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Empowerment through education

25 September 2016 at 01:55 | 2680 views


By Dr. Nanah Sheriff Fofanah-Sesay, Virginia, USA.

It all started when my phone range at 8:00 PM on September 3, 2016. On the other end of the phone was Crystal Scott, a Howard University alumna and current president of Gamma Beta Chapter Honor Society of Nursing and Sigma Theta Tau International of which I am a member.

According to Crystal, the chapter will be hosting its 40th anniversary celebration on September 10, 2016, from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM at the University of Maryland in College Park Marriott for which my attendance was highly solicited. I immediately scrambled to check my schedule followed by reassuring Crystal the likelihood of my attendance. My intention to attend this unique celebration in nursing was made in good faith but little did I know the profound impact it will have on me.

The purpose of this article is to reflect on the positive impacts of my acquiring education up to the PhD level as well as backlashes that resulted from this acquisition.

The pathway to my education in nursing began at T.C. Williams High School practical nursing program where I received a diploma in practical nursing. This was followed by attaining an associate and a baccalaureate degree in nursing at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), then a Masters in nursing science with specialty as a family nurse practitioner at Howard University and a doctorate in nursing practice degree at Walden University.

With Dr. Veronica Clarke-Battle (second from left) and Crystal.

As a goal driven high achiever, the magnitude of these educational achievements and knowledge gained throughout the process never really dawned on me until I was in attendance at the celebration mentioned above. It was during this celebration that the reunion among alumni and faculty members from Howard University and UDC came to the fore. Attending this celebration provided me the opportunity to express my appreciation and to embrace my former instructors from both schools. It was also during this celebration that I proudly shared my current status in education to women who passionately contributed in this process.

With Mrs. Baskerville (first from left) and Mrs. Osungwed.

Needless to elaborate on how happy and proud my former UDC and Howard University instructors were of me. Some of the faculty members that were in attendance from UDC were Mrs. Amelia Osungwed, Mrs. Baskerville, Mrs. Susie Cato, and Dr. Connie Webster. These are instructors with high commitment in the production of world class nurses. These are instructors who reassured students of a 100 percent passes in nursing state board examinations on the first attempt and that is often realized.

With Mrs. Susie Cato of UDC.

The majority of attendees were from Howard University where Crystal (not related to the chapter president) was my classmate and Dr. Veronica Clarke-Battles was my research preceptor and mentor. It was Dr. Clarke-Battle’s strong drive to publish research studies on prostate cancer among Africa-American men between the ages of 21 to 65 that resulted in my visits to over 20 barber shops in Washington D.C. and Maryland to do surveys related to this topic on this population.

It was not surprising for my partners in education from both schools to fully acknowledge and to showcase my presence as a bi-alumna during the acknowledgement of members and faculty members. My resolve to sacrifices made while pursuing my various levels of education was reiterated when both schools requested me to stand up and be recognized as a bi-alumna. The thought process in my academic success had always been to fulfill my father’s dream and to be the best that I can possibly be. However, receipt of these recognition from faculty members who had fostered these achievements made me realize the breadth and depth of academic success in society. It was an all-rounded sweet moment that will have its rightful place in the history books of nursing chapter celebrations.

It is not by coincidence that Walden University is often referred to as the Harvard and Yale online University of modern times as this institution leaves no stone unturned when it comes to preparing students as change agents.

In the course-NURS 8100 or Theoretical and Scientific Foundation for Nursing Practice, Dr. Mathis passionately introduced and engaged us in discussions pertaining to potential backlashes we may encounter after earning our doctoral degrees. I vividly remembered the discussion of the rolled eyes phenomenon where people rolled their eyes backwards in resentment when others are being referred to as Doctors. In addition, we discussed about role confusion of medical doctors and doctors of nursing practice by patients and conflicts of clinical roles between medical doctors and doctors of nursing practice clinicians.

But nothing prepared me for the backlashes I am currently experiencing from people that knew me as a young girl in my small town in Africa, people who know my family in Africa, people who did not believe in their abilities, people who believe that it is a taboo for an African woman to attain maximum academic success, but most importantly, people who fear demands of doing better from their families in my home town because I have set the pace.

I felt the pressing need to share my experiences with the world as an individual who has acquired academic success with the full understanding that there are others out there who are experiencing the same thing. Some of the backlashes I am being subjected to in a particular online forum are:

- Outright group forum postings of negative comments related to my education,

- persistent unprovoked slurs related to my academic success,

- name calling such as devil and lack of character.

Other negative comments include name calling and abusive rhetoric or use of words like "misguided egotistical woman" as a result of my sharing meaningful medical information.

When confronted with theses animosities, the self-appointed spokesman of the said forum who is not even educated to the level of nursing assistant gave me a layman’s diagnosis of depression, anxiety, and paranoia.

Most recently, this spokesman expressly posted in the forum saying "If your yams are white, you must cover them or they will turn black". In other words, it is his wish that all my academic successes and all related gains from these successes burned into flame. I immediately responded to his posting saying "This yam will stay white, not by my grace but by the special grace of God."

I have been reaching out in discussions of these negative experiences to people that contributed the greatest good in my life and strengthened my resolve.

In conclusion, the acquisition of power, enrichment and liberation from knowledge by far surpasses negative distractions; one must therefore strive to attain and maintain knowledge. As Baker (2015) eloquently stated “Knowledge is much more than power, it is the key to a better life well-lived.”

This article is dedicated to all faculty members at Howard University and the University of the District of Columbia who contributed to my academic success. This article is also dedicated to people around the world who are victims of backlashes related to their academic successes.

If you are experiencing backlashes related to your academic successes, please feel free to comment below this article.