Norma Martinez Rogers, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, is a 50-year veteran of the UT Health San Antonio Nursing School turned living legend. In November, she was awarded the highest honor for any nurse at the 2022 Health Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., and is only the second Latina to receive the American Academy of Nursing Living Legend Award.
We’re proud to honor her as our Nurse of the Week.
Martinez Rogers grew up in the projects of Dallas, didn’t speak English until third grade, and had a family that worked multiple jobs to keep her in school. But she says she also had the one thing needed to succeed that has served her well — the drive to go to college.
“I had a drive and knew I did not want to be poor. I wanted to get educated.”
Today, Martinez Rogers is a research professor and professor emeritus.
“You have to have that dream, not a fantasy, a dream that you can make a reality,” she says. “I graduated and got my bachelor’s at Incarnate Word College and only three of us Latinos at that time. But when I got my Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin in 1995, I was the only Latina on stage,” she adds.
Since then, the first-generation Hispanic college graduate has spent her time advocating for underserved populations, nursing education, and healthcare policy changes and mentoring those who have followed her.
“Because there are so few of us Latino nurse faculty, there was no one I could relate to. There was no one that looks like you,” she explains.
Her brainchild is Juntos Podemos, a grant-driven mentorship program that identifies high school students interested in health careers and Hispanic nursing students who may need a little inspiration to get to graduation. They are assigned mentors who have been through many of the milestones they must face to help them stay in class and finish.
She says it’s hard because many first-generation Latinos face economic hardships that make it harder in those final two years.
Martinez Rogers says having to work and go to school at the same time in a challenging program often is the one thing that keeps a student from reaching the finish line.
But that’s not all. Martinez Rogers also founded a program called the International Association of Latino Nurse Faculty/Nurse Leaders, which works to pave the way for Latino nurses to rise in the ranks.
“That organization is to encourage and mentor faculty in our nursing leaders. How do you get promoted? How do you get tenured?” she explains.
Martinez Rogers is an inspirational woman, having broken so many barriers that she’s considered a national treasure. Yet, through it all, she lives by a simple motto: “In order to receive, you must first give.”
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