Amber Smid ’14

Mission of Mercy

By: Mary Kate McCoy
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Student Learning: We strive for academic excellence that challenges and supports students in developing lives of purpose through engagement with our curriculum, co-curriculum, and institutional culture.

Amber Smid ’14 has embodied the Mission to build a just and compassionate world since she graduated from the Henry Predolin School of Nursing in 2014.

Smid, a pediatrics nurse at St. Mary’s hospital in Madison, believes strongly in taking the education and opportunities she’s had, and spreading them to those in need.

“I was a pediatric nurse in Denver for about three years after graduating,” she said. “I have a heart for volunteering. I love going to other countries and teaching and providing care for people who don’t have the opportunity.”

Smid returned from Africa in December 2017, after spending four months as an ophthalmology nurse with Mercy Ships, an international charity that provides humanitarian aid to developing countries.

“Usually there’s a waitlist for this program, there are volunteers from around the world,” Smid said. “They needed an ophthalmology nurse — which I knew nothing about — but if you’re willing to teach, I’m willing to learn.”

Smid served aboard the Africa Mercy, the world’s largest non-governmental hospital ship. The ship serves the continent of Africa. Mercy Ships has an average of 1000 volunteer crew, from up to 40 nations, serving onboard the Africa Mercy each year. The volunteers provide aid like free specialized surgeries, a variety of training opportunities for medical professionals, infrastructure development and agricultural projects for locals.

“Here, if you have a bump on your face you go to the doctor and have it looked at, and if it’s something that’s going to grow, we get it removed,” she said. “In developing countries where poverty is huge, they can’t afford to go to the doctor. Education is huge … and good information can make a huge impact in the community.”

Mercy Ships volunteer nurse Amber Smid removes an eye patch from an eye surgery patient in Cameroon, Africa. ©Mercy Ships, credit – Shawn Thompson

But her experience with Mercy Ships wasn’t her first taste of the importance of giving back.

She traveled to Cambodia three times with Edgewood College, once as a student, then twice after graduating as a teaching assistant and a faculty member.

“A lot of things that first year really opened up a lot of doors and opportunities and a huge part of what I’m passionate about — nursing and healthcare,” Smid said.

Those experiences outside of the classroom and in another culture opened her eyes and broadened her perspective on nursing, she said.

“It’s one of those things that’s really addicting,” she said. “You start and you see a whole different side of healthcare. We take a lot for granted here, you don’t realize it until you go to a place that doesn’t have the same opportunities we do.”

A native of Oconomowoc, her international experiences opened the world for her, and taught her a lot about herself.

“It made me recognize the skills I had developed in pediatrics and appreciate that,” Smid said. “I realized I had a true passion for it. I never would have realized how much I loved working with kids if I hadn’t tried something different.”

And those lessons she picked up along the way have made her a better nurse, she said.

“Seeing what I’ve seen in different countries and being able to experience that has influenced me and allowed me to be more understanding in my professional practice now,” she said.

Ophthalmic Scheduling Nurse Amber Smid works with a patient who arrived for surgery onboard the Africa Mercy in Cameroon. ©Mercy Ships, credit – Saul Loubassa

Smid encourages students who are interested in following a similar path to not be held back by money. She could never afford her trips on her own, she said, so she turned to her community for support and was able to completely fundraise her first two trips to Cambodia.

“It just takes one step outside your comfort zone, then it’s a snowball,” she said.

About Mercy Ships

Mercy Ships programs offer holistic support to developing nations striving to make healthcare accessible for all. Since 1978, Mercy Ships has delivered services to more than 2.56 million direct beneficiaries. The countries served by Mercy Ships are ranked as the poorest in the world by the United Nations Human Development Index.

Please learn more at

Top: Mercy Ships volunteer Nurse Amber Smid on the dock in front of the Africa Mercy hospital ship in Cameroon, Africa. ©Mercy Ships, credit – Saul Loubassa