As a Peace Corps volunteer, Lisa Seaman served for
three years as a community health promoter in Nicaragua,
where she instructed groups large and small on such topics
as diabetes, breastfeeding and STD prevention.
Seaman, a native of Washington state, said she's
always been interested in medicine, education and travel
and saw the Peace Corps as a way to marry her interests.
When her stint was over, Seaman wanted to stay involved in
health care, particularly with underserved populations. The
Johns Hopkins School of
Nursing offered her the perfect match.
For 15 years, the School of Nursing has run the
nation's only Returned Peace Corps Fellowship Program for
nursing. The school allows those who have successfully
completed Peace Corps service the opportunity to
participate in the program, which includes priority in the
admissions process and consideration for a $10,000
scholarship. The competitive scholarship is intended to
assist qualifying students who plan to concentrate in the
community health track of study and commit to working with
underserved populations after graduation. A minimum of
seven scholarship awards are offered each year.
To date, the school has graduated 233 Returned Peace
Corps Volunteers, or RPCVs, from the BSN program. It has 44
participants this academic term, nearly double that of last
year, and shows no sign of slowing down.
Lori Edwards, coordinator of the program and an
instructor at the SoN, says the fellowship's continued
success can be attributed to both its uniqueness and its
community outreach component that allows students to
translate their overseas experiences into service for U.S.
citizens in need.
Stella Shiber, then associate dean at the SoN and now
retired, founded the fellows program in 1991 as a way for
Peace Corps volunteers returning to the United States to be
able to continue their experiences in community health
care. The school's Community Outreach Program, initially
developed for RPCVs, allows students the opportunity to
participate in community nursing practice under the
supervision of senior nursing faculty.
Peace Corps fellows need a bachelor's degree to enter
the program and can follow one of three tracks: the
traditional two-year BSN, an accelerated 13-month BSN
program or a combined BS-MSN program. In addition to
regular studies, the fellows have weekly meetings with
faculty advisers and are required to participate in the
Community Outreach Program, which consists of a course
called Community Outreach to Underserved Populations in
Urban Baltimore and service at a number of clinics, schools
and organizations that provide health care for the city's
uninsured and underinsured populations.
Edwards says the program provides valuable health
services to the community while also providing an
opportunity for these nursing students to receive hands-on
Seaman, a member of the accelerated BSN class of 2006,
says she had previously looked into attending medical
school but realized that she was more interested in
education and prevention than diagnosing.
"When I read the description of what a nurse
practitioner is and does, I knew that is exactly what I
wanted to do. And when I learned of the fellows program
here, I knew right away that I wanted to go to JHU," she
said. "The Returned Peace Corps Fellows Program is a great
transition for Peace Corps volunteers to continue their
work from villages where they served to serving Baltimore's
underserved populations while gaining experience in
Seaman does her outreach work in the Wald Community
Nursing Center, a health clinic opened by the School of
Nursing to provide service to East Baltimore's uninsured
residents and those unable to access health services in a
timely fashion. At the clinic, Seaman performs vaccinations
for pediatric clients, glucose monitoring, hearing
screenings and a host of other services under the
supervision of RNs and nurse practitioners.
"The Community Outreach Program is for all students,
but it just may appeal more to RPCVs looking for a public
health nursing approach that they implemented during their
time in the Peace Corps," she said. "At the Wald Clinic, we
gain experience of assessing the health histories of
clients, assessing vital signs and educating the clients of
their specific health care needs."
Peace Corps fellows also volunteer a wealth of time at
many other community programs, either run by the School of
Nursing or ones working in partnership with the SoN, such
as the Baltimore City Health Department and the
International Rescue Committee in Baltimore, a
nongovernmental agency that coordinates housing, medical
screening, employment services and English language
training for refugees.
Edwards says the program has been a productive
recruitment tool of the school and a great benefit to other
students, as it attracts excellent individuals who can
share their international experiences with other
"This program each year brings in experienced leaders
who provide leadership to the class," Edwards said. "Plus,
these fellows then apply what they've learned at the Peace
Corps to the very needy population that surrounds us. It
really is a perfect fit."
In 2006, the Peace Corps will celebrate its first 45
years. To honor the milestone, the SoN will host an
anniversary celebration this spring with current Peace
Corps directors expected to attend.
For more information about the Returned Peace Corps
Fellowship Program, go to