Featured Traveler of the Month: Ann Brown

The Center for International Understanding, through its many programs, has given North Carolina teachers and community leaders the opportunity to travel all over the globe. They have gained perspectives on education and community building in other countries, and applied that knowledge to their own communities throughout North Carolina. More than 8,000 individuals have traveled to 48 countries with a CIU delegation. In this special blog series, we’ll feature delegates that are making a difference in their community and applying what they learned from a CIU program.

This month, we get to know Ann Brown, Certified Nurse Midwife at the Mountain Area Health Education Center with the OB/GYN Residency program.



Latino Initiative 2003

Describe your background:

The OB/GYN Residency program is a full-scope Midwifery Practice. I work with young women in our Teen Pregnancy Clinic and GYN patients in our Vulvar clinic. Additionally, I work in our specialty clinic serving high-risk female patients from the Western Region of North Carolina, focusing on issues arising from diabetes, hypertension, and other medical complications that can affect pregnancy.

Prior to my program, I was becoming more aware of an increase in the Hispanic population in Western North Carolina, evident by the number of Hispanic women we were seeing in our waiting rooms and clinics. As midwives, we were able to offer care to the women of these families both in their day-to-day needs and during their pregnancies, giving us an intimate look into their lives and stories. All of this led me to want to be able to understand the dynamics of the changing demographics, the traditions that families were bringing with them and cultural practices that could influence pregnancy.

What have you gained from participating in the program?

Through the Latino Initiative, my observations of how the health care system operates in Mexico have helped me to understand how Hispanic clients function and find their way in the North Carolina system. The experience in Mexico led me to rural community centers, health departments and to inner city clinics, which were often connected to the Emergency Service department. So many people in the State of Michoacan helped me learn about alternative ways clients received health care and information.

How have you applied what you learned in your own community?

I have been fortunate to work in several county health departments including Madison, Swain and Catawba. While working for these various health departments, I have been the front line care provider for Hispanic women in these communities. I was consistently thankful for the ability to be able to draw on my experiences and observations of the Maternity Care in the various settings in Mexico to help me understand and anticipate the expectations our Hispanic patients might be bringing to our clinic.

Presently I am beginning to see more second-generation Hispanic patients in our teen clinic. I feel I am able to have better rapport with the whole family due to my CIU experience in Mexico, making an extra effort to connect with the “mother’s mother” and helping to explain care differences between our contexts.

In my community, I have tried to help other providers understand the changing face of Western North Carolina. Just as my family came to the area from “somewhere else” to make a better life, our newest citizens are also trying to make a better life for their families. I continue to work on improving my medical Spanish skills in a conscious effort to show my care and concern for patients who are Spanish speakers.

What was your “ah ha” moment?

During my travels with CIU I had several insightful moments that gave me pause and led me to critically reflect on our care here in North Carolina. Trying to negotiate a purchase or assistance with moderate Spanish language skills helped me to understand how scary and confusing the experience of going to a new clinic can be when everyone is speaking a different language. I also realized how blessed we are when we have trained medical interpreters to protect patient confidentiality and provide the best care.

It was amazing to hear the health care providers and government leaders in Mexico pleading with our CIU team to care and nurture their people who have moved to North Carolina for work. From the State of Michoacan, approximately 10 percent of their population is living in the United States. For citizens of Michoacan there is a real feeling that their people are our people.

Why is CIU’s Latino Initiative program important to North Carolina?

I am reminded of a conversation I had with my eldest daughter about my time in Mexico and why I consider it to be such a valuable experience for me both personally and professionally. Traveling and engaging new experiences allowed me to see how other communities understand, study and problem-solve issues surrounding pregnancy.

This experience allowed me to revisit and reconsider some of my pre-conceived notions about pregnancy in such a different context and acknowledge the need for a paradigm change. The Center for International Understanding not only helps the State of North Carolina form relationships with those in alternative contexts, but also encourages creative problem solving solutions for the future.

What advice do you have for future travelers?

Be open to the experience. To prepare for this type of experience, learn a second language (or enough to hold a conversation), read up on the country’s history, and have an idea of what you want to learn while in country. Be sure to make real connections with the people and the location, whether that includes visiting with a family, eating local food and beverages, or simply sitting and taking the time to people watch.

Ann is a first-generation CIU traveler. Her daughter, Sarah Duffer, participated in CIU’s Global Teachers to Germany in 2014. Click here to read Sarah’s story as a second-generation Featured Traveler