STUDENT LIFE: Advocating for Women’s Health, at Home and Abroad
When it comes to making a difference in the empowerment and health care of women, College of Nursing junior Brittney Ross is one highly motivated and dedicated individual.
As the first in her family to go to college, there have been times when Ross felt overwhelmed and her zeal to succeed was tested, but she has persevered in her studies, including her research on female genital mutilation, a subject she has investigated as far away as Africa.
Ms. Ross recently took time out of her busy schedule to talk about when she developed an interest in nursing, her experience thus far at UI, and where her career path might lead.
Where are you from?
Rock Island, IL.
When (and why) did you decide you wanted to go into nursing?
I have always enjoyed helping others, and knew that I wanted to pursue a career in health care.
I realized nursing was right career for me during my senior year in High School, when I had the responsibility of becoming one of the primary caregivers for my terminally ill stepfather.
When did you begin UI’s BSN program?
Fall 2011. I expect to graduate in December 2013.
Why did you choose the University of Iowa to pursue your degree?
I chose Iowa because it’s a high ranking and highly credible nursing program, and it’s also relatively close to home. I did not want to live too far from home, but I did want to achieve some sense of independence.
How would you describe your educational experience at UI?
It has been challenging, yet also rewarding and exciting. Coming to a university as a first generation college student, I struggled. The work was unlike anything I had experienced before and I lacked a supportive community. Through self-determination and my motivation to have a better life, I stuck it out and prevailed. I managed to get into the College of Nursing, despite the competitive admission, and have maintained a solid GPA—overcoming many challenges along the way.
The university has helped me think analytically and I have been challenged more than ever. I have developed great test taking, time management, and studying skills. Through all of this I still manage to have fun by involving myself in various extracurricular activities and attending programs provided by the university to meet new people.
Do you see yourself wanting to further your education and go for a graduate degree?
Yes, I plan on going to graduate school to specialize in women’s health.
You have a rather unique area of research that you’ve been involved with. Please describe it, including a reason for your involvement with this subject.
I have an interest in female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM is a procedure performed in some countries where they intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical purposes. I spent 10 weeks this past summer in Gambia, West Africa, where it is common to perform FGM. I became very passionate about the issue when I learned and saw the complications that arose from it. I wanted to help prevent it from happening as well as become more educated and culturally competent about the issue, as I may encounter patients who have undergone the procedure in my future practice.
Many women who come to United States as refugees do not feel comfortable around American health care providers. I educated myself about the FGM procedure, and I created a survey that enables women to tell me their views on the procedure and to find out what they would like me, as an American health care provider, to know.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I see myself with a DNP degree and working in a prestigious hospital to gain more experience in women’s health. Eventually, I hope to return to Africa or another developing country where I can be of service by educating and providing women’s empowerment services and health care services—all while I continuously advocate to end female genital mutilation.