International student becomes first in his country to receive doctorate of nursing

Meghan Williams

Fu-Chih Lai takes a moment from his paperwork as he prepares to embark on a career in nursing. Fu-Chih is Taiwan’s first man to receive a doctorate in the nursing field. DAVID RANUCCI | SUMMER KENT STATER

Credit: Steve Schirra

   When Fu-Chih Lai returns to Taiwan next year, he will be the first male nurse in his country entitled to become a doctor. It will be a Ph.D., not an M.D., behind his name.

In 2000, the College of Nursing started the joint Ph.D program with the University of Akron, said Diana Biordi, interim dean for the College of Nursing.

As the first international student in the program, Lai, 36, has become a mentor to other international students in the nursing program, she said.

As an undergraduate student at Taipei Medical University in Taiwan, Lai had planned to attend graduate school in the United States. After he received his B.A. in nursing, he served two mandatory years in the Taiwan Army and then worked in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. For four years, he worked in the hospital’s emergency room.

He said he encountered many domestic violence cases and lack of understanding for these patients.

“I want to study domestic violence since it’s a big problem in my country,” Lai said.

Foreign-born women married to Taiwanese men have high domestic abuse rates, he said. According to the 2005 Taiwan Ministry of Interior, 21 percent of married couples are transnational, meaning they are of a different origin.

“Many don’t speak Taiwanese, so you can’t communicate with them in the hospital, you can only treat their injury,” Lai said.

Lai said he saved enough money and with help from his family, he was able to afford his move to the United States. In 2000, he started working on his master’s degree at Case Western Reserve. His master’s degree focused on becoming a critical care specialist.

In 2002, he was awarded a scholarship from Kent State and decided to come to work on his doctorate because of one aspect of the university in particular.

“The faculty are supportive here,” he said.

This summer, Lai will continue to work on his proposal. It has been three years since Lai has been to Taiwan. In July, he will return to Taiwan to collect data for his dissertation. He will then come back to the United States in September to write his dissertation titled, “Emergency nurses responses to domestic violence patients in Taiwan.”

Once he graduates, he said he will return to Taiwan to teach. The achieved status will give him more attention, he said.

“It’s exciting, but scary because everyone will watch you,” he said. “I will focus on my research and skills, and not just my status as the first male nurse with a Ph.D. degree in Taiwan.”

He hopes to return to the United States and pursue a post-doctorate degree in the future.

Contact student health reporter Meghan Williams at [email protected].