Elizabeth Gifford: Discovering a World of Difference

Elizabeth Gifford’s path to the University of Rochester School of Nursing covered a lot of miles and stopped in at least 30 countries. But it’s the next international experience that she’s looking forward to the most.

Elizabeth Gifford

This past summer just before she started the UR Nursing accelerated bachelor’s program, Gifford had planned to make a mission trip to Peru. But with no prior experience treating patients, she decided to postpone her visit until after she had completed her degree.

“After I become a nurse, I’ll have a better skill set and more experience,” she said. “Once I become an RN, I plan on going back and giving my time and service to help create sustainable projects, so when I leave they have a better foundation of knowledge that they can apply to be healthier and prevent diseases.”

Using her skills and knowledge to impact others abroad would seem to be the perfect marriage of Gifford’s longstanding passions in travel and science. A native of California, she first discovered her interest in health care as a high school volunteer at the Red Cross, teaching CPR and first aid classes. She went on to earn a degree in biology from Xavier University in New Orleans in 2010 with a minor in chemistry then took a job as a scribe at CityMD, an urgent care clinic in Brooklyn.

“I’ve always liked teaching and health and emergency care. I guess it’s something I thought I would come back to in the end,” said Gifford. “I want to be a family nurse practitioner because they see all age groups, and I can be that connector provider and help coordinate their care.”

Gifford’s travels stem from a conscious decision to expose herself to as many different cultures as possible so as to better understand the people that she meets – whether that means moving from the West Coast to the East Coast, staying in hostels as she trekked across Europe, or building bee farms at a camp for boys and girls in the Dominican Republic.

“There’s a lot of diversity out there and it’s not just as simple as white and black. I feel like I’m at the tip of the iceberg of understanding what diversity really means. Traveling and going to different countries and going beyond the resort is how I get to understand what that means,” she said.

“All their different experiences have made each person and helped create the way they think and who they are, and if I can understand their experience or where they came from, maybe I can help treat them and make their life better.”

This story was originally featured in the Fall 2016 NURSING magazine.