Dr. Lynn Babington will guide the Nursing School into the future

by Nina Riccio, M.A. ’09

On June 2, the day before Dr. Lynn Babington drove down to Connecticut to begin her new position as dean of Fairfield’s School of Nursing, she cycled 100 miles from Boston to Cape Cod’s Hyannis Port in support of Best Buddies, a non-profit organization that pairs volunteers with developmentally disabled people in the community.

Suffice to say, Fairfield’s new dean is a dedicated woman.

Dr. Babington was most recently assistant dean of graduate programs at Boston’s Northeastern University. While there, she led the development of the Doctorate of Nursing (DNP) program and served as its first director. She also chaired the Ph.D. in Nursing committee as the University launched that program. Before joining Northeastern, she founded the Health Services Partnership to provide medical management services to community health centers in Boston, Mass.

On a muggy morning just three weeks after her arrival at Fairfield, Fairfield University Magazine spoke with Dr. Babington about her work overseas, her vision for the School, and the future direction of healthcare.

Was there a pivotal event that crystalized your decision to become a nurse?

Growing up, I had a very close friend who developed leukemia, and I spent a lot of time with her at home and in the hospital. The care that her nurses delivered — not only in healthcare but also their personal and psychological support — was unbelievable and made all the difference in the years she had. It was very impressive.

You recently returned from a short-term Fulbright grant to Israel. What were you doing there, and what were your impressions of the country?

Israel has a very advanced healthcare system, but they have no Doctor of Nursing Practice or Ph.D. in Nursing program in the country. Nurses do have doctorates, but in other subject areas. I was hosted by Ben Gurion [University of the Negev] Hospital and worked with the Ministry of Health to do a formal needs-assessment on the feasibility of developing a doctorate in nursing.

The people of Israel are very hard working, generous, and warm. I was up early one Saturday, their holy day, and I was walking as many Orthodox Jews were coming from prayers out of the Old City. As they walked past the thriving Arab market, there was just so much interaction, the greeting of neighbors, noise. The world views it all so differently than the reality. The daily life there is very different from what you’d expect from listening to the media.

You go down to the Dominican Republic to set up clinics regularly. Describe a day there.

I travel with Intercultural Nursing, a non-profit group that provides health clinics in poor, rural areas. We stay in a camp with no running water, cold bucket showers — you get the idea. In the morning, we load supplies into plastic buckets and ride on the back of a pickup truck that takes us to some remote village. We’ve set up stations in churches, funeral homes — even a cock-fighting arena! — and the patients just start coming. Most are there for primary care, but we have trained community members to do blood pressures and such, and we leave them with medicine, so they can refer others to the hospital if the need arises when we’re not there.

We see up to 200 people each day and we stay for two weeks, traveling to a different village each day. The government says it provides universal healthcare, but their clinics are empty and they have come to rely on volunteers as an essential part of their system.

Fairfield University is planning to expand its academic programs in the health sciences. What do you see as particularly important areas, and what challenges are we facing?

Dr. Robbin Crabtree (dean of the College of Arts and Sciences) and I have been co-chairing the University-wide Integrated Health Sciences Initiative. The goal of this effort is to position Fairfield University as a leader in integrative, interdisciplinary health sciences education and professional preparation. We’re examining our current courses, programs of study, faculty research and community partnerships and identifying where synergies exist and opportunities lie.

There are a lot of reasons to integrate and offer students the opportunity to learn about healthcare; it’s estimated that over half of our students will become involved in healthcare in their careers, whether it’s in direct care to patients, biotechnology, bioengineering, healthcare financing, leadership, or education. There’s a huge push both nationally and internationally to look at worldwide distribution of access and services, and to eliminate disparities in outcomes. And there is a call to revolutionize the way healthcare is taught, to focus more on teamwork, leadership, interdisciplinary education, and practice.

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