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Grassroots empowerment

Alum’s work in global health brings attention to women in rural villages

August 8, 2019

By Sarah Scopio

“The only way you are going to get true health in a community is to empower women,” says Dr. Harriet Fields ’69. This mantra has taken Fields from the streets of Los Angeles to the villages of Rwanda in pursuit of improving health around the world.

Since 2012, Fields has been traveling to Rwanda to conduct a pilot study that focuses on women in rural villages as the source of knowledge of the health needs of the community. For the next stage of the project, she is partnering with an NGO to develop Train the Trainer programs to teach local community health workers and nurses to respond to the needs that are identified.

She traces the root of her passion for global health back to the Mount. “The nursing model I was taught is the social justice model, inspired by the sisters,” she says. “The course I loved the most was Public Health Nursing. We visited immigrant women and vulnerable populations in their homes. As I sat with one woman holding her new baby on her flea-infested couch, I remember thinking, ‘She is so strong.’ It’s the same strength and bravery I now see in women all over the world.”

Fields earned her master’s and doctoral degrees from Teachers College, Columbia University, in community health and nursing education. In addition to her advocacy work, she also teaches Health Care Policy online to graduate students in nursing throughout the country for Simmons University in Boston.

It’s her combined education and passion that make her unstoppable. “Being unstoppable means seizing the moment,” she says. “I went by myself to Rwanda and saw what needed to be done. I met the leader of an NGO, joined forces, and sought help from leaders in Washington, D.C. Collaborate, advocate and empower — that’s what I’ve learned from the global health network.”

She recently presented her project, “Grassroots Empowerment of Women as Gatekeepers of the Health of the Community,” at the Global Network of Public Health Nursing International Conference in May 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya.

“It’s heavy work, and its humbling work, but I love it,” she says. “And I would love it if any Mount nurses or nurse educators would join us.”

To find out more about Dr. Fields, visit her website at www.drharrietfields.com.

To watch an interview regarding her global health work in Rwanda, click here