Recipient of American Academy of Nursing’s highest honor continues inclusion push
During her more than 50-year nursing career, Norma Martínez Rogers focused on mentoring, nursing education, advocating for underserved populations and health care policy changes. But she never forgot the feeling the first time she stepped onto campus as a nursing student.
“Because I was a first-generation Hispanic attending college as a nursing student myself, I saw the need to encourage and support students who had never made this journey before into higher education,” said Martínez Rogers, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor emeritus in the UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing.
She would initiate and secure grant funding for the Juntos Podemos mentorship program for first-generation Hispanic nursing students. For that and serving in nursing leadership locally, statewide, nationally and internationally, Martínez Rogers was named an American Academy of Nursing Living Legend, the academy’s highest honor presented recently at its 2022 Health Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. She is only the second Latina to receive the honor.
A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, Martínez Rogers joined the UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing in 1996. She was named an AAN fellow in 2006. Living Legends must be fellows in good standing for at least 15 years and have demonstrated extraordinary, diverse and sustained accomplishments in the nursing profession.
“I have believed, throughout my professional life, that as a Latina/Hispanic, I am obligated to help my people become successful,” she said. “I started Juntos Podemos because I took this belief of ‘helping’ to the program. My motto for the students was, ‘In order to receive, you must first give.’ We taught the students to give through mentorship.”
Juntos Podemos grew to include outreach programs to high school and undergraduate college students interested in the health professions, creating an educational pipeline program to address the nursing shortage, diversity in the profession and the development of Hispanic nurse leaders.
Martínez Rogers also served as president of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (2010-2012) and in 2011 was chosen by the National Diversity Council as a “Most Powerful and Influential Woman of Texas.”
In 2012, she was selected as a founding member of the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, which serves as an advisory group to Congress regarding health care for underserved children.
Retired Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, PhD, RN, FAAN, executive vice president and chief strategy officer of the University of North Texas Health Science Center, and former acting surgeon general, said: “During my tenure at the Department of Health and Human Services, I worked with (Martínez Rogers) to convene national and local conferences focused on health disparities, cultural competency and building clinical pipeline programs.”
One of those meetings was a conference of the Cultural Inclusion Institute, which focuses on new strategies and innovation for cultural inclusion to advance transformation in health care and higher education, which Martínez Rogers founded eight years ago.
She also initiated the International Association of Latino Nurses Faculty. “Membership in the organization was opened to all Latino nurse faculty working in nationally and internationally accredited schools of nursing,” said Carolina G. Huerta, EdD, RN, FAAN, professor of nursing at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. “Prior to 2014, no such organization existed, and this organization was created as a resource for Latino faculty who did not have access to mentoring or to an organization that speaks on their behalf.”
In 2017, Martínez Rogers’ many accomplishments were recognized by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing with the Diversity, Inclusion and Sustainability Award. And in 2020, she received the university’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service to the Institution award.
Although she retired in 2021 after 26 years of service to UT Health San Antonio, Martínez Rogers continues to discover community needs and find innovative solutions. For example, she serves as chair of the board of directors for Ride Connect Texas, a nonprofit dedicated to older adults, people with disabilities and their caregivers.
“I am humbled to receive this prestigious (Living Legend) award,” she said. “Every time I think of how blessed I have been to be allowed to accomplish so much it brings tears to my eyes. I know that it is through the grace of a higher power that I have been able to do all that I have done. Though I grew up in a lower socio-economic family, I was privileged that my parents believed in getting a good education. I thank them for instilling in me the responsibility to help others. I did not do this alone and I sincerely thank those who helped me along my journey.”
“Dr. Martínez Rogers’ journey is filled with examples where she has demonstrated her unwavering championing for diversity and inclusion in higher education and health care,” said former UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing Dean Eileen T. Breslin, PhD, RN, FAAN. “Her publications reflect her journey of becoming culturally proficient and teaching others to accept diversity and the uniqueness of others. I believe she is truly deserving of acknowledgement as an American Academy of Nursing Living Legend, given the evidence of her life’s work.”
Said current School of Nursing Dean Sonya Renae Hardin, PhD, MBA/MHA, APRN, FAAN, “I cannot think of anyone more deserving of the Living Legend award. Dr. Martínez Rogers’ career speaks for itself and has played an important role in advancing diversity and inclusion in nursing education and patient care.”