FEBRUARY 10, 2017 – A master’s student in the Nurse-Midwifery/Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Program at the School of Nursing & Health Studies is pursuing her passion of providing health care to women who are refugees.
Over winter break, Lillian Medhus (G’17), RN, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area and is an online student at Georgetown, traveled to Greece with the organization Nurture Project International (NPI) to work in refugee camps.
“We traveled between three camps as well as a mobile unit daily,” she says. “I helped with diaper and food distribution, as well as at the baby hammam, which is a safe, clean space with all the supplies for a mother to bathe her baby in private. I also helped provide prenatal care, weighing and measuring infants for growth and development, and first aid.”
Medhus says she cannot forget her experience working with two young Syrian women.
The first, she recalls, was living in the camp waiting to rejoin her husband who had moved elsewhere in Europe to set up a new life for the family. She had fled Syria just as her career was beginning.
“She was beautiful, kind, and funny, and she reminded me of many of my own friends,” Medhus says. “She had learned English in college and volunteered to translate for NPI in the camp where she lived.”
Medhus was struck by the young woman’s “willingness to give back to others even as she was in an impossible situation,” an observation about resilience that instilled a sense of hope for the future of the refugee community.
The second young woman, Medhus adds, had also been separated from her husband and was in the final weeks of pregnancy.
“While the rest of her life was out of control, I was able to help bring a small piece of normalcy back to her life,” she says. “Empowering her to care for herself by teaching simple ways to reduce the discomfort of pregnancy. Listening to the baby’s heart rate and just being still for a few minutes as my colleagues watched her children. Letting her breathe. This is the beauty of midwifery to me and why I am pursuing this career – helping bring normalcy, health, and wholeness to women in crisis.”
An Ongoing Passion
Medhus says she is passionate about “providing women’s health care to immigrants and refugees.” Previously, she worked – specifically on issues of domestic violence – with Afghan Coalition, an organization that “provides social services, support groups, and mental health resources to Afghan immigrants and refugees.”
“Meeting these women and helping them process their trauma is what propelled me to going into midwifery,” she says. “I believe women deserve trauma-informed holistic health care that integrates all aspects of wellness.”
Medhus is enjoying the opportunity to build her knowledge and skills at Georgetown.
“Georgetown’s program is a perfect fit for me,” says Medhus. “I love being able to remain in the community I am passionate about serving, while gaining the skills to serve them even better in the future.”
She particularly values the people she has met throughout the program.
“My clinical advisor helps me pursue my passions, and my classmates are always there – even though it’s a distance program – when classes are difficult,” she adds. “The professors have pushed me to learn more than I thought was possible.”