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Released October 15, 2003

By Renuka Suryanarayan

HATTIESBURG - Faculty and students from The University of Southern Mississippi School of Nursing might be heading off to opposite points on the globe this weekend, but they'll be sharing the same humanitarian focus.

A team of graduate students in Southern Miss' School of Nursing, led by director Dr. Sharyn Janes, will arrives in Cuba on Sunday to participate in the Second Central American and Caribbean Nursing Conference on STDS (sexually transmitted diseases), HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases. In another hemisphere altogether, Dr. Martha Morris, a faculty member in the School of Nursing, will lead a nine-member medical team from Hattiesburg on a mission trip to the Ukraine. There the team will administer medical care to indigent villagers.

Janes said the trip to Cuba, the ninth overall for the School of Nursing, will be a chance to learn as well as to give. "According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Caribbean has the fastest growing HIV epidemic outside of Africa, so we could help them develop nursing, and they in turn could help us access primary health care," she said.

At the invitation of the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine (IPK) and its nursing department at Havana, the team from Southern Miss will stay in Cuba for 10 days. Along with Janes and Southern Miss faculty Joe Farmer, several Southern Miss graduate students will attend the conference, presenting papers on topics such as ethics, bioethics and STDs, and advances in care for people with HIV/AIDS. Although there are 12 medical schools, including Harvard, currently working in Cuba, Southern Miss represents the only school of nursing there.

From Oct. 17-27, Morris' team will examine as many as 700 Ukrainians and give away 1,516 prescriptions and eyeglasses for free.

"We do this annually, and it is significant to Mississippi in that they get to hear more about us other than what they see in the movies and on television," Morris said. "It helps Ukrainians understand Americans better and see us as their brothers and sisters."

Medicine and supplies are being provided by churches and some of the team members. The other members accompanying Morris on the trip are Dr. Frank Dement of Hattiesburg; Mary Stainton, a registered nurse in Hattiesburg; Edwin Williams, a pharmacist from Jackson; Allen Mapp from Macon; Jeanne Pierce from Bogue Chitto; Bettye Douglas from Brookhaven; and Nina Rigdon and Virginia Williams from Meridian.

Morris said the team will travel to five clinics in different villages in Ukraine, where they will diagnose poor patients with the help of translators. "We will be using little books that we prepared in their own language," she said.

Although skeptical of their intentions at first, Ukrainian villagers usually warm quickly to their American guests once they "get to know our work is genuine," Morris said. "And always the most heartwarming thing about the visit is the way in which Ukrainians prepare food for us and their sharing of what little they have with us."

This is the third trip mission trip to Ukraine for this particular team.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM