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Global Health in the Classroom

By Hannah Notess (

Nurses manage lots of intricate details, including placing an IV properly and carefully charting patients’ symptoms. So Shannon Roosma-Goldstein ’93 aims to help them “step back and look at the big picture” — the really big picture.

Roosma-Goldstein, an adjunct instructor of nursing, teaches the course “Professional Nursing Synthesis Theory” to professional nurses who enroll in the RN to BSN Program in Seattle Pacific University’s School of Health Sciences. With a focus on global health, the class examines disparities in health care around the world and also looks at worldviews of health and healing.

“It’s one of the last classes in the nurses’ program,” she says, “and they’re pulling it all together.”

One of the books they read is The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Anne Fadiman’s nonfictional account of a Hmong immigrant child with epilepsy — and the conflict that arises between American medical staff and her Hmong community.

“It’s a really great way to look at how we as health care providers view people from different cultures in terms of their health practices and health beliefs,” Roosma-Goldstein says. Students also write a paper examining a public health issue in a developing country — such as Type 2 diabetes in China.

This year, Roosma-Goldstein will also teach “Issues in Global Health,” for students in the global development studies major, an interdisciplinary program housed in the Department of Political Science and Geography. In both courses, the goal is to bring Seattle Pacific’s mission of engaging the culture and changing the world to the health care field.

For Heather Guthrie ’10, an emergency room nurse at Swedish Medical Center in Edmonds, Washington, the global health course solidified a desire she already had to volunteer cross-culturally. Roosma-Goldstein’s class “opened the door to a world I never knew existed,” Guthrie says. “We watched the documentary Born Into Brothels, and I knew I had to go to India.”

Guthrie has pursued her desire to volunteer in both India and Haiti. She’s traveled to Haiti five times with organizations such as Project Medishare and Medical Teams International, working in an emergency room and on a variety of projects including health education, deworming, and even construction.