The University of South Florida hopes to further cement its place among the upper echelon of nursing institutions by expanding its global reach.
Officials with the USF Health College of Nursing recently signed agreements of understanding with two universities in Sicily that will provide opportunities for global exchanges among faculty and students. That includes training, internships, research efforts, professional development and sharing technological expertise.
Dr. Usha Menon, VP for USF Health and dean of the College of Nursing, said the new partnerships with Kore University of Enna and the University of Catania will help the school offer students “a best-in-class education.” She noted that the nation’s top nursing institutions all offer extensive global engagement programs.
“They’re doing some fabulous research there, just as we are,” said Menon of the Sicilian schools. “Very closely connected to some of the work we’re doing here. I’m hoping that we can set up some robust collaborations that could lead to good joint research projects.”
U.S. News & World Report, noted Menon, started rating undergraduate nursing programs last year. She said it has always included USF among the nation’s best in its graduate school rankings but left the school off its inaugural bachelor’s degree list.
The prestigious publication placed the USF College of Nursing’s bachelor’s program 51st in the country this year, and ranked it as the second-best in Florida. Menon believes the concerted effort to expand its global engagement will “add to the cache” as it hopes to rise in the rankings and bolster its reputation for excellence.
The newest international partnerships, explained Menon, were the brainchild of Dr. Rosemary Ferdinand.
Ferdinand, of Sicilian descent, is a double-lung transplant survivor who received care from Tampa General Hospital and USF Health. She is also a former nurse.
Menon relayed that Ferdinand travels to Sicily frequently and first approached her with the idea to partner with the nursing schools in Kore and Catania during the pandemic. Menon began developing those plans earlier this year.
Ferdinand’s philanthropic contributions allowed Menon and other faculty to travel to Sicily in late September. They toured the schools, hospitals, clinical facilities and research laboratories.
Dr. Barbara Smith, a College of Nursing professor, and Dr. Jennifer Kue, an associate professor, also conducted classes for Kore students during the trip. Menon said the “brand new” school in a small town is known for its innovative educational offerings.
“They have some amazing stuff going on there,” she said. “For example, they have one of the 10-best scientific research centers in the world.”
The University of Catania, explained Menon, is a complete contrast to its counterpart in Kore. She said the school is over 500 years old, well-established and known for its research efforts.
While Menon said the school is conducting critical work in neonatal (newborn) care, she noted that its nursing program is small. School officials just hired its first physicians as dedicated faculty members.
Ferdinand joined Menon and her team on the trip, and officials from the respective universities signed collaborative agreements before returning to Tampa.
“It was wonderful for her to see this little gem of an idea she had to grow and blossom into a beautiful engagement,” said Menon.
The College of Nursing will take local students to Sicily, she said, where they will experience the Italian healthcare system. She called it “quite interesting” and relayed they would also learn from physicians conducting “cutting-edge” procedures.
Menon said bringing Sicilian students and faculty to Tampa Bay is also a critical aspect of the partnership. She expects to welcome the first cohort to USF in September 2023 and stressed that the program is much more than just sending local students abroad.
“Quite often, we only do it one way,” added Menon.
The College of Nursing previously had similar partnerships with the University of Scotland and Panama, said Menon, and will take 16 students to Columbia in the spring. She called the Sicilian collaborations an extension of those affiliations.
Menon appointed new directors to oversee the college’s global expansion, including through Europe and Asia. She believes that initiative – along with student excellence, best-in-class curriculum and successful alumni – will further propel the College of Nursing’s reputation as an industry leader.
“We’re just grateful that we have partners like Dr. Ferdinand in the community that believe in what nursing can do and help provide those resources to get started,” said Menon. “This is her dream.”