Mary Behrens, RN, MS, FNP-BC, board member of the “Friends of the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing (SoN)”, and 1998 alumna from the UW SoN Family Nurse Practitioner post-master’s certificate program, will be honored with two awards at the national American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) Foundation Honors Dinner. The dinner will be held this June 2012 in Orlando, Florida in conjunction with the 27th Annual AANP National Conference. Behrens will be receiving the International Humanitarian Award (Long-term Focus) as well as the Nurse Practitioner of the Year award for Wyoming.
The AANP notes that the humanitarian award “honors members whose altruism, vision, leadership and dedication provide models to emulate and whose contributions have made a lasting difference.” In the letter Dr. Maria Kidner wrote in support of Behrens’ nomination for the award, she noted that Mary's goal to recognize the importance of global health and nursing education started with a trip to Vietnam and "became a reality through her integral part of the Friendship Bridge teaching program in Vietnam." In that country Behrens learned that nurses had no formal education, so she began working with a small group of American nurses who had an intense desire to make a difference in a third world country. Based upon the input of Vietnamese nurses, Behrens and the others developed a curriculum for a modern baccalaureate program for the Vietnamese culture. “The first classes started in 1995 despite the fact that the United States did not have a diplomatic relationship with Vietnam,” notes Kidner. “On-site education was rocked with a variety of surmountable roadblocks that included hot, humid conditions, poor classrooms, no anatomical models, books, or equipment… yet Mary found the students (although shy) had an intense desire to learn and a true pioneer spirit to be the first to embrace a new process. A nationally recognized School of Nursing was born.”
Dr. Kidner continues, “All humanitarian projects need a strong foundation and a process to sustain and grow... Many short-term missions lack this long-term planning, but not Mary Behrens’s humanitarian dream. She has returned to Vietnam 1995, 1997, 1999, 2005, 2008, 2009, and 2010 teaching classes, growing and guiding leadership development, engaging in professional issues of the country. Friendship Bridge has been such a success that the project is about to graduate Vietnam's first master-prepared nurses! An amazing attribute to a few American nurses in which Mary Brethren’s innovation, creativity, dedication and determination has created an enormous change in the international nursing world in Vietnam.”
Mary's impact on the international community went beyond teaching in Vietnam. “In 1999,” continues Kidner, “she attended Vietnam's National Nursing meeting with the Ministry of Health in Hanoi to help solidify the foundation and sustainability of the Friendship Bridge. In 2006, Mary Behrens testified in Geneva, Switzerland at the World Health Organization (WHO) Assembly about the international nursing shortage and exportation of nurses creating a brain drain in their local countries. She has been an incredible nursing advocate and instrument in understanding differences in global education and regulation requirements. Mary Behrens has made a difference in an entire country and continues to be a supporting force of change.”