Miriam Chickering: Revolutionizing Healthcare Education: The Leadership of Miriam Chickering at NextGenU.org

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Education truly is the great equalizer in our world. By providing quality training and educational opportunities, we open doors that were once closed and shatter glass ceilings. This is particularly true in the field of healthcare. Too many communities around the globe lack adequate access to medical professionals and health services. Democratizing healthcare training allows individuals from all backgrounds to develop the skills to become nurses, doctors, technicians, and other medical providers.

“Education is the great equalizer. By democratizing access to quality healthcare training, we can transform lives and strengthen communities on a global scale.”

These words from Miriam Chickering, CEO of NextGenU.org, convey her driving mission – to eliminate the worldwide shortage of educated healthcare providers through free, world-class training. Under her leadership, NextGenU.org has emerged as a powerful force for expanding access and equity in healthcare education.

With over a decade of experience helming nonprofits in the EdTech sector, Chickering brings an unparalleled vision and steadfast commitment to NextGenU.org’s initiatives. The organization’s portfolio spans Public Health U, Humanitarian U, addiction training programs, and STEM courses – each pillar representing a vital pathway to cultivating a better-prepared healthcare workforce worldwide.

“Our potential for impact is limitless when we invest in developing knowledgeable, skilled healthcare professionals,” Chickering affirms. “But far too often, the brightest minds face insurmountable financial barriers to quality training.”

It’s this jarring disconnect that fuels NextGenU.org’s disruptive model of removing cost obstacles and delivering top-tier curricula directly to those impassioned to help others. From remote villages to burgeoning cities, their educational platforms empower learners to access specialty tracks like public health, humanitarian crisis response, and substance use disorder treatment.

Chickering’s dual role as Founder and President of Nurses International amplifies NextGenU.org’s impact even further. This global alliance advocates for and elevates the nursing profession while providing educational opportunities to help members deliver superior patient care.

Under Chickering’s principled stewardship, NextGenU.org has already reached over one million healthcare workers and students across 190 countries. Each scholar equipped with new skills represents an investment in stronger healthcare systems, healthier populations, and more resilient communities.

Looking ahead, Chickering envisions a future where any aspiring healthcare hero, regardless of geography or socioeconomic status, can access the training to make their dreams a reality. “Our mission is simple – to unlock human potential through education, because a healthier world requires nothing less.”

Miriam Chickering’s work is a testament to the exponential change catalyzed when equity, access and education intersect. By breaking down barriers and championing knowledge-sharing across borders, she’s shaping inclusive, sustainable solutions to our globe’s most pressing healthcare challenges.

Democratizing Education Globally

Miriam Chickering leads NextGenU.org toward its mission to democratize education globally and to improve the health and well-being of humanity and the planet. NextGenU.org is a 501(c)(3) organization in the United States offering free health science courses to learners globally, with learners from every country and over 2,000 institutions. NextGenU.org provides over a million learning sessions each month, transforming the lives of nurses, doctors, public health workers, and students who would otherwise not have access to quality training.

Comprehensive Course Offerings

NextGenU.org offers a full Master’s Degree in Public Health, a PhD in Global Health, and a Master’s in Education for Health Professionals through Public Health U and its partners, fostering an inclusive learning community. Learners have access to over 100 courses, including courses in community medicine, psychiatry, mental health and addiction, refugee health, and oncology, pediatric, and medical-surgical nursing. Having discovered a huge demand for quality courses in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) subjects, the organization provides textbooks and courses for primary school students and teachers throughout Africa.

Sustainable Funding and Collaborations

NextGenU.org has secured funding to sustain its efforts over the long term and has been attractive to multilateral, bilateral, and private-sector funders, allowing it to advance its initiatives throughout the world, especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). NextGenU.org collaborates with governments, international and local NGOs, educational institutions, and hospital systems in areas of shared mission to advance education in targeted populations while contextualizing newly created resources and preparing them for global accessibility via its online platform.

Miriam Chickering’s Journey

In the early stages of her career as a nurse educator, Miriam Chickering was captivated by the transformative potential of digital materials and platforms in revolutionizing education. This sparked her passion for EdTech, propelling her towards a mission of making healthcare education accessible. Her journey took an unexpected turn when she confronted the reality of inadequate educational resources, particularly in LMICs, during her time in nursing programs. Witnessing the burden placed on nurse educators by outdated materials and heavy workloads, Miriam envisioned a new approach. She aimed to centralize the creation of high-quality, evidence-based content to alleviate this strain and enable educators to focus more on personalized instruction and mentorship.

Driven by a steadfast commitment to equitable education, Miriam Chickering embarked on a mission to ensure that healthcare professionals worldwide could access top-quality learning materials regardless of location or financial circumstances. This dedication led to the establishment of Nurses International in 2013 and her subsequent leadership role at NextGenU.org in 2020, where healthcare professionals can access the tools and resources they need to succeed.

Overcoming Challenges

Embarking on her mission to transform healthcare education, Miriam, as the Founder of Nurses International, encountered numerous challenges. One significant hurdle was building a robust network to create high-quality educational materials tailored to various regions. Despite the difficulty of balancing quality and quantity, Miriam Chickering leveraged technology to connect with nurse educators globally, ensuring the content’s relevance to diverse needs.

Securing funding was another major obstacle. With limited resources, Miriam relied on volunteers and spent considerable time motivating them to join her cause. Balancing these efforts with family responsibilities was tough, but she persevered, seeking support from personal connections. Despite these challenges, Miriam Chickering remained committed to keeping the materials free and accessible.

Strategic Acquisitions and Partnerships

At one point, when there were significant financial challenges, Miriam Chickering was approached with an acquisition offer that would have increased funding but would have limited access to the global nursing resources developed by the Nurses International Team. Miriam took the lessons learned from this takeover attempt and flipped the narrative, instead leading the acquisition of four other organizations whose founders shared her vision to expand accessible healthcare education globally.

Two collaborations occurred at Nurses International when it acquired Vermont Nurses in Partnership, founded by Dr. Susan Boyer, who now directs the Clinical Alliance at Nurses International, and a deep partnership was formed with The Bangladesh Health Project, founded by Alex Berland, who is on Nurses International’s Advisory Board. The other two acquisitions occurred at NextGenU.org with the support of Dr. Erica Frank, NextGenU.org’s Founder. Peoples-Uni, now known as Public Health U, became a part of NextGenU.org in 2021, and Humanitarian U, founded by Dr. Kirsten Johnson, joined NextGenU.org in 2022; Dr. Johnson leads Humanitarian U as its director. Combined, these entities achieved far more than they ever could have alone, leveraging their expertise and resources for a global audience.

Rapid Growth and Innovation During COVID-19

In 2019, when Miriam Chickering became the Chief Operating Officer (and later, in 2020, the CEO) at NextGenU.org, the organization offered 12 courses, but when COVID-19 struck, the demand for online materials exploded as universities struggled with online education and hospital systems scrambled to educate their staff about the new virus.

Within a year, NextGenU.org’s team grew from 3 to 40, and course offerings increased from 12 to over 50, while student use skyrocketed as universities worldwide adopted NextGenU.org’s courses into their curricula. Sharing the concern for an educated health workforce, the Pan American Health Organization (part of the World Health Organization), US foundations, and anonymous private donors provided immediate funding, empowering NextGenU.org to fulfill its mission and expand its course offerings.

Additionally, Miriam Chickering and her team became increasingly concerned about primary education as teachers struggled to educate young students. Through vital funding from the International Development Research Centre, Canada, the NextGenU.org team created a comprehensive math and science curriculum available in French and English for three African countries and ensured global access to this material.

The pressure cooker of emergency COVID-19 education forced Miriam Chickering and her team to focus on innovation in EdTech, leveraging the newest tools to accelerate the creation of desperately needed materials. By safely and responsibly incorporating AI into the content development processes, the team sped up the creation of adaptable and scalable materials while ensuring they met the diverse needs of students and teachers. The success of these AI-enhanced resources highlights the transformative potential of technology in navigating crises and shaping the future of global education.

Impacting Lives Worldwide

One can readily hear Miriam’s enthusiasm as she reflects on NextGenU.org’s impact: “Our materials are now a cornerstone of professional development used by the health workforce, representing 2,000 institutions each year spanning diverse settings from hospitals to educational institutions with learners from every country, a testament to the transformative power of EdTech in democratizing healthcare education.”

NextGenU.org’s clientele base is as broad as it is deep, encompassing students, healthcare professionals, and educators seeking to broaden their knowledge, enhance their teaching methodologies, or advance their professions. This wide-reaching influence underscores the organization’s commitment to raising the bar for healthcare education worldwide.

Recently, Miriam Chickering participated as a panelist at a conference hosted by the African Lifestyle Medicine Council, discussing societies of lifestyle medicine in Africa. At the end of the panel discussion, the Nigerian healthcare executive facilitator shared that she had taken one of NextGenU.org’s courses to prepare for her medical board exam. It was such a key moment to see how a former student studied with NextGenU.org for a board exam, passed her boards, and is now advancing healthcare in Africa.

Some of NextGenU.org’s students have completed master’s programs at Public Health U and subsequently enrolled in Public Health U’s PhD in Global Health. One of these students reflected on her experience during COVID-19, “I witnessed first-hand the critical importance of public health interventions and disease control measures.” Despite her background in business administration, the student emphasizes that “pursuing my MPH in public health through NextGenU.org has proven a wise decision, broadening my horizons and equipping me for tangible impact.”

Pioneering New Frontiers in Education

As a visionary, Miriam Chickering looks to the new frontiers that NextGenU.org is pursuing to substantially expand its geographic presence and influence as a health education innovator. “Our commitment to equity in education drives every innovation and service expansion we undertake. 

We’re dedicated to ensuring that high-quality education is not a privilege but a right accessible to everyone, regardless of their geographical location, economic status, or background. By creating engaging, interactive, and personalized learning experiences, we aim to level the educational playing field, allowing every learner to excel.”

In NextGenU.org’s quest to revolutionize healthcare education, they are pioneering new frontiers to make learning more effective and engaging for every student.

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