Miriam Chickering: Mobilizing Accessible, Global Healthcare Education 

Miriam Chickering | NextGenU.org | CIO Women Magazine

“Together, we create a world where education sparks joy, drives change, and fosters unity for the common good.”

Miriam Chickering

For a reliable healthcare system, having the right infrastructure and skilled workforce is crucial. While technological advancements offer solutions, the human aspect is equally essential.

Education plays a pivotal role in securing better opportunities for healthcare providers, ultimately benefiting the community. However, globally, there remains a significant gap in accessing quality healthcare education. Miriam Chickering, CEO of NextGenU.org, is tirelessly working to address this disparity. The organization is committed to providing free, high-quality education to healthcare professionals throughout the world, ensuring a well-prepared workforce for the future. Through its efforts, NextGenU.org aims to eliminate the shortage of educated healthcare providers and strengthen countries’ healthcare systems for the benefit of all.

Miriam Chickering, a seasoned executive with a decade of experience in the nonprofit EdTech sector, is the Chief Executive Officer at NextGenU.org and the Founder and President of Nurses International. Through NextGenU.org’s initiatives at Public Health U, Humanitarian U, The Addiction Training for Healthcare Professionals Program, and STEPS (primary STEM for students and teachers), NextGenU.org aims to democratize education across the healthcare sector. 

Through NextGenU.org and Nurses International, Miriam Chickering works to bridge educational gaps, ensuring that learners worldwide have access to high-quality educational resources.

Transforming Lives through Equitable, Accessible Education

Miriam Chickering leads NextGenU.org toward its mission to democratize education globally and to improve the health and well-being of humanity and the planet. NextGenU.org is a 501(c)(3) organization in the United States offering free health science courses to learners globally, with learners from every country and over 2,000 institutions. NextGenU.org provides over a million learning sessions each month, transforming the lives of nurses, doctors, public health workers, and students who would otherwise not have access to quality training.

NextGenU.org offers a full Master’s Degree in Public Health, a PhD in Global Health, and a Master’s in Education for Health Professionals through Public Health U and its partners, fostering an inclusive learning community. Learners have access to over 100 courses, including courses in community medicine, psychiatry, mental health and addiction, refugee health, and oncology, pediatric, and medical-surgical nursing. Having discovered a huge demand for quality courses in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) subjects, the organization provides textbooks and courses for primary school students and teachers throughout Africa. 

NextGenU.org has secured funding to sustain its efforts over the long term and has been attractive to multilateral, bilateral, and private-sector funders, allowing it to advance its initiatives throughout the world, especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). NextGenU.org collaborates with governments, international and local NGOs, educational institutions, and hospital systems in areas of shared mission to advance education in targeted populations while contextualizing newly created resources and preparing them for global accessibility via its online platform.

Content Covered At NextGenU.org

Miriam’s Journey in Healthcare Education

In the early stages of her career as a nurse educator, Miriam Chickering was captivated by the transformative potential of digital materials and platforms in revolutionizing education. This sparked her passion for EdTech, propelling her towards a mission of making healthcare education accessible. Her journey took an unexpected turn when she confronted the reality of inadequate educational resources, particularly in LMICs, during her time in nursing programs. Witnessing the burden placed on nurse educators by outdated materials and heavy workloads, Miriam envisioned a new approach. She aimed to centralize the creation of high-quality, evidence-based content to alleviate this strain and enable educators to focus more on personalized instruction and mentorship.

Driven by a steadfast commitment to equitable education, Miriam Chickering embarked on a mission to ensure that healthcare professionals worldwide could access top-quality learning materials regardless of location or financial circumstances. This dedication led to the establishment of Nurses International in 2013 and her subsequent leadership role at NextGenU.org in 2020, where healthcare professionals can access the tools and resources they need to succeed.

Overcoming Challenges 

Embarking on her mission to transform healthcare education, Miriam, as the Founder of Nurses International, encountered numerous challenges. One significant hurdle was building a robust network to create high-quality educational materials tailored to various regions. Despite the difficulty of balancing quality and quantity, Miriam Chickering leveraged technology to connect with nurse educators globally, ensuring the content’s relevance to diverse needs.

Securing funding was another major obstacle. With limited resources, Miriam relied on volunteers and spent considerable time motivating them to join her cause. Balancing these efforts with family responsibilities was tough, but she persevered, seeking support from personal connections. Despite these challenges, Miriam Chickering remained committed to keeping the materials free and accessible. 

At one point, when there were significant financial challenges, Miriam Chickering was approached with an acquisition offer that would have increased funding but would have limited access to the global nursing resources developed by the Nurses International Team. Miriam took the lessons learned from this takeover attempt and flipped the narrative, instead leading the acquisition of four other organizations whose founders shared her vision to expand accessible healthcare education globally.

Two collaborations occurred at Nurses International when it acquired Vermont Nurses in Partnership, founded by Dr. Susan Boyer, who now directs the Clinical Alliance at Nurses International, and a deep partnership was formed with The Bangladesh Health Project, founded by Alex Berland, who is on Nurses International’s Advisory Board. The other two acquisitions occurred at NextGenU.org with the support of Dr. Erica Frank, NextGenU.org’s Founder. Peoples-Uni, now known as Public Health U, became a part of NextGenU.org in 2021, and Humanitarian U, founded by Dr. Kirsten Johnson, joined NextGenU.org in 2022; Dr. Johnson leads Humanitarian U as its director. Combined, these entities achieved far more than they ever could have alone, leveraging their expertise and resources for a global audience. 

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

Helen Keller

Transformed by COVID-19

In 2019, when Miriam Chickering became the Chief Operating Officer (and later, in 2020, the CEO) at NextGenU.org, the organization offered 12 courses, but when COVID-19 struck, the demand for online materials exploded as universities struggled with online education and hospital systems scrambled to educate their staff about the new virus.

Within a year, NextGenU.org’s team grew from 3 to 40, and course offerings increased from 12 to over 50, while student use skyrocketed as universities worldwide adopted NextGenU.org’s courses into their curricula. Sharing the concern for an educated health workforce, the Pan American Health Organization (part of the World Health Organization), US foundations, and anonymous private donors provided immediate funding, empowering NextGenU.org to fulfill its mission and expand its course offerings.

Additionally, Miriam Chickering and her team became increasingly concerned about primary education as teachers struggled to educate young students. Through vital funding from the International Development Research Centre, Canada, the NextGenU.org team created a comprehensive math and science curriculum available in French and English for three African countries and ensured global access to this material.

The pressure cooker of emergency COVID-19 education forced Miriam Chickering and her team to focus on innovation in EdTech, leveraging the newest tools to accelerate the creation of desperately needed materials. By safely and responsibly incorporating AI into the content development processes, the team sped up the creation of adaptable and scalable materials while ensuring they met the diverse needs of students and teachers. The success of these AI-enhanced resources highlights the transformative potential of technology in navigating crises and shaping the future of global education.

Transforming Lives 

One can readily hear Miriam’s enthusiasm as she reflects on NextGenU.org’s impact: “Our materials are now a cornerstone of professional development used by the health workforce, representing 2,000 institutions each year spanning diverse settings from hospitals to educational institutions with learners from every country, a testament to the transformative power of EdTech in democratizing healthcare education.”

NextGenU.org’s clientele base is as broad as it is deep, encompassing students, healthcare professionals, and educators seeking to broaden their knowledge, enhance their teaching methodologies, or advance their professions. This wide-reaching influence underscores the organization’s commitment to raising the bar for healthcare education worldwide.

Recently, Miriam Chickering participated as a panelist at a conference hosted by the African Lifestyle Medicine Council, discussing societies of lifestyle medicine in Africa. At the end of the panel discussion, the Nigerian healthcare executive facilitator shared that she had taken one of NextGenU.org’s courses to prepare for her medical board exam. It was such a key moment to see how a former student studied with NextGenU.org for a board exam, passed her boards, and is now advancing healthcare in Africa.

Some of NextGenU.org’s students have completed master’s programs at Public Health U and subsequently enrolled in Public Health U’s PhD in Global Health. One of these students reflected on her experience during COVID-19, “I witnessed first-hand the critical importance of public health interventions and disease control measures.” Despite her background in business administration, the student emphasizes that “pursuing my MPH in public health through NextGenU.org has proven a wise decision, broadening my horizons and equipping me for tangible impact.”

“I witnessed first-hand the critical importance of public health interventions and disease control measures. Pursuing my MPH in public health through NextGenU.org has proven a wise decision, broadening my horizons and equipping me for tangible impact.” 

Ph.D. Student at NextGenU.org

As we look to the future, our ambition is to maintain this standard and elevate it further. We aim to expand our services, introducing innovative learning solutions and resources that address the evolving needs of the healthcare sector. Our goal is to ensure that every healthcare professional has access to the best possible education, thereby improving patient care and health outcomes globally.

Insights for the Next Generation of Digital Educators 

Embarking on the journey of digital education requires not just ambition but also a clear vision and unwavering dedication. Miriam Chickering shares invaluable insights garnered from her experience in building impactful ventures in healthcare and education. 

Charting New Frontiers

As a visionary, Miriam Chickering looks to the new frontiers that NextGenU.org is pursuing to substantially expand its geographic presence and influence as a health education innovator. “Our commitment to equity in education drives every innovation and service expansion we undertake. We’re dedicated to ensuring that high-quality education is not a privilege but a right accessible to everyone, regardless of their geographical location, economic status, or background. By creating engaging, interactive, and personalized learning experiences, we aim to level the educational playing field, allowing every learner to excel.”

In NextGenU.org’s quest to revolutionize healthcare education, they are pioneering new frontiers to make learning more effective and engaging for every student. Central to this vision is introducing a personalized tutor bot for each course offered. This AI-driven innovation will provide individualized support, ensuring that students receive real-time assistance and feedback tailored to their learning needs across all subjects. By leveraging the capabilities of artificial intelligence, NextGenU.org aims to scale up the benefits of one-on-one tutoring, making education more responsive and personalized than ever before.

Additionally, the organization is reimagining the learning environment, envisioning a video game-like platform where students can engage in collaborative and competitive activities. This gamified environment will simulate real-world healthcare scenarios, allowing students to “game” their way through patient and community care challenges. This approach makes learning more delightful and deeply immersive, fostering critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and teamwork in a context that mirrors actual healthcare settings.

In its relentless pursuit of transformative educational solutions, NextGenU.org is setting its sights on an ambitious endeavor: creating an advanced AI program designed to develop high-quality, contextualized textbooks tailored to every country around the globe. This innovative initiative aims to empower educators, students, and parents with educational resources that resonate deeply with their local environments. By integrating examples and challenges reflective of students’ daily experiences, these textbooks will enhance learning relevance and engagement and foster a deeper understanding and connection with the material.

This approach ensures that education is not only accessible but also meaningful, providing learners with the tools they need to navigate and succeed in their unique cultural and geographical contexts. These innovations ensure that every student is equipped to meet the challenges of tomorrow, underscoring our commitment to leverage cutting-edge technology to enhance learning experiences.

Leadership in Action

Miriam’s leadership creates an environment constantly attuned to the voices of those NextGenU.org and Nurses International serve. Her unwavering commitment to democratizing education has propelled the success of the organizations she leads and continues to drive their efforts to make high-quality education accessible to all, ensuring that every healthcare professional has access to the best possible education, thereby improving patient care and health outcomes globally.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

 Nelson Mandela

To learn more about NextGenU.org, visit our website at https://nextgenu.org/. We have opportunities to learn, volunteer, and contribute. Feel free to contact us at info@NextGenU.org.



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