Dr. Carolina Huerta, MSN, RN, who chairs the Department of Nursing at The University of Texas-Pan American, was awarded one of the most prestigious honors in the nursing profession June 26 - the American Nurses Association (ANA) 2008 Mary E. Mahoney Award.
Presented in a ceremony during the association's biennial House of Delegates meeting in Washington, D.C., the award is named for the first black graduate nurse in the United States and recognizes dedication and outstanding contributions to the profession of nursing, particularly in advancing equal opportunities in nursing for members of minority groups.
Huerta told her colleagues at the awards ceremony that the task of achieving educational parity for Rio Grande Valley people seeking a professional nursing education had not been an easy one.
"It took vision and a lot of hard work by not only me but by the faculty to establish the bachelor and master of science in nursing programs at UTPA. I want to acknowledge that I could never have done this by myself. The excellent nursing faculty at UTPA have contributed much time and effort to make our nursing programs tops in the state and nation," she said.
Over her years at UTPA, Huerta also oversaw the transition of UTPA's associate's degree program to the area's community college, South Texas College, and has worked to ensure a long-term successful collaboration between the programs. As nursing department chair, she has attained more than $350,000 in funds for program enhancement and scholarships for students as well as initiated and participated in student and faculty exchange programs with schools of nursing in Mexico. Her long list of contributions have led to UTPA's BSN program being ranked 13th in the nation for graduating Hispanic nursing students according to the June 2007 Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine. In the past two years, national professional licensing exam scores by UTPA BSN graduates have averaged 90 percent, well above the national average and all 130 MSN graduates since 1994 have passed the national certification exams.
In addition, her role as an educator has been recognized with numerous academic awards and her scholarly efforts include numerous article publications and a co-authored book on health promotion, now in its second edition and translated into Chinese in 2007. Her dedication to the nursing profession also extends to her longtime, extensive participation in organizations to advance the field's professional standards as well as increased opportunities for minorities and men in the field of nursing. She was an elected member of the Board of Directors for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), president of the Texas Nurses Association, District 26, since 2004 and president of Pi Omicron chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing since 2005. She most recently became advisory committee chair of the AACN and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's New Careers in Nursing Scholarship Program, designed to alleviate the nation's nursing shortage by expanding the pipeline of students in accelerated nursing programs.
"Dr. Huerta has devoted a lifetime to the preparation of nurses for the medically underserved South Texas region and is very deserving of this recognition," said Dr. Blandina Cárdenas, UTPA president. "During a career that has spanned three decades at UTPA, a Hispanic Serving Institution, Dr. Huerta has touched the lives of some 2,000 students who are today working in medical facilities across the Rio Grande Valley. In addition, she has successfully recruited hundreds of undergraduates into the UTPA master's nursing program and, perhaps more importantly, she's recruited more than two dozen nurses to become University faculty, allowing UTPA to significantly increase the number of students admitted to our nursing programs."
The ANA, a professional organization representing 2.9 million of the nation's registered nurses through its 54 constituent member associations, advances the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the rights of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Congress and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.