UNF nurse spends 30 years helping people in underdeveloped countries

Nathan Turoff, Features Editor

With 30 years of international aid experience and three University of North Florida (UNF) degrees, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Teresa Steele believes helping people in developing countries is rewarding and educational.

Starting in Honduras in 1992, Steele went abroad to do medical work in so many countries she lost count. Her reasoning behind the first trip was rather simple.

“Someone just came up and asked and said, ‘do you want to go?’” Steele recalled.

For her first trip, she brought along her husband, where they served as a dietitian and physical therapist, respectively. There wasn’t much need for a dietitian specifically, but they were always in need of medical providers. They teamed up with a construction group, so when she wasn’t offering medical services, she was actively helping to build a medical clinic.

Teresa Steele, wearing a red shirt and white mask, stands next to her husband, wearing a blue shirt and glasses and a white mask, as they look at a black X-ray
Steele and her husband examine an X-ray. Photo courtesy of Teresa Steele.

After going, Steele became hooked. She now partakes in several medical missions a year to countries around the globe. She primarily visits countries in Central America but has also made occasional trips to South America and even Africa. She became inspired to get masters degrees in both nursing and nutrition, culminating in her becoming a nurse practitioner.

“I actually have three degrees from [UNF]” she chuckled.

She, along with her husband, a former UNF adjunct professor, take groups of his physical therapy students on these trips. She is sometimes accompanied by religious officials and coworkers from UNF and elsewhere.

Teresa Steele sits in a white plastic chair, wearing a white hoodie and black pants. next to a table with her gear
Steele smiles for a photo as she awaits patients. Photo courtesy of Teresa Steele.

For UNF students particularly interested in these trips, Steele explained how they can go to another country at any time, but the missions and programs she participates in are usually offered by churches or other social organizations. Some colleges and universities also offer them, but not UNF.

“I think that’s something we need at [UNF],” Steele said

She’s seen many students from other universities besides her husband’s. She thinks the cultural exchange and hands-on experiences in serving the impoverished would be a very valuable learning opportunity. There are many other ways for others to help, and she hopes they do, as it’s why she likes it so much.

“What I like to do is serving the underserved,” Steele said.


For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].