Abby Mustread was born in Bloomington but her heart belongs to Africa.
“Every summer since I was 17, I’d go to West Africa for two or three months,” she said. “I’ve visited orphanages and volunteered at clinics and hospitals. In the summer of 2017, I actually volunteered for a pop-up clinic and I loved it. Absolutely loved it. I’d like to build something like that.”
The senior nursing major eventually wants to move to West Africa and start a mobile medical unit and non-profit that trains African nurses.
Not just a novelty nurse
“I’m really passionate about West Africa, and that’s where I intend to move eventually,” Mustread said. “But I don’t want to move there and just be some novelty nurse. There is such a need there for the quick pop-ups and so much more because their medical systems are so terrible.”
According to Mustread, “nurses” in Africa are often trained at a level equivalent to a patient care technician or a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in the United States.
“When you build a formal clinic, you can only serve so many people,” she said. “So, my goal is to build something more like a mobile medical unit. I would train nurses either one-on-one or bring in visiting professors and do an intense 18-month program. These people would speak the language and know the culture. Together we could do so much more than just I could do. The mobile unit would have diagnostic capabilities and a team of doctors. So that’s kind of my huge 10, 15-year vision.”
A big vision means hard work
Mustread understands how massive her vision is. She also knows in order to make it happen she has a lot of work to do.
“I go into class with the mindset that I need to absorb every bit of this,” she said. “Each class has been so enriching because I never think, ‘Oh, that’s not my interest area. Let me just get through it.’ I know that everything I’m learning here is something I will ultimately take with me to Africa, so I’m that front and center person saying ‘Teach me everything you know!’”
Mustread does not just talk about making an impact. Her desire to drive change has shaped her journey at Illinois State.
“I’m really involved in the international community,” she said. “My freshman year, I was a student worker for the English Language Institute (ELI). It doesn’t exist now, but during my time there I started a conversation partner program that paired ELI students with ISU students. They would meet once a week to talk and form connections.”
During her time at lllinois State, Mustread has also worked for the Literature, Languages, and Cultures Department and served as the head student worker for Managerial Development International, a French-speaking professional development program for people from all over the world. She is fluent in French and successfully fought for a plan of study allowing nursing students to take a minor in a foreign language.
A passion for serving her community
Mustread’s drive doesn’t end on campus. During her own time, Abby has started teaching a free, weekly English as a Second Language (ESL) class aimed at supporting migrants, refugees, and the community.
“We actually have a large Congolese population here in Bloomington, who come fleeing the Congo,” she said. They are well-educated people – doctors, lawyers – fleeing genocide, basically. The fact that they can flee is because they have a little bit more money than the rest. Then they come here and are janitors, or taxi drivers, or can’t find work because their English is not good. It breaks my heart,” Abby explains seriously. Then she smiles, “We teach them free English and help them connect to the community. It’s the best two hours of my weekend. It always amazes me that such simple things can make such a large impact.”
Mennonite College of Nursing’s (MCN) mission is to educate exceptionally well-prepared nurses who strive to improve health locally and globally. Mustread is the embodiment of the mission and it is unsurprising MCN faculty nominated her for the Bone Scholar, Illinois State University’s highest undergraduate recognition. It is even more unsurprising that Mustread was selected for the honor.
Abby’s advice for students starting their journey is simple.
“Take advantage of every opportunity. Taking chances can be intimidating and scary, but you’ll never regret doing it. You’ll always regret not.”
This story was originally printed as part of the 2017-2018 issue of The Flame Magazine.
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