Karen Schell discovered Nova’s College of Health Care Sciences’ masters program at a conference for respiratory therapists. Although Schell’s busy work schedule did not permit her much free time, with the support of her professors, after completing her coursework, she enrolled in the Doctor of Health Sciences program. This program enabled her to meet individual who would eventually changed her life.
According to Schell (M.S. '07), the nature of a respiratory therapist’s responsibilities “keeps your eyes open to the community and its needs.” However, she says, “I wanted to do something that was bigger than myself. Looking to what practitioners were doing in the international community, she soon learned of Charity beyond Borders (CBB) and its founder Lisa Trujillo.
CBB provides medical education to health care professionals, free medical clinics and support to underserved communities, disburses medical equipment and educational supplies to targeted areas, and establishes partnerships that fosters future exchanges between Ghana and the U.S. Little did Schell know that Trujillo was enrolled in the very same doctoral program. Recognizing her name in the class roster, she contacted Trujillo about her work.
“Before I knew it, our conversations turned from ‘how do you get your foot in the door?’ to ‘would you like to come with me on my next mission?’” says Schell. Researching with her husband, the two decided to participate in CBB’s June 2011 mission to Ghana. “The experience is truly heartwarming. It’s hard to think about it without getting emotional. We are always sad to leave, but know we must return home to continue working.”
She continues, “Not only have Lisa and I sustained a great friendship, doing mission work has opened many doors for me.” With Schell as the Speaker of the House for the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) in the state of Kansas, the organization has adopted Ghana as their cause célèbre. On behalf of the organization, she completed a motorcycle ride to collect money. She traveled across the state, picking up hospital supplies.
She also conducted a similar supply drive in the state of Utah, where Trujillo is a professor at Weber State University. While they have secured storage for the donated items, they are now in need of shipping containers (currently those on the mission carry supplies in suitcases).
Currently, Schell states her biggest challenge has been time management. “It’s not easy working full-time, handling several projects, and trying to keep up with school. Not only that, but also finding time for family.”
She plans to present at the KRCS (Kansas Respiratory Care Society) state meeting to explain goals and resources needed for the next mission. “This is fun for me,” Schell laughs. “I found a part of myself I never would have discovered. It’s a great reward, when you see the need and how much the people appreciate what you are doing.”
Charity beyond Borders welcomes all donations and medical supplies. On the horizon, Schell states she and Trujillo plan to establish a Respiratory Program in Ghana. Through an international roundtable with the AARC (American Association of Respiratory Care) “This will take our volunteer efforts worldwide. Organizations and individuals can coordinate resources and donations.” She also is planning a medical mission to Haiti with another respiratory therapist, for a week at a time, during the months of October and April. “This is going to be a great year for us.”