Hilaree Wade was a nurse for nine years before completing the Master of Science in Global Health Student. Her thesis work looked at the prevalence of hypertension in rural Malagasy farmers in Madagascar.
I became a nurse because… my parents told me they thought I’d make a good nurse. At the time, my younger sister was diagnosed with scoliosis. She had back surgery her senior year of high school, and I helped her with care for about six months. Initially, I planned to be an architect and when I was sitting in orientation at design school, I decided to switch to nursing. I call it divine intervention. My sister, Margaret, claims it was her doing.
I wanted to learn about global health… because it went hand-in-hand with nursing. Instead of focusing on one person, you’re focused on a community, a population. You’re still assessing, planning and diagnosing but on a larger level. I feel my nursing skills enhanced my learning here and vice versa. As a nurse, I traveled to Guatemala and liked the idea of helping people. Global health fits into that.
The most important lesson learned at Duke is… it’s what I learned in nursing school: it’s about the people and the connections you make with others. When I was in Madagascar collecting data, the most important step for me was giving back what I found to the community – it wasn’t about my thesis and defense. [For example], a community person I worked with began inviting me to family dinners, and then to a festival [Famadihana]. At the festival, every five years or so, the community exhumes their ancestors, cleans their bones and celebrate. I didn’t want to be a “distant researcher” so to be included felt good.
Something that has stuck with me… is Madagascar during field work last summer. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to and ever seen. When we were camping, we were by a mountain called Abatomenevava. It was a focal point for me whenever I needed to refocus. I would get up before every morning to see the sun rise over it for seven weeks.
What I’ll miss about Duke is… the rich tradition, heritage and history. The campus is fantastic. Also, I’ll miss the DGHI Education Team. The support you get from them is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.
Something I’d want to do again… as a master’s student, getting to know a different country, culture or community the way I did in Madagascar. That’s what I want to do – be in a position where I get to know people from different walks of life.
My advice for future global health students… Don’t be afraid to get involved, follow your path or what you want to do. There are so many wonderful options and ways you can go. Don’t be afraid to explore, fail and try again. Also, make the most of anywhere you go, the community you become a part of, connections and friendships.