Frontier Nursing University embraces the richness of diversity during National Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to honor the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture, and achievements for the U.S. This celebration aligns with our commitment to fostering an inclusive environment and our strong emphasis on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). As we commemorate this occasion, we take a moment to shine a light on three exceptional Hispanic nurses whose enduring impact continues to inspire and uplift the field of healthcare.
Doña Jesusita Aragón (1908 – 2005)
Born on a ranch in Sapello, New Mexico, Doña Jesusita Aragón embarked on her journey into the world of midwifery at a remarkably young age, delivering her first baby at just 13 years old under the guidance of her grandmother, Dolores Gallegos, herself a midwife. Her lifelong passion for healthcare was nurtured by her family’s tradition of healing, with the family curandera imparting knowledge of traditional healing herbs.
Despite her dreams of becoming a nurse, Jesusita Aragón’s educational opportunities were limited, and she only completed eighth grade, all in Spanish. Nevertheless, she became a beacon of hope for countless mothers in her community, delivering over 12,000 babies during her impressive 80-year career. She provided her services to expectant mothers in her own home, which she designed and built herself, equipped with a room holding 10 beds for birthing. Among her remarkable deliveries were 27 sets of twins and two sets of triplets. Jesusita Aragon’s legacy remains an indelible part of New Mexico’s cultural and healthcare history, highlighting the pivotal role of midwives in providing essential maternity care to their communities.
Henrieta Villaescusa (1920 – 2005)
Henrieta Villaescusa was a trailblazing Hispanic nurse who was defined as being a “first” in so many important positions. Earning her Bachelor’s degree from Immaculate Heart College and her Master’s degree from UCLA, Villaescusa went on to become the only Hispanic Public Health Supervisor at the time of her employment at the Los Angeles Public Health Department. During her long and varied career, she served as the first Hispanic Health Administrator in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and the first Mexican American Chief Nurse Consultant in the Office of Maternal & Child Health, Bureau of Community Health Services, where she identified needs, trends, and priorities in nursing research and training. She also worked for California congressmen George Miller and Edward Roybal.
Villaescusa was a social justice advocate, developing health policies on the local, state, national, and international level. She also advocated for the role of nurses in health policies and partnerships. She was associated with many organizations, including the National Coalition of Hispanic Health and Human Services Organization and the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, where she served as president from 1984 to 1988. Villaescusa died in 2005, leaving behind a legacy of advocacy and innovation.
Hector Hugo Gonzales (1937 – Present)
Hector Hugo Gonzalez is a trailblazing figure in the field of nursing and healthcare education. His deep roots in South Texas, tracing back to Spanish settlers in the 18th century, instilled in him a profound sense of heritage and commitment to his community. Gonzalez’’s educational journey took him from the Robert B. Green Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in San Antonio to the halls of prestigious institutions such as Incarnate Word College and The Catholic University of America, where he earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Notably, he became the first Mexican-American Registered Nurse to attain a Ph.D. in the United States, marking a significant milestone in his illustrious career.
Gonzalez’s impact extended far beyond his academic achievements. He served in the United States Army Nurse Corps, reaching the rank of Captain, and later became the Chairman of the Department of Nursing Education at San Antonio College, where he transformed nursing education programs, pioneering innovations that led to increased diversity in both students and faculty. His leadership also resonated on a national and international level, as he held prominent positions in organizations such as the National Association of Hispanic Nurses and the National League for Nursing. Gonzalez’s dedication to cultural competence in nursing care and his unwavering commitment to advocating for underserved populations left an indelible mark on the nursing profession. Even in his retirement, he has continued to contribute to the field, exemplifying a lifetime of service and dedication to improving healthcare access and education.
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