Nursing Professor Barbara Pieper receives Fulbright Scholar Award to develop wound care educational models in Trinidad and Tobago

Nursing Professor Barbara Pieper will take her decades of expertise to the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago for four months as a Fulbright awardee beginning in January, where she’ll help develop wound care educational modules and share advanced practice nursing education information.

The U.S. Fulbright Scholar program is the U.S. Department of State’s flagship educational exchange, offering nearly 470 teaching and research opportunities in more than 125 countries.

Barbara Pieper (center) hosts Fulbright scholars at her home

Pieper, who received her master’s and PhD from WSU, says that the Pan American Health Organization supports increasing the number of nurses who have advanced practice education.

“Like many countries, the obesity numbers have gone up, and thus, increased numbers of persons with diabetes,” said Pieper, who explains that the number of diabetic foot ulcers also has increased. “They have individuals with amputations or foot surgery because of their diabetes. They want nurses in the community to be able to provide wound care to these individuals.”

This is not her first time taking her expertise abroad to develop wound care coursework and modules. She spent time in Brazil developing training modules in Portuguese with a Brazilian nursing professor on topics such as the diabetic foot, venous disease and pressure injuries. “At that time, nurses in Brazil had difficulty buying nursing journals due to the cost,” says Pieper. “The modules placed on a website in the language they understood were very helpful.”

A member of the College of Nursing since 1980, Pieper held a joint appointment for 26 years in the Detroit Medical Center providing outpatient chronic wound care primarily to people who had injected street drugs. Her contract with the DMC ended in December 2017 and that allowed her to complete the Fulbright application, something she had been interested in since her time in Brazil.

Pieper’s retirement at the end of the academic year was not intended to coincide with the trip, but she says it will give her more time to prepare. “The award allows me to share from my career and focus upon the goals of my host institution,” she says. “It is time in my career to give. It is late in my career for a Fulbright experience, but I also have the advantage of many experiences that I can share.”

This is Pieper’s first time applying for the award, and she recommends that anyone interested in applying to Fulbright should listen to lectures on the Fulbright website to learn about project requirements and regional specific needs. It also helps to work with the university/country representative early in the process to develop a focused application that suits the country.

Pieper already has some experience with the Fulbright program, as she recently hosted 15 Fulbright scholars from 14 different countries for dinner at her home. In early August, the Office of International Programs hosted Gateway Orientation for 83 Fulbright Scholars from around the world who will be studying in the U.S. this year. OIP coordinated home dinners for the scholars so they could get to know one another and enjoy American hospitality. Pieper and her husband, David, assistant dean of continuing medical education in the School of Medicine, hosted one of the groups, with everyone sharing stories and experiences over steaks, baked beans and s’mores.

“There was not a quiet moment all evening,” Pieper says. “All were comfortable changing seats so always talking to someone new. No one wanted to leave. We were fortunate to have a lovely night so we could host it outside as a summer picnic.”

Despite the scholarly nature of the Fulbright award, this is still a trip to a foreign country, so Pieper’s stay won’t be all academic. “We’ll be there during the Carnival festivities, which is very popular so that’ll be fun to see,” said Pieper. “We’re hoping to go to Tobago and see the turtles.” Pieper also mentioned visiting museums and joining a university hiking club as other potential activities during her stay.

“It’s real exciting to be able to work in that country,” she says. “in terms of providing an experience they want, be it education or research. It goes back to the initial concept of Fulbright where you are pretty much an ambassador for the U.S., where you represent people working together. It’s an exciting experience to be a part of that and to meet all the individuals involved.”

By Jacob Stocking, OIP communications associate

The Office of International Programs leads Wayne State’s global engagement by creating opportunities that foster international education and research, facilitate the exchange of individuals and ideas that promote global competencies and citizenship, and provide resources that support the expansion of the university’s global agenda. Follow us @WayneOIP.

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