By Karisma Boyd
DR. KLAUDIA Cwiekala-Lewis, an assistant professor of nursing at York College of Pennsylvania, has been named the Health Care Hero of 2023 by Central Penn Business Journal.
To be eligible, individual or organization honorees must demonstrate work in central Pennsylvania that has made a positive impact in the community within the health care field. Cwiekala-Lewis was selected by the editorial board of Central Penn Business Journal in the Community Outreach Hero category for her work to provide relief to Ukrainian refugees entering Poland through a partnership that she created with a university in Poland, the State University of Applied Sciences in Włocławek.
Collaborating with students in her Community Nursing course, she developed a way to support the refugees through an Amazon gift registry account in her name that anyone can use to purchase items to be sent to that university.
Here’s a link to all of the Health Care Heroes, who will be recognized during an April 4 celebration.
For all that Cwiekala-Lewis has accomplished in her career, she didn’t anticipate studying nursing when coming to America as an exchange student in the fall of 1999. In fact, one fateful day led her to take a different path.
On Sep. 11, 2001, Cwiekala-Lewis was working as an engineering technician creating circuits for the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile. As the disaster of 9/11 ensued, with the World Trade Center buildings under attack, she and her team had a long day’s work creating more needed circuits.
“I remember coming home paralyzed and I told my husband that night I am changing my major to nursing as I wanted to help the people just like what we saw on TV during the disaster and not make circuits for missiles,” she said. “So I changed my major to nursing.”
After transferring from her local community college to complete the BSN program in 2007 Cedar Crest College in Allentown, the knowledge and leadership skills she learned from mentors inspired her to continue her studies and become a nursing educator.
Cweikala-Lewis continued on, working as a clinical instructor for the University of Arizona, a disaster medical assistant nurse for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and a certified online faculty member at the University of Phoenix.
She then joined the faculty at York College in 2017 while completing her Ph.D in nursing at the University of Arizona and releasing various health publications.
Cweikala-Lewis furthered her accomplishments at York College, with her and other faculty members creating relationships outside the United States.
Last year, she and her nursing students worked with The State University of Applied Sciences in Włocławek, Poland, and York College’s nursing program to provide aid for Ukrainian refugees as well as visit the university and learn about Polish health care.
Said Cweikala-Lewis, comparing the health care systems in the U.S. and Poland: “We really enjoyed our visit. We learned about the Polish health care system and the structure of the Polish nursing programs. Hospitals are designed to be the last resort and people are encouraged to seek help through primary care. I would say that was a major difference between the two health care systems.”
She was nominated for the award by community members for teaching the importance of public health. Her clinical students participated in project-based learning, service learning, and working with community members.
When receiving the news about being the honoree for the 2023 Health Care Hero, she shared that the accomplishments were a team effort that include her colleagues and students.
“As a community/public health nurse I consider this to be a high honor! But a team of passionate nursing faculty including Audra Johns, Johanna Geister, Carol Naugle, and Jennifer Powell create amazing opportunities for our nursing students to engage in high-impact practice during their clinical experiences,” Cweikala-Lewis said.
But her work doesn’t stop there. She and her colleagues continue to work with students and the central Pa. community to provide aid as well as find new ways to educate on public/community health care.
“Each semester our projects are different, based on community needs,” she said. “Sometimes we have students working in the community and recognize a specific need. So we are ready to continue and we encourage our community to give us more ideas on where help is needed as this job continues.”
Karisma Boyd is a junior majoring in Mass Communications.
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