Jasintha Mtengezo knows what it means to be a leader in nursing and education in Malawi.
Jasintha grew up in Mzimba, a northern region of Malawi. When she was just a young girl, her father became sick and quickly passed away. But through the incredibly difficulty of that time, she noticed around her the kindness and compassion that the nurses extended to her father. These incredible nurses inspired her to pursue her own career in nursing.
Jasintha is currently the Dean of Faculty at Daeyang University School of Nursing in Malawi and enrolled as a PhD student at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. After receiving her Bachelor’s in nursing and eventually a Master of Public Health degree, she gained experience working as a nurse at the bedside and then administrator on her way towards her current leadership post at Daeyang.
“I wanted to focus on women and their health,” says Jasintha, “Here in Malawi we have a high rate of HIV/AIDS. Yet because of antiretroviral therapies, women are surviving. Still, many are dying of other preventable diseases.”
As Jasintha notes, women continue to be a disadvantaged group in Malawi, and as a result often do not get the preventative care they need to avert diseases like cancer, pneumonia, or heart disease. For instance, Malawi has the highest rates of cervical cancer incidence and mortality in the world. Caused by human papillomavirus, this disease is more common in HIV-positive women. So while they may be surviving HIV/AIDS, many are still dying from cervical cancer.
Jasintha is ready to change that. With support from Seed Global Health, as part of her PhD studies, she will be conducting research to determine the prevalence of cervical cancer screening rates and assess levels of knowledge and attitudes regarding cervical cancer. She will also examine the factors associated with screening behavior among Malawian HIV-positive women.
Jasintha hopes that the study results will inform targeted educational interventions to prevent cervical cancer among this at-risk population in Malawi. “This kind of evidence based practice in medicine is extremely important,” she notes, “and by conducting sharing research, clinicians can change the way they practice, and improve patient outcomes,” says Jasintha.
Research and evidence-based medicine is so important to reducing the burden of disease in Malawi, and Jasintha is passionate about helping her students embrace that: “This knowledge can be used to empower nurses. If these young nurses are informed, then they can pass the information on to their patients and the community.”