Griffin’s Gift Opens the Door to a New World for Nursing Students

For Olivia Griffin, BSN ’67, travel has been its own kind of classroom. And with the newly created Olivia Womble Griffin Global Nursing Scholarship, she will broaden the horizons of nursing students for years to come.

Griffin’s scholarship will support a global health experience for an undergraduate nursing student each year, an idea inspired by Griffin’s own experiences caring for underserved patients in Africa and Bolivia.

“The beauty of giving back to the School of Nursing is that you can pair what you’re interested in with what the students at the school need,” she says. “I’ve been going to various countries to work in clinical settings all my adult life, and experiencing nursing abroad is a valuable learning experience so unlike just being a tourist.”

Griffin is part of the School’s dynamic Class of 1967, a group that has remained close to one another – and the School – for more than 50 years. She says this scholarship is how she can honor those relationships and show gratitude for her nursing education.

When Griffin was in her late 20s and working as a nurse in the Catawba County health department, she was encouraged to go on a mission trip. Coming from rural Scotland County in southeast North Carolina to Chapel Hill as a student had already been “quite a jolt,” she says.

“There was little diversity in that small town and coming to Carolina broadened my outlook.”

Serving patients in another country further opened her eyes, giving her a deep affection for other cultures. Griffin fell in love with helping patients abroad, and with her husband, an ophthalmologist, she has traveled across the world many times to treat underserved populations. Together they have inspired their children and grandchildren to embark on mission trips through church and clubs, as well.

Not all students have the means or opportunity to travel, Griffin says. It’s difficult to have global experiences when you’re in school, and you have to work. This scholarship is intended to ease that burden and allow for learning in new and meaningful ways.

“This is what I can do for our students,” she says. “I would hope that it opens their eyes to the differences in cultures and allows them to appreciate those differences while realizing we all have the same basic needs. I hope they will be touched by what they can receive by being in places that are so unlike what we have here in the United States.”