Family Ties, Cultural Roots Inspire Healthcare Careers for two Islander Alumni

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – “It’s a family affair” for many people who choose healthcare as their profession, including two Islander alumni nurse and healthcare administration leaders.

Dr. Miguel Perez III ’98, and Roxana Hernandez Reyna ’17, are just two of thousands of Islanders who are making a difference in the Coastal Bend thanks to their work in healthcare. Both Perez and Reyna credit their families for inspiring them to care for others.

“My family is the constant that has always been with me throughout my journey,” Perez said. “Each member has played a major role in my professional and academic career through their love, encouragement, and patience.”

Perez, an assistant professor in the TAMU-CC College of Nursing and Health Sciences, graduated with a Master of Science in Environmental Science from TAMU-CC in 1998 and has been an Islander health sciences faculty member since 2014. Raised in Premont, Texas by Miguel Perez Jr. And Mary Perez, Perez says his passion for healthcare began as child due to his mother, who worked as a licensed vocational nurse at Memorial Hospital in Corpus Christi. Through her service, Perez said he was taught the value of caring for others, along with the importance of community.

“My mom wasn’t just a nurse at work. She was nurse to our family and our extended family and friends,” Perez said. “She helped those in need from Premont, Concepcion, Rios, Falfurrias, Kingsville, Alice, and Hebbronville. It was through her work that I learned that community, connections, and family are everything, and I take these ideals with me everywhere.”

Perez says it was the team environment in his early career in the Driscoll Health System that encouraged him to continue to further his education through the pursuit of a second master's degree. He earned a Master of Science in Healthcare Administration from Trinity University in 2009, and in fall 2020, Perez completed a Doctor of Philosophy in Human Capital Management from Bellevue University. Perez also holds Bachelor of Science in Biology from Texas A&M University-Kingsville, completed in 1996.

Before his transition into full-time teaching, Perez enjoyed a 14-year Health Information Technology career with Driscoll Children’s Health System where he pursued many roles including Chief Information Officer and healthcare interests such as leadership, management, hospital systems, health plan, business intelligence, project and portfolio management, and strategic planning, to name a few.

“During this entire journey, I could hear my parents encouraging me to do well in my studies, to work hard and help those who need my help, and to always remember no job is too small to provide your best effort,” Perez said. “As a professor, I strive to be a beacon of truth for students, especially since there are many who are first-generation. I hope that whether in a lecture or group meeting, I will say the right words at the time they need to hear them the most and will motivate them to persevere in their academic and professional journey.”

Reyna was also inspired by a member of her family – her great grandmother Antonia Quintero Martinez. While she was never able to meet her, Reyna says the stories of her work healing souls and wounds as a “Curandera Buena,” a folk healer, inspired her to care for those in need.

“My dad always told me that my passion for healing people was a ‘don,’ a gift that was handed down to me through generations,” Reyna, a Hebbronville, Texas native said. “I bring my roots, my Mexican cultural beliefs, into my patient care, while also respecting my patient’s roots and beliefs. I do this because denying my roots would deny everything I am made from – it’s part of how I care.”  

Reyna earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Texas Medical Branch in 2011, a specialty degree in wound care from Emory University in 2014, and a Master of Science in Nursing-Family Nurse Practitioner from TAMU-CC in 2017. She is currently at Wound Care Nurse Practitioner at Corpus Christi’s Driscoll Children’s Hospital. In 2008, Reyna invented a novel wound dressing for pediatric patients which let her to co-author several articles in prestigious nursing and medical journals.

“Looking at my career, I have to give credit to those who have helped me lay the foundation on which I stand,” Reyna said. “Through my success, I have been able to network and find others with the same goal who have directed me to the right people and places. Nursing isn’t just a job, it’s my calling.” 

In 2014, Reyna was invited to the White House as an honored guest alongside the Little Devices Lab/MIT Maker Nurse program. She has attended the United Nations with leaders in nursing and was featured as Johnson & Johnson’s Nurse Innovator in 2018.

Reflecting on the milestones of her career, Reyna says she wouldn’t be who she is without her faith, family, and culture.

“Every time I reached a goal, I look in the mirror with a smile knowing that the Hispanic girl from Hebbronville made it,” said Reyna. “To other Latinas/os wanting to join the field, I simply say this – never give up. Challenges will always try to deter you and cause you to take steps back. Keep pushing forward, and above all, surround yourself with good people.”