Nursing Student Receives School's Inaugural 'Global Visionary Award'

September 08, 2009

September 8, 2009 — The University of Virginia School of Nursing's International Initiatives Committee awarded Tim Cunningham its first-ever Global Visionary Award.

Given at the Aug. 1 Clinical Nurse Leader pinning ceremony, the award honors a "nursing student in any track who demonstrates exceptional leadership in the design and implementation of projects that extend the School of Nursing's service in the area of global health."

After reviewing the work Cunningham has done in two years at U.Va. and reading the nomination letters, the committee's support was unanimous.

"It's an honor to receive the Global Visionary Student Award," Cunningham said. "Maybe the existence of this award will encourage other students to challenge the status quo and seek unique, international and innovative ways to address health issues."

According to one letter of nomination, Cunningham has "effectively built on the international experience he had prior to matriculation. He demonstrated leadership regarding international work beginning with his first semester at U.Va. School of Nursing. … He engages faculty and peers in thinking globally, mentors younger students, and in the process challenges all to see their own lives through a broader prism."

Cunningham graduated from the College of William & Mary in 2000 with a B.A. in English. He is a professional clown and one of the founders of Clowns Without Borders. Cunningham has traveled to Haiti, Mexico and South Africa to bring smiles to the faces of ill children.

With a passion for global health, he enrolled in the U.Va. School of Nursing's Clinical Nurse Leader program and has been involved in international activities from the beginning of his nursing curriculum.

"We live in a time when I think it would be foolish not to look outside of our boundaries, borders and cultures to learn about how other people manage health and health care," Cunningham said. "It is easy to get stuck in our own belief systems and forget to think outside of the box to look for ways to improve health services."

One example of Cunningham's international initiatives was his participation in the "Photovoice" project. In July 2008, Cunningham traveled to a small village in South Africa's Limpopo Province, where he teamed with representatives from different schools across Grounds to complete a qualitative, interdisciplinary community assessment. Cunningham has presented this community-based, participatory research through photography at several national and international conferences. Portions of the "Photovoice" project were recently displayed in the Newcomb Hall Art Gallery.

— by Hannah Walker