MARCH 24, 2006 | As the only Hispanic nurse in Arkansas with a doctorate degree, Carmen Ramirez, Ed.D., finds herself in great demand.
The distinction has led to her appointment to several campus and state boards, and task forces that promote diversity, the most recent one being commissioner for the Arkansas Minority Health Commission. Ramirez also has taken on the role of Hispanic student recruiter for the
Ramirez is the only Hispanic faculty member in the
In addition to her teaching and molecular genetics research, Ramirez is often on the road to schools in
She introduces herself to students as Carmen, not Dr. Ramirez, and when her potential recruits are comfortable, she begins building the case for a career in nursing using herself as an example.
“When I tell them about my work in genetics, that I have a postdoctoral fellowship in molecular genetics from the National Institutes of Health, they say, ‘you can do that?’ I say, ‘Well, yeah, you can go as far as you want to.’ I try to instill that success and pride.”
Because of a critical nationwide nursing shortage, the career offers many advantages. “I tell them you will always find a job if you are worried about job security,” she said. “You can pursue a master’s degree and a doctorate degree; there are so many opportunities.”
She also tells them that, because they are bilingual, they can help the sick and injured in the Hispanic community get quality health care. In the past three years
A program called Enhancing Nursing Success (ENS) provides incentives for prospective minority nursing students. This federally funded program has provided 21 minorities – four of them Hispanic – scholarships and/or monthly stipends this year. The scholarships are about $2,000 per semester and stipends are $250 a month. The ENS funding also helps the
“Carmen has been an incredible leader in working with us on this pre-college program, as well as working among the college students and the Hispanic community to try to educate them about nursing and the opportunities that nursing has,” Hodges said. “We’ve been quite successful. Our population of Hispanic students has grown, and we now have two Hispanic students in our doctoral program.”
Ramirez’s skills as a nurse practitioner candidate also enable her to reach out to
“Many people in the Hispanic community need medical attention, but they don’t know how to navigate our complicated medical system,” Ramirez said. “They often don’t have much money, and without an interpreter it is virtually impossible for them to get access to quality medical care.”