Jasintha Mtengezo: From Rural Malawian Girl to UMass Boston PhD

By November 15, 2018Uncategorized

One of the joys of being part of the Mary K Center for Global Development is getting the chance to work with inspiring people. Jasintha Mtengezo is one such person.

(Jasintha surrounded by University of Massachusetts Boston faculty after successfully defending her doctoral dissertation. Left to right: Ling Shi, Ph.D.; MarySue Makin, MD; Jasintha Mtengezo, Ph.D.; Haeok Lee, Ph.D.; Mary Cooley, Ph.D.)

Jasintha surrounded by University of Massachusetts Boston faculty after successfully defending her doctoral dissertation. Left to right: Ling Shi, Ph.D.; MarySue Makin, MD; Jasintha Mtengezo, Ph.D.; Haeok Lee, Ph.D.; Mary Cooley, Ph.D.

Jasintha is currently the Dean of Faculty at Daeyang College of Nursing and Midwifery in Malawi. Just last month, she successfully defended her dissertation (“Knowledge and Attitudes Regarding Cervical Cancer Screening Among Women Living with HIV/AIDs in Malawi: A Cross-Sectional Study.”) and received her Ph.D. in Nursing with a focus on Population Health from the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Jasintha’s Journey

While it would be easy to focus on this part of her story, much of what makes a story great isn’t the triumphant ending, but rather the arduous journey of getting there. In her own words, Jasintha brings us to the genesis of her incredible achievements.

“I grew up in a rural area in Mzimba District in the northern region of Malawi. I lost my father when I was 5 years old and I grew up with my mother. Life was not easy for a woman to raise eight children. But through the difficulty that my family faced during the sickness of my father and the kindness and compassion that the nurses extended to my father, they inspired my father and mother. It was their dream that I should be a nurse. Their dream was realized when I was selected to pursue nursing at Kamuzu College of Nursing.”

Jasintha went on to receive a Diploma in Nursing, a Certificate of Midwifery, and, after nearly 10 years of clinical service, returned to Kamuzu College of Nursing to complete a BSc in Nursing Education.  In 2008 she expanded her expertise to include administration by earning a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Malawi College of Medicine.

Only 4 years later in 2012, she met Haeok Lee Ph.D., RN, FAAN, a nursing professor at UMass Boston.  Jasintha was in her first term as Dean of Faculty at Daeyang College of Nursing and Dr. Lee had come in to train the faculty on community-based participatory nursing research. Dr. Lee saw Jasintha’s great potential and began talking to her about their doctoral program. Finally, in 2014, Jasintha hopped on a 22-hour flight to Boston to join the program, leaving behind her job, friends, family, and home.

Veronica Maluwa (left) with Haeok Lee, Ph.D. (middle) and Jasintha Mtengezo (right) at Daeyang College of Nursing

Veronica Maluwa (left) with Haeok Lee, Ph.D. (middle) and Jasintha Mtengezo (right) at Daeyang College of Nursing

She worked hard for several years, making her mark with accolades such as the Anne Kibrick Award for Excellence in Nursing Profession and Education (2016) and the Ph.D. Nursing Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award (2017). In addition, she was awarded several research grants to study HIV in Malawi and contributed to a book entitled A New Era: Global Health, published in 2018.

Connecting with the Mary K Center for Global Nursing Development

Earlier this year, we welcomed Jasintha’s wealth of knowledge and experience as a key member of the planning committee for the Building Capacity for Nursing and Midwifery Leadership Conference in Africa. Jasintha was also a vital part of the event in Malawi, participating both as a moderator and as a panelist, helping to lead and inspire nurses into a more empowered future.

When asked about her life now, she responded, “I feel blessed! I have learned that there are incredible nurses and faculty in the health care system.  These nurses have inspired me to pursue my nursing career with commitment, kindness, and compassion.”

She continues to be an important partner with us as we work together to advance nursing and midwifery in Malawi. She has reported that a big lesson she has learned along the way is that “We are all equal in the eyes of God.”   With that foundation, it is no wonder that her competence and compassion leave indelible marks on everyone she meets.