Bridging the Atlantic gains international attention

Program provides opportunities for student nurses to improve health outcomes in the U.S. and Portugal.

Maryellen Brisbois, Helder Rocha Pereira, students in Bridging the Atlantic project
L-R: Dr. Maryellen Brisbois, Dr. Helder Rocha Pereira, Carolina Camara of the University of the Azores, James Aiguier '18, Ana Teresa Teves of the University of the Azores, and Veronica Fernandes '18

We live in a global society, so nursing education and experiences must reflect that reality.

UMass Dartmouth's relationship with Portugal provided a perfect opportunity to develop a specialized program for student nurses to improve health outcomes in both countries. Assistant Professor Maryellen Brisbois, RPhD, RN, and Dr. Helder Pereira of the University of the Azores co-created Bridging the Atlantic: International Alliance in Community Health Nursing.

Since its inception in 2015, students, faculty, and related agencies on both sides of the Atlantic have worked closely with men and women deported from the U.S. to Portugal, their families, Portuguese elders, and fishermen/women to provide education and strategies to promote health and quality of life.

"We worked with deportees  and their families, and the Bristol County detention center," said Brisbois. "We were successful in being change agents to ensure information regarding health and medications were relayed with them. With our common goal, we capture perspectives from each country and are able to more readily engage nurses, social services agencies, and the government to improve the quality of life for these people."

Network Toward Unity For Health conference

The program received international attention at the Network Toward Unity For Health conference in Limerick, Ireland, in mid-August. Brisbois and Pereira, along with UMassD nursing graduates James Aiguier '18 of Taunton, and Veronica Fernandes '18 of Dartmouth, and Ana Teresa Teves and Carolina Camara from the University of the Azores, participated. The students presented three posters about the program.

"It is imperative in today's global society that nurses are open minded, culturally competent, and open to collaborative efforts on behalf of vulnerable individual groups," said Brisbois.

Bridging the Atlantic is an active student and faculty exchange between the UMassD College of Nursing and the University of the Azores that has included 84 students and 26 faculty members over four years, as well as student research initiatives presented both locally and internationally. Faculty have published four manuscripts and one book chapter.

More information


College of Nursing & Health Sciences, Features Magazine