After setting a personal goal to travel abroad to help the underprivileged, Dr. Fonya Atabong, an assistant professor of Nursing at the Medical Education Campus of Northern Virginia Community College, championed the development of a three-year midwife degree program at the University of Buea (UB) in Cameroon, Africa – her country of origin.
Atabong was selected for a Fulbright Scholar Program in Cameroon in August 2015 to teach and mentor nursing and public health students as well as faculty at UB. Due to the country’s high rates of women dying from childbirth, the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Higher Education in Cameroon made an historic effort to develop a bachelor’s degree program to ensure that individuals received proper training and quality education to become midwives through a formal agreement with the university. Atabong served as a consultant throughout the curriculum development process. As the first and top English-speaking institution of its kind in predominantly French-speaking Central Africa, UB currently serves as a model in all 10 regions of Cameroon where midwifery training will be offered.
“The nurse-midwifery degree program is an effort for the country to produce as many degree trained midwives as possible,” Atabong said. “The many ways nursing is practiced in the United States is entirely different from the way it is practiced in foreign countries, especially in poor, less privileged and resource limiting areas such as Cameroon. I applied to the Fulbright Scholar Program as an effort to help change the image of nursing abroad. I’ve always wanted to give back to my country and I’m elated I was afforded the opportunity to do so.”
As a keynote speaker, Atabong has presented on malaria prevention to high school students sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s American Corners Program and cervical cancer awareness to university students. As an effort to expand her vision to educate and empower nursing students and faculty in other countries, Atabong donated over 100 nursing and midwifery textbooks to the University of Buea. She referred to her gift as, “donating knowledge to help save lives.” She received additional book donation support from her colleagues and the library at the MEC.
Atabong received an associate degree in nursing from St. Clair County Community College in Port Huron, Mich., a bachelor’s degree in nursing and master’s degree in nursing business and health systems administration both from the University of Michigan. She also received her doctorate in nursing from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH.
For additional information on Atabong’s Fulbright experience, visit https://fonyaatabong.wordpress.com/
The Fulbright Scholar Program is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State. Since 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 360,000 participants with the opportunity to study, teach, conduct research and contribute to finding solutions for international concerns.
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Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.