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Meet Maura Lash BSN, MPH- New ATHNA Secretary
ATHNA is happy to announce that Maura Lash has accepted the vacant position of secretary effective immediately. Recently Gail Rosselot interviewed Maura on the phone and this profile is a short introduction to the newest member of the ATHNA Leadership team:
How did you get into nursing?
Two reasons- I was in a body cast for 4 months as a child and really valued the great nursing care. I think I started to consider nursing as a career then. The other reason was the TV show “ER.”While in high school, I saw an episode about working in a refugee camp and I saw how “medicine can cross borders.” I knew that was something I wanted to do.
Where did you get your nursing degree?
I attended the University of Pittsburg and earned my BSN in 2011. While there I also spent 3 months in rural China on as part of a study abroad program focused on Community Health and Traditional Chinese Medicine practices. Even though I had yet to hear about the specialty, I guess you could say my interest in travel health really began then.
After college I returned home to Philadelphia and worked on a General Medicine floor at Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. It was a very concentrated nursing experience with a lot of cardiac care, but after 2.5 years I was ready for a change. So I started to travel to figure out “what next”.
Where have your traveled internationally?
After leaving the hospital position, I traveled throughout Central and South America for a year. In Peru, I worked in a local clinic and saw several cases of TB. It was a great introduction to global infectious disease. Since then I have worked in the DRC on malaria prevention and traveled to Tanzania as well as South East Asia. Saying which destination is my favorite would be hard...
How did you get involved with ATHNA?
I have Kate Spruit to thank. After returning from South America I started the Emory MPH program and did an internship at the Travel Health Branch at the CDC. I was able to work with Kate who really inspired me and introduced me to ATHNA. In the past year I have worked on the Communications Committee and partnered with Julie Richards to identify an online learning management system for ATHNA that will support the new ATHNA CE Initiative.
What are you doing now?
Well, I just started an exciting new position two weeks ago as a nurse epidemiologist in NYC. Officially I am a “Zika Investigator” with the Dept. of Health, responsible for tracking pregnant women exposed to Zika and monitoring infants born to mothers with laboratory evidence of Zika virus. Already I am working with pediatricians and nurse practitioners around the city to identify these women and infants and educate practitioners about the most recent CDC clinical guidelines for the management of Infants with possible congenital Zika Virus Infection. Additionally, I’m working to expand nurses’ roles in Zika surveillance and response. I have been reaching out to nurse managers on L&D, nursery, and NICU units at various facilities in NYC so that the DOH will have a direct line of connection with the hospital staff, besides the Chief Obstetrician. I think sometime people overlook nursing contributions. Nurses are there with the patients all day every day and often provide the education and, at times, the comfort that families need prior to discharge. So I think it’s very important to include the nursing community in our education and response outreach efforts.
When you are not traveling internationally, studying at Emory or starting a new job, how do you like to spend your “free” time?
Hmm with the new job and transition to a new city, my free time is pretty much limited to walking my sister’s Pitbull mix, Fred, while trying to orient myself to NYC and explore new areas. Also, thanks to wonderful conversations with Julie about career ideas and maintaining my clinical skills, I am taking the ASTMH exam in November. So when not at work or out with Fred, I’m usually buried in Tropical Infectious Diseases: Principles, Pathogens and Practice.
What do you say to nurses who are thinking about travel health as an expanded nursing role and about joining ATHNA?
Don’t let anyone dictate what you can or cannot do with a nursing degree. Find what you’re passionate about and create your own path, even if it seems others have not gone there before. There are so many valuable skills inherent in a nursing degree so just run with it and create your dream job! For me that’s travel health and joining ATHNA has been such a valuable experience. From speaking with other ATHNA members, I have learned the numerous, varied backgrounds and skills nurses contribute to this expanding field. Being a member of ATHNA has not only inspired me, but helped guide me to where I am today.
Travel Health Nursing is a growing nursing specialty devoted to the care of the international traveler. The mission of the American Travel Health Nurses Association is to promote excellence in travel health nursing practice, education, and research in North America.
ATHNA is tax-exempt under Section 501(c) (3) of the US Internal Revenue Service and is registered with the NY State Charities Bureau.