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Walden Magazine // Jul 11, 2016

Broadening My Horizons: Expanding Healthcare

When two people close to her passed away, Claris Green-Mills ’15 realized proper dialysis care could have saved them. “I pondered what could have prevented those deaths,” she explains. “It inspired me to find a way to meet the needs of the community.”

Green-Mills knew she had to find a way to make a difference. A native Jamaican, she relocated to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) in 2008 for a job at Peebles Hospital. Today, she is the charge nurse at the hospital in Tortola, but she has her sights set on being an entrepreneur.

“My relative died before I started my ms in management program, which was one of the things that inspired me to take on my course of study at walden,” she recalls. “my decision was validated when my friend’s sister died.”

This friend’s sister lived in an area with no hemodialysis centers, so she received peritoneal dialysis instead. While both methods treat kidney failure, hemodialysis uses a manmade membrane to clean the blood, while peritoneal uses the lining of the abdomen. “She got much sicker and it was impossible to airlift her to an overseas facility since her condition was too fragile for air transport,” Green-Mills recalls.

Green-Mills figured the best way to prevent future tragedies was to establish a new dialysis center for regions in need. “I thought about how it could enhance the health and the economy,” She says. “it combined my nursing and business backgrounds in one idea.”

Green-Mills soon discovered that establishing a new dialysis center required a deeper understanding of the business side of caregiving, which she admittedly lacked: “i did not have the know-how to set up a business in another country.” Walden helped her find the answers. “The wide range of programs allowed me to choose one that would not only help me venture into having my own business but could also apply to my current role as a nurse,” Green-Mills says.

With the support of her husband, green-mills enrolled in the ms in management program in 2013. “The global management specialization helped me think about ways to work with people in other countries to make this dialysis center a reality,” she says.

Despite working full time and facing personal challenges—including major surgery that forced her to miss an entire semester—it took her only three months longer to graduate than the usual duration. “I was determined to finish what I started,” Green-Mills says. “Not just to finish but to finish strong.”

Green-mills is now applying the management skills she learned at Walden by laying the groundwork for her new business venture. “We are scheduling meetings with the relevant officials—like the ministry of health—to identify properties that would be most suitable for the hemodialysis center,” she says. “Realistically, we are looking at 3 to 5 years before opening. But my walden education is bringing me closer.” Beyond adding greater value to the healthcare system of the region, the center will bring something more to green-mills’s life: “it will satisfy my lifelong desire to leave an indelible mark on healthcare.” 

Claris Green-Mills photo credit: Scott Cook