As an aspiring primary care nurse practitioner, José wanted to understand each patient and their personal experience before, after, and during their point of care. Post graduation, José envisioned working in the community as a registered nurse, bringing healthy resources and interventions to people at the clinic, home, and workplace to address needs and empower healthy lifestyle habits in individuals, families, and communities at large.
Given José’s academic interests in nutrition and the social determinants of health, Nursing 521: Closer Look at Nutrition Policy, a discussion-based class with registered dietician and professor, Monique Dowd, was one of José’s favorite courses. José’s final project for the course focused on creating a wellness policy for migrant farmworkers. Taking a closer look at the effects of acculturation, low-income wages, and immigrant status, José developed a plan to bring subsidized foods and health-promoting classes and activities to individuals at the workplace.
José had a great impact on the local Philadelphia population while working at Puentes de Salud (Bridges of Health) for his summer nurse internship with Independent Blue Cross. Puentes de Salud fosters the health and wellness of Philadelphia’s Latino population through education and health care services. José felt an immediate connection to his work at the Clinic and involved himself in every aspect of his patients’ care.
José grew up in Yakima, Washington, an agriculture-based town where his parents, both Mexican American immigrants, found work. José’s experiences and his strong tie to his heritage inspired him to work with Latino immigrants and Spanish-speaking populations. During high school, José fondly remembers a Spanish-speaking nurse who brought his mother so much happiness through her tough times in the hospital. José realized that he too could serve that role for another one day. Dr. Antonia Villarruel, the Dean of the School of Nursing, encouraged and identified with José’s passion for working with the Latino community. Dr. Villarruel’s support helped José find opportunities, including his Independent Blue Cross Nurse Internship which guided his career path. Dr. Villarruel demonstrated the care and commitment of the Penn Nursing faculty.
As a Hispanic male in nursing, José is a true trailblazer. José stays connected with peers and always enjoyed sharing his experiences through student-led events, specifically a conversation series titled “Navigating Relationships in the Nursing School as a Student of Color” led by student groups, Minorities in Nursing Organization (MNO) and Asian Pacific American Nursing Student Association (APANSA). José was emboldened by these discussions, which have since formed an impetus for change at Penn and the nursing field.
To relieve academic stress, José enjoyed running on the Schuylkill River Trail and at the Woodlands Cemetery. José kept up running habits that he learned in high school from his 4-year cross country and track coach, former Irish marathon Olympian and biology teacher in Yakima, WA. José competed in and won the Philadelphia Marathon Liberty Bell Challenge, finishing with the fastest half-marathon-full-marathon combined time in the city marathon weekend. José kept up his familial sense of team comradery by being a brother of Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity. There he served as the New Member Educator, bringing value and importance to the creation and perpetuation of brotherhood for himself and other undergraduate men.
José traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico as part of an independent study that looks at community health in indigenous populations. This course, N298, is one of nine short-term study abroad programs offered by Penn Nursing. While José and his peers were based in the city, they delivered preventative health classes on the outskirts, often in areas that typically don’t have access to extensive medical resources. These classes, including sessions on women’s health, diabetes, and mental health, provided individuals with education and an opportunity to share their thoughts in an environment where these topics are typically left unsaid. In the community setting, José was passionate about facilitating discussions on nutrition and the prevention of chronic lifestyle-related diseases. Rural Mexican populations have begun to see an increase in diabetes that has troubled urban areas, and José found that his patients were receptive to learning about how they can regain control of their health to combat the impending epidemic. José returned to campus with hope for the people of Oaxaca; he also learned that active listening is critical to nursing care. José lets his patients explain their needs first, which ensures that his interventions are personalized and actionable.
José also studied in Chile during the Penn Nursing course N343: Health and the Healthcare System in Chile. José looked forward to a deeper understanding of how people are cared for within the Chilean healthcare infrastructure. While studying the Chilean people’s status and the nation’s efforts, the course allowed for a full immersion into the Chilean culture and diet.
José co-chaired the Student Sustainability Association at Penn (SSAP), the umbrella organization for the ten environmental-oriented groups on campus. This student group serves many roles, including its purpose as a funding body, an incubator for the community, and as a platform for discussing the state of environmental affairs at Penn. In addition, José represented SSAP and the School of Nursing at University Council, a monthly meeting with President Amy Gutmann, Provost Wendell Pritchett, and other officers of the University to consider activities in all of its phases, with particular attention to matters that affect the common interests of faculty, staff and students, including sustainability matters such as University divestment from coal and tar sands.
José’s interest in sustainability was grounded in the intersection between a healthy diet and its role in a thriving natural environment. As an executive board member of the Penn Vegan Society (PVS), José became interested in the benefits of a plant-forward diet in disease prevention and its position as the single biggest way to reduce our environmental impact. José put together an event for Penn’s Annual Food Week, hosted and catered by Bon Appétit, by researching and giving a lecture to students and the members of the Philadelphia community at large on the role of plant-based proteins on athletic performance. Through his involvement with these groups, José felt at home at Penn working for a future of health and inclusion for the generations to come at Penn and the world at large.