Tamara Otey, PhD, RN, made her 11th trip to Nigeria this summer, where she spent two-and-a-half weeks caring for patients in Umeuleagwa Onicha. Many of the people living in this small rural town do not have access to health care, due to the town’s poor infrastructure and the lack of medical equipment and technology. In addition, many residents don’t seek medical services because they can be imprisoned for lack of payment if they cannot afford to pay onsite for the services they receive. These obstacles to health are compounded by the prevalence of malaria, a leading cause of death in Nigeria, and by the complications that arise from hypertension, another threat to health in this region.
To help address these problems, Otey, an assistant professor at Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College, founded Growing Trees International Ministry. This nonprofit organization was created to provide funding for health care and other improvements in Imo State, Nigeria, where Umeuleagwa Onicha is located. Through money raised by Growing Trees, Otey has helped provide the town with medical equipment such as thermometers, stethoscopes, blood-pressure cuffs and over-the-counter medicines, including ibuprofen and vitamins for adults and children. In partnership with other nonprofit groups, Growing Trees also has funded development of two water wells in Umeuleagwa Onicha.
Otey admits that her most meaningful accomplishment in Nigeria is helping to build, furnish and provide technology for the town’s first health clinic. Funding she received through Goldfarb’s Office of Nursing Research Pilot Grant program for Growing Trees helped purchase a laptop and tablets to capture a patient’s health information electronically, a technology unprecedented for the town. Otey has also used funds to create printed health-education materials in the town’s native language of Igbo and in English. This effort is aimed to helping residents gain a better understanding of health and health care.
Otey’s work in Nigeria has influenced her ongoing research in the prevalence of HIV infection in African Americans. In an article titled “A Mid-South Perspective: African American Faith-based Organizations, HIV, and Stigma,“ published in 2016 in the Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, Otey and co-researcher Wendy Renee Miller, PhD, RN, CCRN, presented their efforts to engage African American faith-based leaders working in areas with high rates of HIV in meaningful conversations about attitudes toward HIV and those who are infected.
Otey has focused her career on the prevention of HIV and malaria, and other diseases that threaten vulnerable populations. Whether she is in Nigeria or the U.S., she uses her nursing background and research expertise to train volunteers, ministry workers and medical professionals in basic nursing skills. Ultimately, her goal is to help ensure that quality health care is available to all.
To learn more about Goldfarb’s research priorities and their impact on quality of patient care, visit www.barnesjewishcollege.edu/Research.