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Professor Ashley Leak Bryant Continues to Build Oncology Nursing Capacity in Malawi

September 3, 2019
School of Nursing

Assistant Professor Ashley Leak Bryant, PhD, RN-BC, OCN, and Jen Haley, MSN, RN, CNL, nurse planner in the Center for Lifelong Learning, spent two weeks this summer in Lilongwe, Malawi, continuing the collaborative relationships with Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN), Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH), and UNC Project-Malawi that were established in 2018.

Both alumni of the SON, Bryant and Haley are committed to building oncology nursing capacity in research, education, and practice in Malawi. Bryant and Haley both practice as oncology nurses in the inpatient oncology unit at the North Carolina Cancer Hospital, and this clinical work informs their oncology global work.

A collaboration between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Malawi Ministry of Health, UNC Project-Malawi is the longest established global project at Carolina. The mission of UNC Project-Malawi is to identify innovative, culturally acceptable, and affordable methods to improve the health of the people of Malawi, through research, capacity building, and care.

“Cancer is an enormous, emerging public health problem in Malawi, and the nursing community will be absolutely critical to addressing this. We are therefore delighted that the UNC School of Nursing has chosen to engage so meaningfully in our cancer activities in Lilongwe, and look forward to many years of collaboration with them,” Satish Gopal, MD, MPH, Cancer Center Program Director for UNC Project-Malawi.

In December of 2018, Dean Peragallo MontanoDr. Lixin Song and Dr. Ashley Leak Bryant traveled to Malawi to completed a comprehensive needs assessment. During their visit, nurses expressed great interest in developing their careers through continued education and involvement in research. Among those providing feedback were Carolina Nursing alumna Chifundo Zimba, PhD16’, RNM, and Agatha Bula, PhD, MPH, RNM, both adjunct SON faculty, who have worked with UNC Project-Malawi for several years.

Following this needs assessment, Bryant, Haley and Song provided eight-hour virtual cancer content sessions to more than 50 nurses and faculty on cancer epidemiology, cancer treatments and nursing care of their four most common cancers. The Oncology Nursing Society generously provided more than 40 books on topics such as cancer prevention, safe handling, psychosocial care, chemotherapy guidelines, radiation therapy, and oncologic emergencies. These current references are available in the oncology clinic and in the libraries of Kamuzu College of Nursing and UNC Project-Malawi.

During their trip this summer, Bryant and Haley initiated nursing grand rounds, which entailed one of the lead UNC Project research nurses presenting an unfolding case for discussion. More than 50 nurses and nursing students from KCH and KCN attended, and it was well-received. “We are pleased and honored to have the support and mentorship of the UNC School of Nursing oncology faculty and North Carolina Cancer Hospital as we continue to build oncology nursing capacity in Malawi,” reflected Dr. Agatha Bula.

Bryant and Haley plan to remain engaged with the nurses by communicating with them monthly online. Future grand round topics will include nursing management of cervical cancer, nursing ethics in care of individuals with cancer, professional development with a focus on abstract development, and psychosocial care.

Bryant and Haley believe they can foster professional and leadership development of nurses at all levels through mentorship no matter where they are in the world. Technology provides many opportunities for collaboration, active learning, and ability to bring different groups together from different organizations with a focus to improve cancer care in Malawi.

Bryant, Haley, and Song plan to return to Malawi Spring 2020 to engage the nurses in abstract, manuscript and grant writing groups.

We want to thank Dr. Shelley Earp and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center for their generous support and funding of this important work.

Keep an eye out for an in-depth story on the cancer epidemic in Malawi and our ongoing efforts to advance cancer care there in the upcoming issue of Carolina Nursing magazine.

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