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(March 8, 2001, Gazette)

Bringing worlds together

Dr. Maureen LaryeaBy Sharon Gray

Photo by HSIMS

Dr. Maureen Laryea

Dr. Maureen Laryea, Nursing, has worked in five different cultures and is a strong advocate of international and cross-cultural outreach.

She did her midwifery nursing training in South Africa and then went to Britain to qualify as a midwifery teacher. “I enjoyed delivering babies, but the most important part to me was the post-partum aspect – what happens to the mother once she has the baby.”

Following that interest, she began researching the post-natal care offered by midwives and eventually earned her doctorate from the University of Ulster. Her research was on a cross-cultural study of how women prepare themselves before childbirth. “I was looking at how pregnant women who are going to have their deliveries in hospital prepare themselves by educating themselves about labour. I studied women in Britain and in Canada, mostly in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.”

When Dr. Laryea joined the nursing faculty at Memorial in 1989, she became extremely interested in international work. She joined the Canadian Council of Multicultural Health, and for many years served as president of the local branch. “I encourage students to join, and to make presentations about any visits to other countries or cultures. I like to socialize people into thinking internationally.”

In the early days of her career, working in South Africa,
Dr. Laryea faced many challenges such as teaching midwifery in Namibia in the Afrikaans language. Despite some difficulties with the language, 95 per cent of her class passed. She also worked with various tribes and discovered that even when she didn’t know the language, she could communicate non-verbally with a bit of sign language and a big smile.

During her years at Memorial, Dr. Laryea has worked in Goose Bay, delivering babies, and in Belize with nursing colleagues Purnima Sen and Dr. Lan Gien as well as Dr. Albert Kozma, Psychology, on a project to train mental health nurses. Most recently, she has been involved with a nursing team headed by Dr. Gien (and including Purnima Sen and Judith Blakely) on a five-year project in Vietnam to improve the education of primary health care workers in that country.

The School of Nursing is now in the process of establishing an International Centre, co-chaired by Drs. Laryea and Gien. Starting this fall, Dr. Laryea will be on sabbatical and it is no surprise that part of her work during the year will be in South Africa, where she will look at future development projects that will include links with Memorial.

“For me, it is important to work cross-culturally. It humbles you every time.”

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