Nursing professor’s clinic work lives on

Rachel Abbey


Credit: Rachel Abbey

Kent State professor Dr. Penelope Cukr, 64, died Thursday. Cukr was the founding director for the adult nurse practitioner program.

Cukr came to Kent State in January 1994 to establish the nurse practitioner program, said Davina Gosnell, emeritus dean and professor of the College of Nursing.

A few years later, Cukr founded the Hartville Migrant Health Clinic, a free clinic for seasonal migrant farmers in a nearby Ohio community, Gosnell said. The workers travel from their homes in Mexico and Texas to tend crops on Ohio’s farms. Cukr received grants to fund the clinic, and Kent State’s nursing and translation students and faculty served the workers. The participating faculty serve as volunteers while the students gained valuable experience in their fields. Gosnell said the program is both educational and service-based.

“One of the things that was clear from the beginning was her dedication,” said Gary Harwood, coordinator of photography for University Communications and Marketing. “She wanted to make a difference.”

Harwood met Cukr while working on a project about the lives of the migrant workers. He said at first, Cukr was very protective of the workers, because she wanted to make sure his project would not be disruptive. Harwood said her concern for the workers’ well-being impressed him.

As the project progressed, Harwood said the workers themselves became comfortable with him, and Cukr seemed pleased with his photographs and David Hassler’s corresponding stories about the workers’ daily lives. Hassler is the program and outreach director of the Wick Poetry Center. Their complete project will be published in a book in Fall 2006 by the Kent State University Press.

The Hartville Migrant Center’s spirit of volunteerism is inspiring, Harwood said.

The clinic offers medical service to those who normally have no such options, Gosnell said. Between 350 and 400 people are served each year. Since Cukr founded the clinic, it has grown every year, Gosnell said. Multiple universities and hospitals participate in the center.

The clinic hopefully will continue, Gosnell said.

“She was an excellent teacher who made an enormous contribution to nursing, her students, the College of Nursing at Kent State and Northeastern Ohio,” Gosnell said.

Calling hours for Cukr were held Sunday, with funeral services yesterday. Memorials may be made to Hartville Migrant Health Clinic, Hartville Migrant Center, P.O. Box 682, Hartville, Ohio 44632, or Townhall II, 155 N. Water St., Kent, Ohio 44240.

Contact academics reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected].