Dr. Susan French
Nursing in the new millennium
Nearly 20 years ago, His Highness the Aga Khan, the Imam (spiritual leader) for Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, approached McMaster to ask for help with developing a school of nursing in Karachi, Pakistan.
French was eager to take on this challenge. In a population of about 135 million, Pakistan had roughly 20,000 nurses. By comparison, Canada has over 250,000 nurses.
The Aga Khan and McMaster, with some funding from Canada, developed a diploma-level program at the University of Aga Khan, and then the first undergraduate program in the country. Also, they addressed education, profession regulations, strengthened the existing professional organization, and developed research.
Although much has been accomplished, it will take many more years and more support from the government to truly make a difference. Currently, Pakistan devotes no more than about three per cent of its budget to health and education.
French started an educational exchange, bringing over students from Pakistan to Hamilton for six months of training. The Pakistani nurses were eager to learn about Canadian techniques and technology. French says it was interesting to see the Canadian experience through the eyes of newcomers. When they visited rural areas up north, the Pakistani nurses were appalled at the lack of birthing services and that women were flown away from home to give birth.
“I’ve become an advocate for women’s health after all of this experience,” French says. She also remains committed to development issues and is looking at a range of international possibilities for McGill. Starting this year, nursing students will be doing an eight-week internship, and she hopes to eventually encourage international placements. “It’s good for students to become aware.”
Previously on Ismailimail…