2021 Founder’s Medalist has global reach

Rebecca Silvers has had a love for global travel and immersing herself in the diverse cultures of the world all her life. She began global health work on international medical missions in 2006, but her experiences in the aftermath of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake changed her path.

Rebecca Silvers portrait wearing fill academic regalia with VUSN Founder's Medal around her neckOne of the first responders with Project Hope on the USNS Comfort, a floating hospital ship, Silvers cared for Haiti’s most injured children in a pediatric critical care unit. Her team provided vital medical care not available on land, but once back in the U.S., Silvers realized she wanted to be part of long-term solutions that would equip local providers with the skills and knowledge necessary to serve their people.

That revelation led to more overseas work and eventually, to Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, which named Silvers’ its 2021 Founder’s Medalist at Commencement earlier this month.

Silvers graduated with a doctor of nursing practice degree and a global health certificate. She had previously earned her VUSN master of science in nursing in 2013.

Her DNP project, “Capacity Building in Northern Laos: An Evaluation of the Pediatric Nursing Training Program at Lao Friends Hospital for Children,” focused on long-term sustainable solutions created through supplementary nursing education and empowerment of local health care professionals in resource-limited settings.

The project combined her interest in global health education and nursing. “My nursing passion goes beyond direct patient care with a desire to empower nurses and increase nursing competency worldwide,” Silvers says. She used her focus on education as a means to improve global health during the COVID-19 epidemic.

“Last summer, while working fulltime and in the middle of the DNP program, I began contributing as a member of the Siya Western Kenya COVID-19 task force, providing education and training virtually to frontline health care workers in district hospitals and the community,” Silvers explains. “In the fall, I joined the University of California San Francisco Anesthesia Division of Global Health as part of the Respiratory Care Technical Advisory Group and Critical Care Education Group participating in the USAID COVID-19 pandemic response. I worked as the nurse lead on the team curating and creating training for medical and nursing providers receiving ventilators from USAID.”

“This work has been inspiring, and exactly what I hoped to pursue following my DNP degree,” Silvers said. A pediatric critical care and neurosurgery nurse practitioner at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals, Silvers intends to continue her clinical practice, faculty position at UCSF School of Nursing, and global health development work with the UCSF Institute of Global Health.

Photo by Susan Urmy, VUMC