SAN ANTONIO (Aug. 15, 2008)—Overcoming the humble beginnings of growing up in public housing, Norma Martínez Rogers, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, associate clinical professor in the Department of Family Nursing at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio, has received a new national honor. Dr. Martínez Rogers was installed as president of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses July 16 during the organization’s 33rd national meeting in Boston.
Dr. Martínez Rogers will lead the 1,200-member organization that strives to improve the quality of health care to Hispanic communities while promoting the professional needs and goals of Hispanic nurses. The association’s objectives include:
• Evaluating the health care needs of the Hispanic community, identifying barriers to the delivery of health care and recommending appropriate solutions
• Developing and promoting culturally sensitive ways to provide effective care for Hispanics
• Reviewing and making recommendations on government policy regarding health care in Hispanic communities and for the underserved, and
• Recruiting Hispanic students into nursing schools to improve culturally sensitive nursing care for Hispanic patients.
Hispanic health disparities
“As a group, Hispanics have more obstacles to overcome regarding a healthy lifestyle than other groups,” Dr. Martínez Rogers said. “Thirty percent live below the poverty level, 14 percent are unemployed, 25 percent live in overcrowded housing and 33 percent either lack private health insurance or fail to qualify for government-sponsored health coverage such as Medicare or Medicaid. Consequently, many Hispanics often are at a higher risk of having chronic health problems or die from them more often than other groups,*” she said. “These include diabetes, cancer, congestive heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”
(*Sources: Institute of Medicine, 2004; U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, 2000.)
“To meet these challenges, the National Association of Hispanic Nurses will focus on increasing membership, encouraging chapters to become more involved as advocates for better health care in their communities, and developing a strong mentorship program for Hispanic nursing students. We believe that one of the best ways to eliminate Hispanic health disparities is to increase the representation of Hispanics in professional nursing,” Dr. Martínez Rogers said.
Raised without advantages
Dr. Martínez Rogers knows firsthand what it is like to grow up in a disadvantaged setting. She lived the early years of her life in the Alazan-Apache Courts, a public housing project in San Antonio. Her parents were committed to see that each of their daughters attained an education.
“I remember my parents making our school uniforms from a newspaper pattern that my father designed, and my mother used to sew for us. That included a blouse, skirt and bowtie that my sisters and I wore as students at Ursuline Academy,” Dr. Martínez Rogers said. “My success in life was highly influenced by parents, family and my husband, who was killed in Vietnam. Prior to leaving for Vietnam, Bill encouraged me to finish my first master’s degree and said, ‘I want you always to be in a position where you can take care of yourself.’”
Entering nursing as a way to help others
Dr. Martínez Rogers took advantage of educational opportunities to excel. After working as a teacher in the Edgewood Independent School District and as a case worker for Catholic Family and Children’s Services (now Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of San Antonio Inc.), she embarked on a nursing career. “I went into nursing because my parents encouraged me to choose a profession in which I would make an impact on the community. My parents were very involved in our community, and nursing was a way I thought I could help others,” Dr. Martínez Rogers said.
Since then, Dr. Martínez Rogers has spent her 33-year career serving others as a nurse, nurse educator and advocate for the underserved. She graduated from Incarnate Word College (now the University of the Incarnate Word) with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, received a master’s degree in counseling from St. Mary’s University and then a master’s degree in nursing from the UT Health Science Center.
Dr. Martínez Rogers specialized in psychiatric nursing at several hospitals in San Antonio for 17 years before earning achievement and commendation medals while serving in the Army during Operation Desert Storm. She worked in Austin in various nursing roles before graduating in 1995 from UT Austin with a Ph.D., in “Cultural Foundation in Education,” followed by two postdoctoral fellowships at the Indiana University School of Nursing. “It was my dream since high school to go to The University of Texas at Austin,” Dr. Martínez Rogers said. “I credit my sons, Sean and Scott, and my friend, Susan, for encouraging me to finish my Ph.D. They were all there to support me in Boston as I accepted this new role as president of the national association.”
Earning the highest achievement in nursing
In 1996, Dr. Martínez Rogers became a faculty member at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio, where she has initiated a number of programs to help the underserved. In 2006, Dr. Martínez Rogers was selected as a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, the highest honor in the nursing profession. She also serves on a number of local, state and national boards and steering committees related to health care, minority and underserved populations.
“I know that I did not accomplish this journey alone,” Dr. Martínez Rogers said. “My hope is to bring other Latinos with me. That is my philosophy of life and that is what my parents taught me early on in life.
Note: A photo of Dr. Martínez Rogers is available upon request.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is the leading research institution in South Texas and one of the major health sciences universities in the world. With an operating budget of $576 million, the Health Science Center is the chief catalyst for the $15.3 billion biosciences and health care sector in San Antonio’s economy. The Health Science Center has had an estimated $35 billion impact on the region since inception and has expanded to six campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. More than 23,000 graduates (physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists and allied health professionals) serve in their fields, including many in Texas. Health Science Center faculty are international leaders in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, aging, stroke prevention, kidney disease, orthopaedics, research imaging, transplant surgery, psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, pain management, genetics, nursing, allied health, dentistry and many other fields. For more information, visit www.uthscsa.edu.