Collaboration with Brazilian University Expands to Psychiatric and Addictions Nursing

“I know that people’s lives can be transformed, and that recovery is possible.”

“Brazil’s model of education and public health care is very different from ours, so there are great opportunities to learn from one another,” says University of Michigan School of Nursing Clinical Associate Professor Stephen Strobbe, PhD, RN. Dr. Strobbe’s clinical practice and research focus on substance use, mental health, treatment, and recovery. He recently returned from a two-week visiting professorship at University of São Paulo (USP) College of Nursing at Ribeirão Preto.

“It was an opportunity to meet with faculty and students who have shared interests,” says Dr. Dr. Strobbe giving a presentationStrobbe. “Their university has a strong program to begin addressing issues around substance use at each level of nursing studies: undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and post-doctoral.”

The partnership of UMSN and USP builds upon previous faculty visits to both campuses and ongoing research collaborations. In the future, UMSN will be utilizing a U-M Rackham Grant for the Global Engagement of Doctoral Education to increase the role of students participating in global research. In addition, both universities are World Health Organization Collaborating Centers.

U-M and Brazilian collaborations were highlighted in September 2012 when U-M President Mary Sue Coleman led a faculty delegation that included a stop at USP. “We have partnered with Brazil for many years and witnessed one of the most interesting revolutions in higher education,” Coleman said. “Brazil is not only an emerging economy. It is an emerging power in research.” 

Dr. Strobbe agrees with Coleman’s assessment of Brazil as a growing presence on the world stage.  “While I was there, nationwide protests were being held, simultaneously, in more than 100 cities across Brazil,” says Dr. Strobbe. “These protests, which included a very strong youth movement, were directed toward political corruption and other social issues, including education, health, and human rights. I believe that in order to really emerge as a world leader, the people and government of Brazil will need to address these issues. And I think they’re making progress.”

Dr. Strobbe attends Dr. Maria Helena Larcher Caliri's 2012 presentation at UMSNColeman’s trip included a visit with USP College of Nursing’s now former dean Dr. Silivia Cassiani and Associate Professor Dr. Maria Helena Larcher Caliri. When Dr. Caliri visited UMSN in December 2012, Dr. Strobbe attended one of her presentations and saw an opportunity for further collaboration, which led to his visiting professorship.

In addition to giving presentations and lectures to USP students and faculty, Dr. Strobbe accompanied undergraduate nursing students to local health clinics, toured mental health, substance use treatment, and residential psychiatric facilities. He also gave an invited talk to the local chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) Honor Society of Nursing, and was part of a workshop on mental health and human rights. Dr. Strobbe and Professora Ana Carolina Zanetti at STTI talk

 “We know that alcohol use is a global health problem, and Brazil is no exception. They also have high numbers of substance use among youth, so it makes them a good potential partner,” says Dr. Strobbe. “It’s important to find ways to help prevent addictions, and to reach people earlier in their substance use, including children, adolescents, and young adults, although a number of serious, complicating factors exist in Brazil."

“Historically, we’ve waited to treat addiction until after people have lost so much, and have become so very ill,” says Dr. Strobbe. “Science that has emerged as recently as this past decade has provided a much greater understanding about the impact of substance use on the developing brain. We used to wait and think, ‘This is a phase. They’ll grow out of it.’ The problem is that a certain number of kids will end up having serious problems later on. We also know that the younger a person is when he or she first uses, the greater the risk of developing more serious substance-related problems later on. It makes sense to do more, earlier.”

Through the relationship of UMSN and USP, Dr. Strobbe also began working with USP doctoral student Jaqueline Macedo. “My visit was the first time I got to meet her in person,” says Dr. Strobbe. “I’d been working with her on an abstract for the International Nurses Society on Addictions (IntNSA) conference, which will be held in Washington, D.C., in October. While I was there at Ribeirão Preto, she was notified that the abstract was accepted for an oral presentation, so that was really exciting. It helped to highlight and solidify our institutions’ relationship.” Macedo plans to extend her trip after the conference to visit U-M.