Wendy Grube Retires: A Look Back at Her Penn Nursing Career
Dr. Grube’s West Virginia project has been recognized regionally and nationally as a best practice model, and internationally (through the World Health Organization) as an exemplar of nurses working with communities to improve health. But creating a key model to help decrease cervical cancer mortality in rural West Virginia and developing deep relationships with the community is far from Dr. Grube’s only accomplishment. She retires from Penn Nursing this year as the Afaf I. Meleis Director for the Center for Global Women’s Health (CGWH), the Director of the Women’s Health/Gender-Related Nurse Practitioner Track, and a Practice Associate Professor of Nursing. And while these achievements are noteworthy in themselves, Dr. Grube (who will return to Penn Nursing as an adjunct professor) leaves her roles having made incredible in-roads into women’s health during her tenure.
Dr. Grube, who has led CGWH since 2016, recently brought her West Virginia event model home to West Philadelphia. With grant funding from the Trustees’ Council of Penn Women and support from Penn Nursing graduate and undergraduate students and faculty as well as West Philadelphia women and local community groups, Dr. Grube organized the first annual West Philadelphia Women’s Day in January 2019, a one-day conference that featured her well-known “Pap Rally” to educate women and teen girls in this chronically underserved neighborhood about cervical health and vaccines to prevent cervical cancer.
The event was so popular that the second West Philadelphia Women’s Day was held in February 2020—again, with funding from the Trustees’ Council of Penn Women—this time centering mental health, including suicide prevention and generational trauma. This event has built a strategic partnership with Penn Nursing’s neighbors in West Philadelphia, becoming a valued source of education and engagement that women in the community look forward to each year.
Caroline Darlington, a 2019 graduate of Penn Nursing’s Women’s Health-Gender Related Nurse Practitioner program who is currently pursuing a Penn Nursing PhD in Nursing, has been involved with both the 2019 and 2020 West Philadelphia Women’s Day events. She says:
“This day empowered and connected women of all ages through rich conversations about topics that mattered most to them and the health of the West Philly community. It was truly inspiring to witness and a privilege to take part. Several women who attended the first year enjoyed it so much that they made their own shirts to promote the event to their friends for the second year!”
The CGWH has a global focus, and that extends to Dr. Grube’s research interests as well. Her passion for women’s health in India has resulted in several Penn Nursing initiatives that both break new ground for health and health care and provide clinical and leadership opportunities for the School’s students.
The Penn Nursing India Healthcare Initiative was established with funding from Seth Ginns, C’00 in 2012 as a means of reforming healthcare in India. With the country’s history of systemic problems with women’s health—including high mortality rates, particularly during childhood and in reproductive years—it was clear there was no better person to lead the initiative on the ground than Dr. Grube. For the last eight years she has traveled to India, observing and noting where Penn Nursing might make an impact in health and health care for women and developing partnerships.
These partnerships have included directing a team of health care professionals from IKP Centre for Technologies in Public Health (ICTPH) to develop an evidence-based, allopathic clinical education program to expand the diagnostic and treatment capacity of traditional non-allopathic Indian practitioners in rural areas. This Bridge Training Project in Tamil Nadu, India trains AYUSH (non-allopathic traditional Indian health practitioners) college graduates to provide quality, affordable, accessible, and culturally appropriate primary health care for rural peoples of India and serves as a model for critically needed basic health care throughout rural India.
Dr. Grube has also be instrumental in moving forward with a partnership with the Himalayan College of Nursing, the goal of which is to build curriculum, advance the profession of nursing, build scholarship in nursing, and evolve nursing practice. This work has the potential to evolve into a new study abroad course, which would allow Penn students who are freshmen and sophomores to gain community health experience in northern rural India.
The Penn Nursing India Healthcare Initiative has collaborated with Penn’s Center for Advanced Study of India on potential work that might take place as well—this collaboration sparked the idea of a Global Fellowship for Penn Nursing graduate students interested in contributing to health care initiatives in-country. As the Fellowship was being discussed, Dr. Grube continued her work in India, developing a relationship with The Banyan, an innovative mental health treatment/educational organization that works with women experiencing homelessness in India.
Vandana Gopikumar, a co-founder of The Banyan who has been working with the Indian government to improve health for women, was awarded the 2018 Penn Nursing Renfield Foundation Award for Global Women’s Health—and the launch of the first Global Nursing Fellowship program coincided with a placement of the inaugural Fellow, Alison Ercole, Nu’11, GNu’14 and a Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, at The Banyan. Alison worked with staff at The Banyan to develop a curriculum for training Community Health Workers; she oversaw the rollout of the training program in 2019.
“I’m proud of my work in India,” Alison says, “and I’m very excited to take part in Penn’s goal in spreading innovative ideas globally that can not only focus on these marginalized women but can help advance the education of lay community health workers, elevating the status of both groups. Wendy Grube laid the foundation to make this possible.”
Alison’s Fellowship has served as a model for scaling up capacity at Penn Nursing for an expanded Fellowship program. An agreement is under development for the next Fellow placed in India to help develop a post-baccalaureate certificate program for nurses who will specialize in Mental Health, and a more formalized Global Fellowship has been developed with funding from the Renfield Foundation for an additional Fellow each year.
Dr. Grube has been critical in developing Penn Nursing’s work in Thailand as well, starting with her role as the course director for NURS 535 – Thailand. Since 2004, she has led groups of graduate and undergraduate students each year on the field component of this comparative health systems course. Each year she partners with faculty at Mahidol University to design a trip itinerary that addresses the interests of the individual students in the course, which lead to small group trips to corresponding sites. The work is carried out with the help and support of Dr. Usavadee Praditkul Asdornwised, GNC’95, as well as the Mahidol faculty and administration.
New opportunities have emerged from Dr. Grube’s work in Thailand and the partnerships she has developed. For instance, Professor Dr. Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol of Thailand visited the University of Pennsylvania in April 2018—which prompted a personal invitation to Dr. Grube to meet in Thailand with Dr. Tassana Boontong, the acting Dean of the Chulabhorn Royal Academy School of Nursing, to discuss future collaboration with Penn Nursing to help educate nursing faculty; Boontong is also the director of the Thai Nursing Council. This education work is now in the early stages thanks to Dr. Grube.
University of Pennsylvania Campus
Dr. Grube has been tireless in her work to ensure that Penn Nursing and the wider university campus have opportunities to learn about issues related to women’s health. Under her guidance, CGWH has arranged documentary showings, panel discussions, brown bag lunchtime presentations of faculty research, and overhauled the CGWH website to be more informative about women’s health issues both domestically and abroad.
She has been particularly vocal about period poverty, a global issue affecting women and girls who don’t have access to safe, hygienic sanitary products, and/or who are unable to manage their periods with dignity. To combat period poverty locally, Dr. Grube celebrated the very first National Period Day by organizing a Period Poverty Awareness event at Fagin Hall, along with a menstrual product donation event. Through a collaboration with Cycle Sisters, she also helped establish a West Philadelphia menstrual product bank. Through this partnership, period products are distributed to Philadelphia’s most vulnerable populations.
As noted, Dr. Grube may be retiring from Penn Nursing, but she will still maintain a presence here as adjunct faculty and as a consultant for various projects. She leaves her mark on Penn Nursing, though, as well as the world. Women around the world are healthier and safer because of her efforts, collaborations, and partnerships.
“Wendy Grube is an excellent educator, researcher, and connection-maker,” says Antonia M. Villarruel, PhD, RN, FAAN, Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing. “Her commitment to women’s health—particularly within a social justice framework—has had an impressive impact on our students, our faculty, our staff, and so many partners across our campus and around the globe. As one of the first nurse practitioners in the US to perform colposcopy, she is a trailblazer. We are sorry to lose her tenacity and eye for innovative new alliances and programs; however, her legacy of excellent nurses, committed to women’s health has made a tremendous impact, as has she. I am grateful for all she has done—but in particular, her leadership in the Center for Global Woman’s Health.”
Dr. Grube has been part of the faculty at Penn Nursing since 2001. She will continue her practice at the Allentown Women’s Center, where she has served as a Nurse Practitioner and Clinician for the last thirty years.