Lisa McBeth and her students visit an orphanage.

Rejoicing in South Africa

Nursing instructor named first Study Abroad Faculty Director of Year

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1:19 p.m., Feb. 13, 2013--Lisa McBeth’s students surprised her with a seven-foot-tall giraffe during the last week of their Study Abroad trip to South Africa in January. She named him Jabulani, a Zulu word that means “rejoice.”

“That is what we have done for almost a month now,” McBeth wrote in a blog entry the day she received the gift. “Rejoiced in the opportunities and experiences we have shared and the lessons learned. Rejoiced in knowing we made a difference in some lives and touched many.”

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The nursing instructor has touched many lives herself, including those of the students she has taken to South Africa and Peru over the past three years.  Late in 2012, their nominations resulted in her selection as the University of Delaware’s first Study Abroad Faculty Director of the Year.

The students credited McBeth with challenging them and with caring about the women they treated in prenatal clinics and the babies they cuddled in orphanages. She opened their eyes to healthcare disparities and their hearts to patients who craved a kind touch as they dealt with the pain of childbirth. 

One student said McBeth gave her advice and guidance while also allowing her to gain confidence interacting with patients and other members of the medical staff on her own. 

For McBeth, the trips are literally and figuratively a labor of love.

“I’ve always been passionate about childbirth and women’s health issues,” she says, “and I wanted to take my students into clinics where they could really make a difference. I keep telling them, ‘If you just impact one woman, you’re making a difference.’”

The study abroad program follows on the heels of a labor and delivery course that McBeth teaches at UD. “It’s amazing to see the students connect what they’ve learned in the classroom with what they do at the bedside,” she says. 

They also come to see the glaring discrepancies between American hospitals and the public clinics in South Africa and Peru, including not only the absence of caring on the part of many midwives but also a lack of supplies and sterile techniques.

At the same time, however, McBeth says she realizes that childbirth in America has fallen victim to technology. “We intervene too much, and our maternal mortality rate is climbing. This program allows my students to see natural childbirth and understand that women can deliver babies without pain meds and epidurals — that they can give birth to babies who are alert and kicking rather than drugged and limp.”

McBeth says that winning the award “completely rejuvenated” her. 

“It reminded me of why I’m doing this — why I love what I do,” she says.

But if she was surprised at being selected, her students were not. One of her nominators summed it up best when she wrote, “Lisa exhibited the qualities of a global citizen every minute of the trip.”

To commemorate the award, McBeth’s name will appear on a plaque that will be hung in Elliott Hall. She has also been appointed to the advisory board of the Institute for Global Studies — a fitting assignment for a “global citizen.”

Article by Diane Kukich

Photos by Colleen Coz, Carolyn Farrell and Colleen O’Connor

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