Student Highlight: Taylor Smith UWP/UWM

In the fall of 2019, Taylor Smith, a freshman in the UW-Milwaukee/UW-Parkside Consortial Nursing program, received an opportunity that changed her entire perspective of patient care.

Smith enrolled in the class, Cultural Diversity in Health Care, taught by Dr. Sandra Underwood. The class provides the theory and research behind cultural awareness in a healthcare setting. By teaching students to recognize and become mindful of personal biases, the result can be improved patient care.

During the semester, Dr. Rachel Spector, a retired professor from Boston College, author of the book Cultural Diversity in Health and Illness, and past president of the Transcultural Nursing Society, video conferenced with the class as the guest speaker. She encouraged the students to reach out directly to her with any questions and also presented an invitation to attend the 2019 Transcultural Nursing Conference in Richmond, VA in October 2019.  Very nervous and excited, Smith emailed Dr. Spector thanking her for the lecture but also indicated her personal interest in the conference – as she believes you need to say yes to every valuable opportunity.

Smith immediately expressed an interest in responding to Dr. Spector’s offer. However, there was concerned about how she would be able to fund the travel and registration fee. With the help of Dr. Underwood, Smith met with Dr. Emmanuel Otu, Dean of the College of Natural and Health Sciences at UW-Parkside. Dr. Otu graciously funded the conference registration for Smith, who then personally paid for the hotel and airfare.

When Smith arrived at the conference hotel, nervous yet excited, she was met by Dr. Spector in the lobby. Dr. Spector escorted Smith throughout the conference, exposing her to opportunities she had not expected.  She met students, scholars, theorists, researchers and practitioners who had all come together for the same reasons – to improve cultural competency and awareness to improve patient care in our nation.

Dr. Spector said, “Taylor is an exceptional undergraduate nursing student who, at an early stage, is asking the questions that need to be asked and understood.  She will be a wonderful nurse and contributor to nursing science.”

One morning at breakfast, Smith arrived at her table to find Dr. Larry D. Purnell,

Taylor Smith with Dr. Larry Purnell

Taylor Smith with Dr. Larry Purnell

author of the “Purnell Model for Cultural Competence.”  “It was like meeting my favorite celebrity, but I was not only able to meet him but also ask him questions.”  The opportunities and information from the conference will stay with her for a lifetime, and she has begun implementing her new knowledge in practice, academics and life.

Smith urges students and colleagues to “take chances and opportunities, even when you may have to do it alone or put in more effort than anticipated. The process can be scary, but it is worth it if you see the opportunity as valuable.”

Smith is from Middleton, Wisconsin, and chose UW-Parkside because she valued the diversity of the student population. She graduated from Middleton High School and held dual enrollment with Madison Area Technical College, Gateway to College program during high school.  Smith plans to continue her studies through the UW-Milwaukee/UW-Parkside Consortial Nursing program and to eventually practice as an OBGYN nurse.

Smith stated, “It is because of Dean Otu and UW-Parkside that I was able to have this opportunity.  It means the world to me that they were willing to invest in me.  I hope others will listen and pursue the opportunities at UWM and UWP.”