Junior nursing major Richard Hackett (right) and Dr. Cordonero (left) take a break at Hospital Dr. Humberto Alvarado
in Masaya, Nicaragua. Hackett interned at the hospital for 10 weeks alongside
doctors in emergency and labor and delivery as part of the USF Sarlo Scholar program.
When a roadside bomb exploded a Humvee in his convoy in Iraq,
U.S. Army Private Richard Hackett was quick to apply the basic first-aid he’d
Hackett told the soldier he’d be okay. He applied pressure
and bandaged the wound. Then, he loaded the wounded man into his own Humvee and
drove him as fast as he could to a hospital.
“Inside, I felt complete panic,” said Hackett, now a junior in
USF’s bachelor of science nursing program, recalling the 2003 attack. “This guy
could have bled to death right in front of me. I didn’t know how to stop it.”
The memory of that assault was one of many that the two-tour
veteran brought with him when he enrolled in USF’s School of Nursing. And, truth
be told, it was the pain and suffering he saw so regularly while serving abroad
that made him want to study nursing.
“It gave me the feeling that there was so much more that I
could do in situations like that,” Hackett said.
Hackett, who left high school and earned a GED, took war
experience, plus two years of training at the School of Nursing, to Nicaragua this
past summer. There, he spent 10 weeks working in a public hospital alongside
doctors in the emergency and labor and delivery departments.
“The hardest thing was seeing wound infection complications
that needed more advanced care than we had the materials to provide,” said Hackett,
who documented some of his experiences in a blog. Such infections, caught early, are easily treated in
the West thereby avoiding an operation, or, worse, an amputation.
But, in Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western
hemisphere, hospitals are divided into two categories, more or less, Hackett
said. Public hospitals deliver free and low-cost care with minimal resources to
90 percent of the population and private hospitals provide care that is
comparable to that found in the U.S.
Hackett took the fully funded trip as one of 10 USF’s Sarlo
Scholars – half traveling to Nicaragua, half to Uganda in summer 2009. The Sarlo Foundation program at USF, a Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good initiative , was designed to go beyond the
university’s usual week or two-week immersion trips. Now in it’s second year, participants
are placed “in country” for more than two months, where they learn from living with
host families and applying their professional skills working for community
organizations through a partnership with the nonprofit Foundation for Sustainable Development .
The program, which focuses on service-learning efforts in
the areas of health care, the environment, human rights, and education, is
designed to be more than a “drive-by” of the poor in the developing world, said
Julie Reed, director of service-learning at USF. “It’s connected to USF’s
mission and the Catholic mission of educating hearts and minds to change the
Hackett, who aspires to be a nurse practitioner, hopes his
skills ultimately allow him to expand his efforts for improve health and
community and have a “positive impact on people’s lives.”
“This program opened my eyes to a whole lot of things and
taught me to think more critically about relationships between nations and
short- and long-term effects of charity measures,” Hackett said.
Hackett wasn't alone in his eye-opening experience abroad. Other USF Sarlo Scholars service-learning projects included assisting to establish a pig farming business for a women's group in Uganda, educating entrepreneurs in microfinance and borrowing in Uganda, and providing vocational training for at-risk youth in Nicaragua.