Longtime SFUSD school nurse Lynda Boyer-Chu, RN, MPH has received the Fulbright Specialist Program Award for her continued efforts and success in supporting students.
On February 24, 2020 the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board awarded Lynda the Fulbright Specialist Program Award on the basis of her academic and professional achievement, demonstrated leadership in her field, and her potential to foster long-term cooperation between institutions in the U.S. and abroad.
Lynda was thrilled to hear the news, and made arrangements to fulfill her 4-6 week program at Ben Tre College right away. Though the outbreak of COVID-19 and related travel restrictions have caused her to postpone her trip, she remains excited and optimistic for when she will be able to complete the program.
Lynda is still happily serving the SFUSD community as a Wellness Center Nurse and Tobacco Use Prevention Nurse-Liaison at George Washington High School. As it has since the beginning, her role has enabled her to stay curious and excited about learning.
“SFUSD has enabled me to keep growing and learning. Every single day I go to work I always learn something new.”
Throughout her 31 years of service in the San Francisco Unified School District, Lynda has found joy and fulfillment in connecting with students who make up the international diversity of San Francisco and its public schools.
Lynda has been a global thinker since childhood. At the age of 8, she moved to the United States from Japan and remembers even as a child she knew she wanted to work internationally, which led her to pursue a career in nursing that would allow her to work overseas.
After many adventures and experiences around the world (including working in Thailand with Cambodian refugees), Lynda decided to settle down in the most international city in the U.S. she could think of: San Francisco. Her background led her to become a nurse with SFUSD because she wanted to help students learn valuable health skills and to connect with students who were new to San Francisco and the country.
"It was the most public health position I could think of,” said Lynda. “I could actually make a difference in how young people think about their health, and it's also a place where I could work with international students."
Continuing her life’s commitment to international public health and following her passion for global travel, Lynda recently applied to the 2020 Fulbright Specialist Program to complete a project at Ben Tre College in Vietnam to create a community nurse curriculum. The program would allow her to share her many years of experience in epidemiology, demographics, and prevention with community health faculty workers who were eager to collaborate with her.
"I've had the luckiest life to work in international health (in San Francisco),” she said. "But I always thought: ‘When my kids are grown, I have to get back overseas.’"
UPDATE 3/21/23: Lynda finally had the opportunity to fulfill her Fulbright project in February 2023. She was sent to the nursing department at Tra Vinh University in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam, where she stayed in university-provided housing for four weeks.
The Fulbright Specialist program seeks to fulfill whatever is sought by overseas institutions such as consultation with faculty and direct instruction of students. The long-term Fulbright goal is to create institutional and person-to-person linkages. With the help of interpreters, Lynda prepared and gave lessons to nursing students on physical and mental health topics; worked with the faculty on a manuscript for publication in a peer-reviewed journal; and created a connection between their school and Drexel University for faculty who'd like to earn an online doctorate degree.
“I was taken away by how hard everyone works,” said Lynda. “The nursing faculty teach a total of 400 students, but the ratio of one instructor to 80 students is far greater than anything imaginable in the U.S. The school day starts at 7:30 am and ends at 8 or 9 pm, depending on the class, and runs six days a week. Students in primary and secondary schools also attend six days a week!” She also praised the optimism and motivation of her Vietnamese counterparts, and the kindness of her hosts.
“They took me shopping, sightseeing, and transported me everywhere on their motorcycles. They didn't allow me to walk anywhere, which was nice since it was in the 90s every day. Just about everyone rides on motorcycles and driving laws are seen merely as suggestions. After a while, I got used to what I describe as ‘vehicular ballet.’”
Lynda encourages everyone to consider the many kinds of Fulbright awards available. For example, K-12 teachers might want to look into the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms Program. She says, “I welcome questions by anyone who's interested in learning more. For me, ‘what a small world’ has deeper meaning, thanks to the Fulbright.”
Lynda at a visit to the Tra Vinh University Hospital