Dr. Tom Sanchez - Building a Nursing Legacy
An Interview with Tom Sanchez, DNP, MSN, RN, FNP-BC
Building a Nursing Legacy
Dr. Tom Sanchez joined KCON in 2010. Throughout his time with KCON, he has consistently been willing to serve the school in any way we have needed his skills to ensure quality of education for our students and our practice initiatives. This has included teaching across the undergraduate and graduate curricula, practicing at our Family Health Center, and launching the innovative nurse-led model at Browning Claytor Health Center in an embedded faculty role. As well, he successfully earned the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree along the way. His knowledge, talents, and insight will be hard to replace, as well as his perseverance for and perspective of culture and inclusion. Tom is leaving to pursue his life passion, and will be working with Hope Africa University in Burundi.
We asked Tom to share a few parting words of wisdom…
What are the highlights of your time at KCON as a student and faculty member?
I loved being involved in a variety of courses and types of instruction as a faculty member. As a student I was accorded the needed flexibility to teach while completing my DNP degree and fellow faculty encouraged those of us on that path. Advice and mentoring were offered at every turn.
What are the specifics of your previous work in Africa?
In 1986 I earned a certificate in tropical community medicine and left for Eastern Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1987. We were tasked to help a village health center at Kama in Maniema province improve its work in any way we could. With a small team of Congolese nurse-colleagues we went beyond curative care. We launched preventive care through establishment of regular prenatal and well-child visits. At Kama I established a retail and wholesale pharmacy to supply medicines to the entire health district and beyond. Income from this work made the pharmacy and its dispensary sustainable. I was later tasked to re-open a closed dispensary at a former leper colony and brought essential care and medicines to villages with no local provider or facility by working with a small group of Congolese nurses on bicycles, motorcycles, and sometimes, sharing room on a truck with other church ministries.
Then in 1991 I teamed up with a couple of university-educated Congolese nurses to open a health center in the city of Bukavu (pop est at 500K to 1M). The Grace Dispensary of Bukavu, once established in a converted church-owned property, remained open and self-financed through earnings from our in-house pharmacy, minimal consultation fee ($0.25), and creation of contractual relationships with local businesses as the provider of choice for their employees. The stable income allowed us to have an all-nurse staff of about a half-dozen since there were few doctors in this city in the poorest neighborhood (Kadutu) where we were located. This dispensary was the only health facility that stayed open during civil war outbreaks in 1996-97 and onward. The center added a dozen beds to care for people who could not get to or afford the district hospital’s fees. This health center was my main healthcare legacy. I was focused on care more than on preparation of more nurses during those years of 1987-2000 when we returned to the U.S.
What are the specifics of your new position with Hope Africa University?
The successful model I used on DR Congo was to support those nationals in academic and leadership roles to help them do their work better. I will teach and provide clinical instruction at HAU, but with a team of those preparing to carry that work on. This approach maintains self-respect and avoids a measure of dependency that cripples sustainability and the tendency to defer to the foreigner who is presumed to be the expert. My vision is to multiply the number and quality of nursing professionals in Burundi and beyond. HAU attracts students from many African countries who return to their homes equipped to provide care at up to a Master’s level. The focus for nurses in Central African countries is direct provision of care including diagnosis and treatment. The approach is more of a continuum of qualification at several levels to prepare what we would think of as nurse practitioners. Families are taught by nurses to provide care and administer medications themselves under the nurse’s direction, if needed. I have been asked to help shore-up HAU’s Master’s program clinically.
Our sending organization is Grace Ministries International and our target date for departure to Africa is January 2018. We have been asked to first assist a group of church leaders in Kabwe, Zambia re-organize their ministries which has, in the past, included healthcare focused on women and children. One goal is to re-establish a partnership with the health district to open a nurse-run dispensary in an underserved neighborhood where the church owns an un-used building that could work for this purpose. Then, by late 2018, move to our work at HAU in Bujumbura, Burundi, the nation’s capitol.
What piece of advice would you give to someone considering nursing as a profession?
There is such a variety of specialties and roles available that within this profession we can be continually re-energized through further education or certification. Dive in and swim around! You cannot fail to find a fulfilling permutation of nursing that fits your desire to serve and care for people, especially the most vulnerable and neglected.
Is there anything specifically you’d like to say to the KCON community?
Keep up the efforts to stay ahead of major healthcare issues that nurses should be at the forefront of and that touch large numbers of people. The opiate issue is a template for an issue where our profession needs to be pro-active and lead with evidence that shapes practice policy. Keep our eye on EBP even when the tide of opinion is against what we know from research.
Thank-you KCON for contributing your expert guidance and mentorship into my professional development!