Hello, my name is Maggie Cooley and I am a recent graduate of Xavier University’s School of Nursing. I passed my boards and became a registered nurse shortly before embarking on my Brueggeman journey. It was a tremendous learning opportunity— and incredibly eye-opening—to begin my nursing career in India where I was called to implement my nursing knowledge and skills to help respond to the tremendous medical needs of those who cannot afford or cannot access proper health care.
I was born and raised in the beautiful town of Holland MI but feel Cincinnati is very much a second home. I instantly fell in love with Xavier where I felt—and continue to feel—this sense of ‘home.’ My time at Xavier encouraged me to explore and identify my passions which are broad and diverse. I have been involved in many things while at Xavier that range from volunteering at St. Francis Seraph soup kitchen to being a Rooted leader (a program for first year students) to helping out at the Ronald McDonald House. One of my favorite experiences at Xavier was participating in an Alternative Breaks Program which revolved around the ever-important issue of Hunger and Homelessness. I also was a Patient Care Assistant at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center which gave me exposure me to the state of the art healthcare available in Cincinnati.
Reading the works of Paul Farmer, Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, among others lit a spark in me that propelled me to want to explore the link between infections and inequalities in urban India. I was innately curious to learn more about global health care delivery systems and implement the knowledge I had acquired in my four years of school in tangible ways. My fellowship involved studying these critically important things as well the Social Determinants of Health and how they affect access to proper healthcare in urban India.
The Social Determinants of Health are defined by the World Health Organization as “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels.” These factors include poverty, gender, education, etc. My project began by focusing on the health disparities that are triggered by poverty in Cincinnati. I was stunned during my Community Health rotation to see the conditions in which people live, locally, and how that bred illness or contributed to it. The more I researched and saw during my time in Cincinnati the more I was shocked by the overwhelming need that exists.
I choose to travel to India because it is a place where my topic is very much alive. India has some of the world’s best healthcare available in their private healthcare system (that caters to the very wealthy) but also, notoriously bad healthcare as well. I was curious to explore the quality of care the majority of the people receive. In July of 2014, I travelled to Hyderabad, India where I begin my fellowship working with the Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI). The Catholic Health Association of India is one of India’s largest NGOs and through my time with them, I was able to learn about India’s healthcare delivery system. I spent time in hospitals, clinics and medical camps in both urban and rural settings. I was exposed to a plethora of patient populations and illnesses—from babies to adults, from infectious disease to non-communicable disease.
Next, I travelled for the remainder of my time to Kolkata, India. I volunteered with the Missionaries of Charity—Mother Teresas order—in a variety of their homes which cater to the ‘poorest of the poor’. I saw the healthcare—and lack thereof—available for those who live in poverty. However, I spent the majority of my time working in the Nimtala slum with a small NGO that truly addresses the social determinants of health through providing education and healthcare to people. I was able to help dispense medications, do wound care and help with assessments as well as learn more about the wonderfully hospitable and beautiful culture of India. My time in India affirmed that diseases are most at home in the midst of grinding poverty and showed me the realities of medical care in a resource-constrained setting.
What They're Doing Now
My project will continue to stay with me and inform and influence my practice as a registered nurse. It will help me be cognizant about how I use resources and think the ways I can advocate for people on a local and global scale. I hope to go back to graduate school and become a Nurse Practitioner and continue to be involved in advocating for proper healthcare for all people.