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Dr. Constance Lawrence honored in Dublin conference

by Alaina Jonathan
Tue, Apr 16th 2019 10:00 pm

Empathy, compassion and a love for teaching are just some of the attributes that make Dr. Constance Lawrence tick. As the director of the Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at The College at Brockport, she not only spearheads a number of health awareness study abroad programs, but also drives her students to do the best in and out of the classroom.

After graduating from The College at Brockport in 2001 and returning in 2013 to take a full-time position, Lawrence was able expand her horizons on how she impacts others.

“I had such an excellent experience as a student here and such good mentors from the faculty helping me to grow and be a good nurse that when it came time for me to transition into education there was absolutely no choice,” Lawrence said.

She had the opportunity to start two health-based study abroad programs since she began full time, one in Ireland and another in Peru.

In 2012, faculty from St. John Fisher College, University at Buffalo and The College at Brockport took a group of students to Peru for the first time. Since 2012, either Lawrence or other faculty continue to travel to teach proper nutrition, sexual and reproductive health and dental care to the people in Belize and Peru.

“The populations are underserved,” Lawrence said. “The walk to major services or a grocery store are a day or two away for the villagers.”

This program is so immersive that often times the host families will keep in contact with the students and faculty.

“It’s an experience that will feed your soul for the rest of your life,” Lawrence said. “The level of trust now when we go has definitely grown and that is through the hard work of the students, of Sacred Valley Health and the faculty that goes with these students.”

In December of 2018, Constance Lawrence was conferred as a Fellow Ad Eundem of the Royal College of Surgeons and Midwifery in Dublin, Ireland. She, along with five students, traveled to give podium presentations on different topics ranging from plant-based nutrition to empowering a nursing workforce to respond in emergencies. Out of the five students, four presented on behalf of the college.

“I think one of the things that is hard for students is research and igniting the spirit of inquiry enough to practice it,” Lawrence said.

Igniting this spirit is something she strives to find in everyone she meets, whether it’s in the classroom or as a nurse.

“When you start to wear the hat as a nurse, you have a triple stake,” Lawrence said. “One, you’re going to be a patient. Two, your family is going to be your patients, and there are going to be patients and strangers you’re going to bond and make relationships with.”

Her compassion is what drove her to pursue a career in nursing. As a teenager, she worked in a nursing home as a nursing aid.

“I’ve always felt really bonded with older people and always felt that people didn’t understand how much that they had to offer and listen to their stories,” Lawrence said. “I was always drawn to that.”

For the last 27 years, she was able to work at St. Mary’s in the inner city of Rochester.

“I work with an underserved population,” Lawrence said. “Many are marginalized because they’re an immigrant, they have a mental health problem, they’re homeless or have a substance abuse issue. I just really think that every day I interact with someone I am able to see something through a different lens.”

Although nursing is something she is passionate about and enjoys, she is on a three-year track towards retirement.

“I have amazing colleagues in this department and there are so many people to pass the wand to and who are passionate about the same things I am so there aren’t going to be any problems with these programs continuing to blossom and grow,” Lawrence said.

She plans on practicing yoga and getting more involved with alternative health practices once she steps down from teaching.

“I’m only one nurse and faculty member in a big picture, and I think if I were to impress anything is that I would not be able to do what I do if it weren’t for the amazing support that I get from the department and the college,” Lawrence said. “A lot of the success that is owed for these things is to the people as well, their support means so much.”

Students feel the impact Lawrence has on people and the dedication she has for her students makes her a great teacher. 

“What’s important to me is to make the world a better place than when I came and if I can positively impact one person I’ve changed the world with one interaction,” Lawrence said. “If I can touch one student, one patient and help them be a better person or a better nurse, I’ve made a good change in the world.”

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