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Voices from NAHN 2019: Three Hispanic Nurses, Three Incredible Stories


Hector Hugo Gonzalez, PhD, RN
NAHN President, 1982-84

Recognized as a “trailblazer” by the ANA, Dr. Gonzalez was the first Mexican-American RN in the U.S. to earn a doctorate degree., serving as a prominent nurse leader until his retirement in 1991.

We asked him to name the most significant changes he’s seen in a half-century of nursing. In addition to the creation of the ADN which revolutionized nurse education, he also mentioned this stunning fact:

“The biggest change was in the definition of death. For thousands of years, everyone knew that once the heart stopped, you were dead. That shifted in the 60s. Brain death became the new definition. It never made the headlines, you never saw it in journals, but it happened. It changed the world.”


Janet Perez, RN
Peace Corps Volunteer Nurse

From Brooklyn by way of Puerto Rico, Perez started out in the surgical ICU, and three years later pulled “a complete leave of absence” to volunteer at a rural clinic in Ghana. We asked her what it was like to care for patients in such a radically different environment:

“One of the first things I had to do was culturally acclimate myself. I spent many months just trying to understand the language, cook the food, do simple everyday tasks. To provide adequate care for people, you need to understand what’s important to them. You’re not there to change them, you’re there to work with them.”


Frank Baez, BS, RN
NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing

At age 17, Baez felt lucky to land a job at New York University’s Langone Tisch Hospital – as a janitor. The teen barely spoke English, and his family needed the money. Promoted to patient transporter and then unit clerk, Baez completed a rigorous 15-month nursing school program while working at the hospital, graduating at age 29 with a 3.6 GPA.

“I wanted to be a nurse because I was inspired by my co-workers. Seeing how (the nurses) cared for their patients inspired me to become one of them. If you work hard … and you want something, you should always go for it.”


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