USF World News


Faculty Spotlight – Dr. Sandra J. Cadena, USF College of Nursing
October 22, 2012

Dr. Sandra J. Cadena, Assistant Professor and founding Director of Global Health at USF’s College of Nursing, recently returned from her second Fulbright program to Colombia, South America.

Travelling to Bucaramanga, Colombia, Dr. Cadena spent five weeks at the Universidad Autonoma de Bucaramanga working on curriculum development. “It’s unusual for someone in Health, particularly nursing or medicine, to work internationally on a Fulbright. Fulbright Awards offered in Global Health don’t allow for research or clinical practice; they focus on curriculum and educational development. Academicians working in this area need to know that opportunities exist in this area,” she said.

Dr. Cadena at a Capping Ceremony

Dr. Cadena says her objectives while in Bucaramanga were two-fold. Working directly with students, she taught introduction to nursing and health, international nursing with a focus on leadership and management, and application of nursing theory in the clinical setting, among other subjects. In a 25 student class, Dr. Cadena said she usually accommodated 50-60 students who would sit in to audit. Most Colombian students are eager to practice their English and learn from a native speaker how the language is really spoken.

Her second objective revolved around the university and its faculty. Dr. Cadena taught a faculty course on evidence-based practice in healthcare. In addition, she reviewed coursework and assisted the university in preparing for its upcoming accreditation review. She assisted in developing plans for the university’s nursing research center working with the colleges from medicine, psychology and nursing, directing them toward stronger international collaboration. She also committed to finalizing two proposals for internal funding. “They utilized me well while I was there,” said Dr. Cadena.

Culturally, Dr. Cadena’s experience is none like any she has had in the U.S. “Bucaramanga is surrounded by mountains, so it’s always springtime,” she said. The people in the city are always outside and either walk or take a taxi; the city breeds off the social aspect of people interacting with each other. “I got to meet so many people in my travels, walking to and from the campus and in various parts of the city.”

With reference to the relationship between students and faculty, Dr. Cadena says it is nurturing. She attributes this to the community-based society that is Bucaramanga, an approach that few communities in the U.S. take on. “Faculty, students and those in administration are all there for a common good. It’s not an individualistic society. And the education of students is supportive, challenging and mutually respectful.” Dr. Cadena also adds that people in proximity were very aware and protective of her as an outsider and a guest, providing her with assistance and support, always in a respectful and honest fashion.

Assigned a full-time translator to help communicate in Spanish, Dr. Cadena says while helpful, translation is difficult when dealing with health jargon. On the bright side though, she says by the end of her time at the university several colleagues admitted that her minimal Spanish language skills forced them to articulate their ideas further and in turn, helped them evaluate their intended goals. As for Dr. Cadena, she says her diction improved significantly with the daily Spanish lessons.

Comparing the Colombian health system with the American health system, Dr. Cadena said, “Nursing in Central and South America is focused on promotion of health and prevention of illness. American health care is focused on intervention.” She emphasizes the difference in the quality of education and practice. She describes their education as being based on equitable distribution of resources and equitable distribution of compassion.

In 2009, Dr. Cadena participated in her first Fulbright award at the Universidad El Bosque at Bogota, Colombia, South America.  One of her areas of contribution involved the development of the Masters program in Community Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing.  This program, with an emphasis on the development of the first graduate program of the advanced practice nurse role in South America, received approval from the Ministry of Education in Colombia August 31st, 2012. Colleagues at UEB sent their congratulations and thanks to Dr. Cadena, as her initial involvement and ongoing consultation culminated in the program scheduled to be offered in July, 2013.

On her overall experience, Dr. Cadena says being in Bucaramanga for five weeks was refreshing and creatively stimulating. “ The Fulbright experience emphasizes ongoing collaboration and mutual support, reflected Dr. Cadena. “It has been difficult to leave and I look forward to maintaining our relationships.”


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