Nurse practitioner holds card with letters to test sight of Kenyan woman who holds a tape measure in her hand while reading off the card

UC Davis nursing faculty receive seed grant for work in Kenya

Funding supports clinical outreach in rural regions and interprofessional-education simulation training at the University of Nairobi.


Efforts to advance health care in Kenya have earned faculty providers from the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis a 2023-24 Seed Grant for International Activities from UC Davis Global Affairs.

The international outreach is focused on improving health outcomes in rural Kenya and on educating clinicians in the capital, Nairobi. It is led by three faculty members with vast experience in nursing and a deep commitment to global health: Associate Professor Laura Van Auker, Dean Stephen Cavanagh and Associate Dean for Practice Deb Bakerjian.

Van Auker, a nurse practitioner, has served in rural parts of Kenya for nearly 20 years. In March 2023, Dean Stephen Cavanagh joined her overseas for a collaboration with the University of Nairobi. They worked with Health Education Africa Resource Team (HEART) to pilot primary care camps to care for HIV+ women and children. They also developed collaborations with nursing and science departments at the University of Nairobi to promote a team-based community care model through combined medical camps. 

Their project is called, “UCD School of Nursing and Health, University of Nairobi Schools of Nursing and Medicine Partner: Modeling Advanced Practice Nursing Interprofessional Medical Care Teams in Kenya.”

“We are excited and grateful for this grant, which will allow us to expand globally, to share a new sustainable health care model using nurse practitioners to partner with Kenyan health care providers and expand access to care,” Van Auker said. “It is a rich partnership for all.” 

Nurse practitioner holds card with letters to test sight of Kenyan woman who holds a tape measure in her hand while reading off the card
Nurse practitioner Laura Van Auker, left, has served Kenyans in need of health care for nearly 20 years.

The grant — $10,000 from Global Affairs with a matching $10,000 from the School of Nursing — will be used for additional clinical work in Kenya, as well as interprofessional-education simulation training at the University of Nairobi.

Aga Khan University in Nairobi recently received authorization to launch its first advanced practice in nursing program, similar to what UC Davis has been offering for years. Full development of the leadership role is in progress for the whole country. UC Davis has been a vital partner in making that approach a reality.

“The Kenyan health care system faces significant barriers in traditional medical and nursing gender roles,” Van Auker explained. “Team-based care training through simulation is a critical element in demonstrating that patient care benefits from multidisciplinary teams and breaks down silos between medicine and nursing. 

Ultimately, the School of Nursing, along with the UC Davis School of Medicine, hopes to establish global experiential learning for clinical, educational and research nurse practitioner students, medical residents and faculty as multidisciplinary teams.

Members of Kenyan outreach team pose side-by-side in front of sign that reads International Connections
Members of the 2023 UC Davis Kenya outreach team celebrate grant with UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May, third from left. They are, from left, Margie Junker, Laura Van Auker, Sandra Kamba and John Van Auker.

Global Affairs partners with UC Davis colleges and schools to provide seed grants to faculty taking on innovative research, service, and engagement projects around the world. These projects, which are often interdisciplinary and entrepreneurial in nature, have spurred new partnerships for the university. They have also created long-term collaborations that empower communities, build new opportunities and advance the condition of health for people, animals and the planet. 

Global Affairs’ Seed Grants for International Activities program began in 2001 to spark bold new ideas in international research. To date, the program has funded 260 projects totaling more than $1.45 million . These projects have also generated more than $40 million in external funding.

The latest grant recipients were acknowledged March 7 at the International Connections Reception in Davis.