In fall of 2003, Lisa Ripps '95, a critical care nurse at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland, traveled with a Northwest Medical Teams group to Kurdish-populated Northern Iraq. There she spent several weeks caring for sick and injured Iraqi civilians and teaching local medical personnel valuable lessons in modern medical practices. The team went for days without sleep as they flew to Washington D.C., Germany, Turkey, and finally drove by truck to Iraq. Along the way, porters lost their medicine-filled bags; local drivers stranded them; heavily armed guards detained them. They finally caught some sleep in the city of Erbil, so exhausted that Ripps and her colleagues slept though a bombing near their hotel.
They moved on to the city of Dohuk, where they found Azadi General Hospital. Simple hygiene and medical procedures became the priority as Ripps and the rest of her team began their work. Lisa's goal was to sharpen the nursing skills of nurses and junior doctors who originally trained with outdated textbooks. What struck Ripps the most was how little respect Kurdish nurses received; patients would insist that doctors do even the most basic tasks. She also saw many young women hospitalized with terrible, often fatal burns -- burns which were self-inflicted in suicide attempts when young brides felt hopelessly trapped as second-class citizens. She came to the realization, "I can't change this, it's a major social problem. All I can do is train these people (her group of nurses) and empower them to empower other women."
"I appreciate more deeply than ever that people are people no matter where they live or what language they speak,"she says now. It's a lesson that may make the world a little more peaceful because of the adventures of one nurse.
--Jean Powell Marks '82
The University's School of Nursing turns out many
bright, dedicated, and courageous nurses like Lisa Ripps. Support its
efforts to address the nation's nursing shortage and to see that
caring, competent medical care is available to everyone: make a gift
to the School of Nursing by clicking here.