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UW’s Linda Johnson Honored for Work in Honduras

April 11, 2016
woman in scrubs dancing with elderly woman
Linda Johnson enjoys dancing with a resident of Agua Salada, Honduras. She has led a UW project to provide health care to the villagers. Johnson has been a nurse practitioner, educator, logistics coordinator, pharmacist and fundraiser. (UW Photo)

Linda Johnson’s continuing efforts to provide medical care to villagers in one of the poorest and most isolated villages in Honduras have earned her the University of Wyoming’s Faculty Award for Internationalization.

Every year, the UW International Board of Advisors and the International Programs Office recognize individuals who have significantly contributed to internationalization and the promotion of global awareness at the university. A faculty member in the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing, Johnson has led nearly 20 brigades to provide aid to residents of Agua Salada, Honduras.

The infrastructure in this rural village is often unreliable and, until recently, the Honduras project clinic represented the only modern medical care some villagers received in their entire lives. Johnson has functioned as a nurse practitioner, educator, logistics coordinator, pharmacist and fundraiser.

“Our students and professional team members take the physical, emotional and professional challenges of the brigades in stride,” Johnson says. “Tenting with no toilets, no electricity, bedbugs, chiggers and gastroenteritis -- no problem. In almost 20 trips, I have watched Wyomingites rise to these challenges and provide empathic, culturally competent care to this community.”

Brigade members acknowledge that this experience has impacted their personal and professional lives profoundly, says nursing student Marian Sue Kepler.

“Even though we were not at school, or in a hospital setting, she still held us to the highest of standards in our care for patients,” Kepler says. “Professor Johnson truly wants us to be great nurses, no matter where we end up in our nursing careers, and she demonstrated this throughout the entire trip.”

A variety of individuals contributed to the success of the Honduras project, but Johnson’s leadership has been at the heart of the project.

“She has not only endured hardship in a remote area with little infrastructure, but has guided this project to flourish and serve as a model for international relations,” says Ann Wislowki, assistant lecturer in the School of Nursing. “She assumes her leadership role with cultural competence and humility, relating to people from top to bottom of the organization on all levels. She has served as a role model for the discipline of nursing, and mentoring interdisciplinary students.”

The project opens and expands opportunities for UW students to study abroad, says Joe Steiner, UW College of Health Sciences dean. He says many students describe their time working in Honduras as life-changing experiences.

“Some of these students receive credit for their current coursework, and the students gain a global perspective,” Steiner says. “This activity is a significant collaboration with overseas partners to teach and provide service.”

While noting the importance of improving lives through more than 6,000 patient encounters, Johnson says instilling a sense of pride and empowerment in the community has been far more fulfilling.

“Children are going further in school; dental health has become a priority; and our villagers speak up and impact local politics,” she says. “We thank all of Agua Salada, which has given more to us than we could ever imagine giving to them.”

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