By Douglas Esser
On a University of Washington Bothell study abroad trip to Togo, nursing students were surprised at what they saw outside a hospital.
“There were all kinds of medical equipment that didn’t work — that was donated by organizations — that was either broken or didn’t have everything needed to use it,” said one of the students, Bradley Budrow. “Even though people were well-intentioned, it was useless.”
That image of impractical aid was one of the lasting lessons Budrow took from the 2014 trip led by Associate Professor Mabel Ezeonwu. She discussed sustainability as part of the School of Nursing & Health Studies course on services in resource-poor settings.
Budrow had traveled internationally for business and tourism, but Togo was a revelation. The UW Bothell students provided health screenings for about 800 patients, checked blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and offered malaria education.
“I was really inspired by the closeness and the intimacy that we have as medical professionals with our patients,” Budrow said. “I really got to see a lot closer what it was like to live in a low-income part of West Africa. I realized how many people suffer from things that are so easily preventable, like all the diseases that come with not having clean water or what malnourishment does to children.”
The experience inspired Budrow to continue to volunteer for medical service trips oversees after receiving a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2014. Since then, Budrow has participated in four more trips, traveling to Ecuador and, just last summer, the Dominican Republic. He volunteers through Timmy Global Health, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit that also supports community projects in Guatemala and Nigeria.
Budrow didn’t start out as a nurse. He spent 13 years in corporate information technology. Unhappy “going to meetings, sitting in a cubicle,” he quit.
Budrow was browsing a Seattle bookstore when he found a book on nursing careers. Having volunteered in the past with abused and neglected children, he felt nursing aligned with what he really wanted to do.
Budrow received an RN at North Seattle College and began a second career as a nurse at the age of 40. He worked as a school nurse on Mercer Island while enrolled in the RN-to-BSN program at UW Bothell.
Budrow had received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree as a younger college student, so UW Bothell didn’t feel entirely new, but it was different.
“I loved it more than any of my other college experiences. It was really nice because of the diversity of ages and experiences of my classmates,” Budrow said. “I found Bothell to be very welcoming, very supportive of people like us going back to school. I also found the nursing faculty to be exceptional.”
Budrow hadn’t planned to study abroad, but he’s glad he took the Togo trip. “I really appreciate that opportunity because it’s been very inspirational to me in multiple ways.”
Ezeonwu, a native of Nigeria, gave students a perspective on Africa they wouldn’t have had otherwise, he said. “I couldn’t have done that on my own.”
An adjunct associate professor in the Department of Global Health at the UW in Seattle, Ezeonwu has since led nursing students on two study abroad trips to Guatemala.
“Engaging students in community-based health education in global environments is imperative in developing skills and competencies of a future global health care workforce,” she said.
The memories of the Togo trip remain fresh for Ezeonwu. “For many of the Togo program alumni like Bradley,” she said, “the experience laid a solid foundation for future and ongoing global engagements.”
From Bothell to the world
Budrow said UW Bothell expanded his outlook, not only with the Togo trip but also with projects such as evaluating what might happen to the city of Tacoma if Mount Rainier were to erupt.
“When I got my associate degree, it was bedside nursing, how to give medications — the nuts and bolts of nursing,” Budrow said. “Once I got my license and went to Bothell, it broadened my education.
“It was the focus on leadership. It was the focus on teamwork. It was the focus on solving real-world problems, looking at how to serve people who didn’t have clean water in West Africa, helping people in Washington where a disaster might strike,” he said.
In his “day job” Budrow is a pediatric nurse at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit where he specializes in caring for patients coming out of anesthesia after operations. He uses vacation time for medical trips, which typically run 9 to 12 days.
Waves of change
Ezeonwu believes Budrow embodies the best of global citizenship.
“He is very humble, culturally sensitive, compassionate, independent-minded and never afraid of getting to remote parts of the world to clean villagers’ wounds,” she said.
On last summer’s Dominican Republic trip, which included 18 college students, the group saw more than 500 workers and their families from a fair-trade banana-growing operation.
“One of the great things about going on these trips,” said Budrow, “is seeing young people, inspired themselves, and the ripple I believe that creates through the world — the ripple that can fend of xenophobia and fend off nationalism.”
For Budrow, that started in Ezeonwu’s course at UW Bothell. She became a mentor and friend.
“I’m one of Mabel’s ripples,” he said.