Monday, April 18, 2011
It only takes a few moments engaged in conversation with Dr. Rafida Idris to realize she has an infatuation with her occupation. A professor of nutritional sciences in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at SC State University, Idris’ love for nursing goes as far back as her childhood in Bangladesh. “My parents were teachers but my maternal grandfather was a doctor,” says Idris. “In our country we had a shortage of nurses, and even in childhood when I visited people in the hospital, it would make me sad watching patients who were hurting and asking for help, but there was only one nurse for maybe 25 people.”
Although there are more nurses here in the United States, Idris believes that nursing is a noble profession to pursue. “It deals with caring for people,” notes Idris. “So, when I teach nursing students, in the back of my mind, I believe that if I can enlighten them with knowledge in nutrition, they’ll be able to serve as a potential caregiver to people in need, when they are suffering,” similar to the noble nurses who assisted people in Bangladesh. “You don’t have to be a celebrity to make a difference in life,” says Idris.
It wasn’t celebrity that landed Idris in the spotlight recently, but rather her love for nutritional sciences and nursing, as well as an affinity that she has developed for her students, that has prompted her to become the recipient of the 2011 Program of Nursing’s Dream Maker Award. In a letter written to Idris by professor Bobbie J. Perdue, the Dream Maker Award is noted as an award “bestowed upon faculty members in the University community who have contributed to the success of nursing students by engaging them in their studies, teaching them scholarly and caring aspects of a professional nurse role, and helping them to make their dreams of becoming a professional nurse a reality.”
“I am happy and I’m surprised,” says Idris in response to receiving the prestigious award. “It is nice to be appreciated by students as well as teachers.”
The appreciation that Idris is receiving more than likely stems from her hard work. As a teacher of the undergraduate nutrition & food management program and teacher/coordinator of the nutritional sciences graduate program of Family & Consumer Sciences, Idris always emphasizes the importance of ‘research’. “The multi-state collaborative USDA research, W1005 that I am doing now with 1890 Research of this institution deals with prevention of childhood obesity in high risk families”, says Idris. “People need to know how obesity influences the chronic diseases that we develop later in life, like different types of cancer, diabetes and hypertension. Nurses really need to know how critical the nutritional implications of food behavior are to diseases, along with the medical science that they are learning as a part of their clinical treatment.” The research project is a five-year collaboration between 25 states in the United States, investigating how social behaviors like child and mother interaction can influence youth’s eating patterns. The role of mothers is believed to play a crucial role in imparting healthy habits in children early in life, thus building a healthy nation.
Idris focuses heavily on what all nurses should know. “A lot of diseases have a deep-rooted connection with what we eat and how we stay active throughout the day”, states Idris. “Nurses need to know the nutritional picture and activity pattern of a client or patient, along with their medical diagnosis, so that they can effectively assist doctors and dietitians in the treatment regime.”
With long hours of research and teaching experiences in nutrition, food science and applied community interventions applicable in hospitals, Idris, a graduate of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La. and Dhaka University in Bangladesh, is more than qualified for her esteemed honor. According to Perdue, program of nursing professor and principal investigator for the “Expanding Enrollment in Nursing” grant, Idris works long hours conducting research, teaching nursing and family consumer sciences students and socializing with nursing students, helping them to see the connection between good nutritional practices and the health of their clients, as well as their own nutritional practices and their perceived health. “The program of nursing’s faculty and students view Dr. Idris as a superb faculty member who is willing to go the extra mile to help nursing students succeed,” says Perdue.
Idris, a six-year employee of SC State University, is happy with her new award and ready to prepare more students for her beloved profession. “This is one of the most needed programs because medical doctors need educated nurses,” says Idris. “If I can help them become a better nurse, then they in turn might help the community.”