance the science of nursing and healthcare; promote health and wellness; alleviate suffering; and serve individuals, families, and communities.” Enrollment currently stands at around 400 men and women, each of which is required to participate in a Public and Global Health practicum.

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