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"The Westberg Parish Nurse Symposium: a profound experience".

The 22nd annual Westberg Parish Nurse Symposium was held from Sept. 12 to 14, 2008 at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis Riverfront in St. Louis, MO. It was presented by the IPNRC and we thank them for their hard work and hospitality. The title was Lift Every Voice and Speak. The theme was advocacy for the poor and the uninsured. Five hundred nurses from across the United States and Canada shared in this wonderful experience.

It would have been worth the trip just to hear the opening keynote speaker, Gloria Wilder-Braithwaite, MD, MPH, of Washington, DC. "Dr. Gloria," as she likes to be called, is a pediatrician and a nationally recognized speaker on social justice issues. In 2005, she founded CORE

HEALTH, a community-driven social justice solutions company dedicated to assisting underserved communities by providing quality health care, education, and housing, food and economic opportunities for its residents. In 2004, she was named "Physician of the Year" by George Washington University.

In 2005, she received the National Caring Award, which had previously been awarded to Jimmy Carter and to Mother Teresa. Dr. Gloria gave an account of how her mother worked three jobs in New York to raise her and her two siblings. They all grew up and become very successful professionals despite meager circumstances. Their mother never wanted them to feel they were poor. Indeed, she gave them a rich legacy.

Faith United Against Tobacco: Mobilizing the Faith Community to Reduce Smoking, Particularly Among Children was also a powerful presentation by Vincent DeMarco, JC, MA, of Baltimore, MD. He is the coordinator of Faith United Against Tobacco, a coalition of national, state, and local faith leaders, and a consultant with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. DeMarco also is president of the Maryland Citizen's Health Initiative, an organization with a plan to provide health insurance for all of Maryland's uninsured. He is on the faculty of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.


In addition, there were multiple small group sessions on topics that dealt with the main them. Our own Ruth Manchester offered a wonderful presentation titled, More Than a Loaf of Bread. It described a caring project at Saint Luke Lutheran Church.

The exhibit hall was an opportunity for learning. There were multiple displays of resources and books related to parish nursing/faith community nursing. Also, there were a variety of handcrafted items that benefited worthwhile causes.

Gatherings for worship sessions offered great opportunities for divine inspirations and spiritual reflections. The large conference room was well filled for a Saturday evening Mass. All of these spiritual events tied in with the theme of advocacy for those who are underserved.

It was a privilege to have a wonderful final keynote speaker, Diana J. Mason, PhD, RN, FAAN, the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of

Nursing. Under Dr. Mason's leadership, the journal has received numerous awards. Her presentation was titled, Using Your Voice to Make a Difference. It was a compilation on the theme of advocacy for the poor, the uninsured and the underserved. She stressed the importance of parish nurses/faith community nurses in speaking up for the people we are privileged to serve. She envisions this as the best in community nursing.

Everyone departed on Sunday after renewing old friendships and making new ones. It was a wonderful opportunity to network with nurses from all across the country and from neighboring Canada. The symposium was a profound experience that inspired attendees to go out and live what was learned with the goal of trying to make the world a better place.

By Liz O'Connor, RN From "Partners in Health" Holy Cross Hospital, Faith Community Nurse Program Silver Spring, Maryland Used with permission
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Author:O'Connor, Liz
Publication:Parish Nurse Perspectives
Geographic Code:1U5MD
Date:Jun 22, 2009
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