DECATUR - The seniors in Jo Carter's public health nursing class at Millikin University welcomed a speaker whose extensive personal experience in the field has spanned the full scope of their studies. Rear Admiral Susan J. Blumenthal, who was in town to give the university's Thomas W. Ewing Lecture on Monday night, made a special visit to the afternoon class.
Quoting Hippocrates, the father of medicine, as well as Benjamin Franklin and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, Blumenthal, former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General, engaged the group of young people, a generation she believes will be instrumental in solving current global health issues.
"They have the tools of technology, and they're more connected," Blumenthal said. "They see more about what's going on in the rest of the world."
Blumenthal discussed some of her roles and accomplishments in advancing women's health initiatives. Women, she said, make 80 percent of family health decisions, but they can be woefully neglectful of their own wellbeing. For many years in medicine, the realities of heart disease, HIV and other serious health issues in women were not acknowledged, Blumenthal said.
She also named a few killers at large in the U.S. today - tobacco, obesity and lack of physical activity.
"You don't have to look good in Lycra, and you don't have to belong to a fancy health spa to get it," Blumenthal said of daily exercise.
American health and global health are interconnected, Blumenthal said, stressing that diseases and their contributing risk factors don't know international borders. She urged the future health care providers to think about taking a team approach and working across sectors in their future careers.
Carter, who has been in nursing for more than 30 years, said she plans to continue exploring some of the themes Blumenthal brought up in Monday's class.
"She absolutely hit many of the critical issues that we're dealing with in looking at the health of our country and community," she said.
At the end of her talk, Blumenthal gave the students a chance to tell her about their class, their passions and their plans for the future.
JoAnne Bardwell, 26, talked about a current class project with United Way of Decatur and Mid-Illinois to identify unmet needs in the community.
Currently an LPN, Bardwell is the first among her relatives to become a nurse. She said she went into the field after growing up in a family that could not afford health insurance.
"I found that I was treated a certain way when I had the medical card," she said, adding that she hopes to be an advocate, a voice and a source of healing and comfort for patients regardless of their ability to pay for care.
Bardwell said she enjoyed Blumenthal's talk and found it very informative.
"I thought she was awesome," she said. "I thought she was very inspirational."