School of Nursing

HealthE STEPS - Nursing Workforce Diversity

In July, 2013 the OHSU School of Nursing was awarded a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to recruit and enroll more underrepresented students in nursing school and support them during their educational program. This work is part of a national initiative to diversify the nursing workforce. The program, Advancing Health Equity through Student Empowerment &Professional Success (HealthE STEPS) seeks to attract and advance a diverse nursing student body within the Oregon public education system, from pre-nursing through graduate education. By diversifying the nursing workforce, we believe that minority groups will be able to identify with their health care providers, resulting in increased access to health care and improved health equity across communities.

The SON was re-awarded another grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration in 2017 to launch this successful program on all five undergraduate campuses, HealthE STEPS 2.0.

OHSU students address barriers to health

HealthE STEPS scholars Mare Cox (left) and Rubi Heister practice physical assessment skills. Both are on track to graduate from the Portland campus in June 2021 with their Baccalaureate in Nursing.

Navigating the health care system can be intimidating for many. Challenges such as poverty and homelessness, cultural and language barriers, and rural or social isolation often have negative health impacts and can make it difficult to access care.

That’s where OHSU’s Interprofessional Care Access Network, also known as I-CAN, comes in. The program partners OHSU students from all areas of health care — nursing, dentistry, medicine and other fields — with local agencies to help meet the needs of disadvantaged communities. Read more.

Financial Assistance

The program provides financial assistance to nursing students in our undergraduate bachelor degree programs and graduate programs annually. 

  • Scholarships are available to OHSU Nursing students in our graduate program, OCNE 3 Year Program on all five campuses, Accelerated Baccalaureate Program on both campuses, and student in the on-campus BS completion program.
  • The program provides academic and social support to scholarship and stipend recipients in the form of case management, mentoring, and other services. 
  • Grant funds are used for community outreach to minority populations, with the goal of recruiting them to the nursing workforce; and to support minority nursing students through retention initiatives so that they can successfully complete their program of study.

Applicants must be a citizen of the United States, a non-citizen national of the United States, or a foreign national with a visa permitting permanent residence in the United States. Applicant also needs to meet one of the following criteria:

  • Underrepresented Minorities in Nursing (e.g., ethnic/racial minorities)
  • Educational Disadvantaged (e.g., neither parent graduated from a 4-year university, grew up in a rural town with limited school resources)
  • Economically Disadvantaged (e.g., low EFC, economic hardship)

To be eligible for scholarship awards or stipends, applicants must also participate in the following activities:

  1. Expected to maintain regular communication with the diversity coordinator.
  2. Expected to attend regularly scheduled meetings with diversity and/or faculty coordinator.
  3. Submit grades to the diversity coordinator each term.
  4. Participate in grant-sponsored activities, including mentoring, outreach events, expanded orientation programs and workshops.
  5. Access academic support services as recommended.
  6. Remain in good academic standing.

HealthE STEPS scholars

Every year we award a new cohort of students through the Nursing Workforce Diversity (NWD) HealthE STEPS Scholarship Program. The program helps a range of students. Our recipients range from students completing their baccalaureate degree in our traditional three-year program, accelerated program, or the RNBC completion program. Our students come from all over the state of Oregon, each with a goal of finishing their nursing degree and contributing to their communities. Here are some current HealthE STEPS recipients and some past scholars who have continued on to graduate school.

Alma (Ericka) Salazar

Program: Traditional Baccalaureate OHSU Ashland Campus
Year: Class of 2018
Hometown: Born in Yuma AZ, raised in Southern Oregon

Goal: My goal is to complete my BSN program in June 2018 and gain knowledge and experience in the critical care setting. I hope to obtain a position in the emergency department and join a professional nursing organization to feel grounded in my practice. Once financially and mentally ready, I plan to continue my education and pursue a graduate degree to advance my nursing practice. My passion is to serve migrant and underserved populations in my community.

Bio: I am currently a single parent of two young boys. I have lived in my community most of my life and plan to raise my sons here, too. However, I was born in Yuma AZ, and was being delivered while my mother was crossing the border from San Luis RC, Sonora. She knew the value of being a US citizen to the point where she risked her life for me to reap the benefits. I am the middle sibling of five children and was raised solely by her, who worked in agriculture as a migrant worker. This experience allowed me to see what a migrant woman does for her children in a country that is not hers and ingrained in the values and beliefs I hold true today.

 I began my journey as a medical assistant at a community clinic. After years of helping the underserved population in my community, I decided I needed to do more for them and for myself. I began taking classes at a community college for two years while working and caring for my children. Once able, I applied to OHSU SON and was accepted. This was a huge milestone in my life and hope to use everything I have learned to give back to my community. 

Update: Ericka graduated in June of 2018 and is working in Emergency Nursing in southern Oregon as an RN. She received the Ashland Campus 2018 Sigma Theta Tau Outstanding Baccalaureate Student award. 

Russel Grad Photo

Program: Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Year: Class of 2023
Hometown: I grew up in the Willamette Valley and currently live in Wallowa County, Oregon.

Goal: After completing the PMHNP program, I hope to practice in my frontier community of Wallowa County, where there is currently a severe shortage of mental health practitioners. I recently completed the BSN program with the support of the HealthE STEPS program and mentorships.

Bio: I began my educational journey as a single mother of four children, seeking to make a better life for our family as well as to pursue a dream that I had carried for years. For as long as I can remember, I have felt drawn to this profession that offers the unique privilege of connecting with and caring for others in such a meaningful and rewarding way. Along my educational journey, I spent time working in non-profit organizations serving high-risk families and found a passion for supporting individuals and families facing adversities in many forms. Having faced trauma and adversity in my own life, I can attest to the resilience-building power of connection and support. My husband and I now have six children. I am a first-generation college graduate and I am able to continue my educational goals with the support and encouragement of my family and others. I look forward with gratitude to the opportunity to make a positive difference in our community.

Tyler Hulick

Program: OHSU La Grande Campus
Year: Class of 2020
Hometown: Prineville, Oregon

Goal: As a newly graduated alumni of Oregon Health and Science University I would say my goals now are pursuing a career in critical care whether it be through the emergency department or intensive care unit. I am excited to say my goal of passing the NCLEX on the first try was a success.

Bio: I'm 27 years old and I'm the oldest sibling of my seven wonderful brothers and sisters. I graduated from Crook County High School in 2012. I have lived in Central Oregon for a large part of my life. Before I graduated from this program, I worked for the United States Forest Service as a wildland firefighter for six years. I now live in Meridian, Idaho with, my beautiful partner in life, Mikayla. I enjoy the outdoors, hiking, hunting, and fishing.

This path towards a health care profession has been sought after much trial and error in the journey of life. After exploring my options as a young man, I had to find something that I enjoyed in life and I found that I love helping people. This led me to the path of becoming a nurse and I began to take my prerequisites at Central Oregon Community College. I graduated from the nursing program with the Class of 2020. A year of immense hardship for not only graduates but the world.  But after lots of hard work and determination I have found myself finding a career path that I'm in love with so far and I look forward to seeing where this will lead me. I am happy that even though there were so many doubts in my mind towards my self-worth and intelligence it all worked out the way it was meant to be. The journey to get the title of a Registered Nurse is not an easy one, but the lives that I am able to impact now and give back to my community is all worth it.

Valerie Abdalnabi

Program: OHSU Monmouth Campus
Year: Class of 2018
Hometown: Las Cruces, New Mexico

Goal: After completing a Bachelor of Science with a major in Nursing degree at Oregon Health &Science University, I would like to work in a critical care setting such as an Intensive Care Unit. I also have an interest in working with Native Americans, immigrants, and the homeless community. After gaining valuable experience, I would love to continue my education and become a Family Nurse Practitioner or a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA).

Bio: I am a first-generation college student. Being Native American, I am well aware that underserved populations have poor access to healthcare, leading to a higher prevalence of disease and mortality. This inspired me to pursue my nursing education at Oregon Health &Science University to become a Registered Nurse. I hope to help bridge this gap by providing compassionate care to populations that lack access to high-quality healthcare.

Update: Valerie graduated in June 2018 is working as an RN  in Intensive Care in the Willamette Valley.

Xochitl Gutierrez

Program: OHSU Monmouth Campus
Year: Class of 2018
Hometown: Born in Tepic, Nayarit Mexico raised in Southern California.

Goal: After completing my BSN, I want to gain experience in the acute care setting and pursue graduate school in a year or two. I am interested in the Health and Systems Organizational Leadership program at OHSU. My goal is to work with rural and underserved populations here in Oregon, and I believe post-baccalaureate education is an essential step in reaching this goal.

Bio: I am a first-generation college student from a first-generation immigrant family. I previously completed an Associate Degree at Chemeketa Community College along with the prerequisites for nursing. I chose nursing because it is unlike any other profession. The knowledge base, the critical thinking, and the opportunity to serve people are all that drew me in. What I also love about nursing is the flexibility and the various professional opportunities available to nurses. I am both excited and grateful to begin my nursing practice, expand my knowledge base, and serve others.

Update: Xochitl graduated in June 2018 is working as an RN in Medical Surgical Oncology in the Willamette Valley.

Nancy Ferrer

Current Program: OHSU Family Nurse Practitioner Program
Year: Class of 2023
2020 Graduate of Klamath Falls Campus- BSN
Hometown- Coquille, Oregon

Goal: My goal is to become a family nurse practitioner and practice in a rural community. Growing up, I saw how language became a great barrier in healthcare and am passionate about integrating my native language and culture into my future practice. Specifically, I am passionate about rural healthcare and serving medically underserved communities.

Bio: I am a first-generation college student. Before I was born, my parents migrated to the United States to give my siblings and me the education opportunities that they did not have. With their support, I recently graduated with my BSN degree through the OHSU Klamath Falls extension campus and have decided to pursue graduate school. During my undergraduate nursing education, I was awarded the HealthE Steps scholarship, which gave me the support and direction to be successful in my studies and apply to graduate school. This scholarship grant has been a great part of my support system in navigating graduate-level education and pursuing my dreams of becoming a rural family nurse practitioner.

Program: OHSU Klamath Falls Campus
Year: Class of 2018
Hometown: Lake Havasu, Arizona 

Goal: Currently my goals include graduating with my BSN, passing my NCLEX, and eventually working as a pediatric nurse here in Oregon. I want to continue giving back to my community in any way possible, and I would eventually like to do some international volunteer work, especially in countries with minimal access to healthcare.

Bio: I am a first-generation college student planning to graduate in 2018. I chose to pursue a career in nursing after witnessing firsthand the impact a nurse can have on a patient and their entire family. When my grandmother was in the hospital, I was always fascinated at the way nurses interacted with her, and with myself and the rest of my family. I decided I wanted to be "that" nurse for another family. One of my goals of practice is to always include the family because I know how meaningful that simple act can be. This scholarship has been a tremendous blessing in helping me finish school and follow my dreams.

Update: Ashley graduated in June 2018 and is currently working in as an RN in Emergency Nursing in the Klamath Falls area.

Mark Anthony Ramos Udarbe

Program: 3-year baccalaureate nursing program, OHSU, Portland campus
Year: Class of 2019
Hometown: Hanamāʻulu, Hawai'i, Island of Kauaʻi County.

Goal: Prior to nursing school, I gained years of healthcare experience working in outpatient clinics and in clinical informatics. I later realized that my role was confined and that it was time for me to move forward. I desired a career in nursing and set a goal to attend nursing school. My current goal is to graduate from OHSU in June 2019 with my bachelor of science degree in nursing. My next plan is to gain work experience in the inpatient setting, particularly in an acute care medicine unit. My inpatient, outpatient, and clinical informatics experiences will further support my next goal to attend graduate school and become a family nurse practitioner. I plan to provide excellent and holistic health care to all patient populations, especially in rural and medically underserved communities.

Biography: My family were Philippine immigrants. Initially, they were imported farmworkers for a grape vineyard in Bakersfield, California, and were later transferred to Hawai'i to continue working as farmworkers on a sugar cane plantation. My family was one of the first Filipino plantation laborers in 1906. My family eventually gained U.S. citizenship after years of farming labor and I was later born and raised on the Hawaiian island of Kauaʻi. I grew up in a socioeconomically disadvantage household and I am the first in my family to go to college. I began my career in health care as a medical assistant when I moved to Oregon in 2008. I worked at chronic pain, foot and ankle, primary care, gastroenterology, and urgent care clinics, as well as in clinical informatics Epic support. Both my personal and professional experiences have inspired me to strive to make a difference in health care.

Update:  Mark graduated in 2019 and is currently working as an RN in a medical unit in a Portland hospital. 

Ireli Hernandez

Previous Undergraduate Trainees who Have Gone On to Graduate School

Ireli Hernandez

Current Program: OHSU- Nurse Midwifery Graduate Program
Year: Class of 2020
2018 Graduate of Ashland Campus –Baccalaureate Degree
Hometown: Born in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico raised in Medford, Oregon.

Goal: My current goal is to become a Certified Nurse Midwife and complete my Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. I am committed to addressing health equity issues and have future intentions of working with underserved populations in a community/rural setting. As I continue my education at OHSU, I hope to contribute to the diversity of the nursing workforce and share my experiences and culture with my current/future colleagues and community.

Bio: I was born in Morelia Michoacán, Mexico and arrived in the U.S. at the age of 4. I am the mother to a fun and energetic boy. I am the second oldest of three children, one of which also graduated from the nursing program at OHSU. Due to life circumstances, my parents were unable to obtain a formal education themselves. Like many families, my parents decided to immigrate to the United States from Mexico to pursue greater opportunities. Growing up, my parents always pushed for higher education;their continued support and motivation have been the driving force to our educational endeavors.   

I am a first-generation college student; I obtained a BS in biology with a minor in psychology from Southern Oregon University. I attended OHSU- School of Nursing (Ashland campus) and completed a BS in nursing in 2017. I transitioned into a graduate program at OHSU, were I am currently working towards completing a doctorate degree, with a specialty in Nurse Midwifery. 

Update: Ireli completed her Doctor of Nursing Practice in Nurse Midwifery in 2020 and is working as a Certified Nurse Midwife in southern Oregon. 

Cindy Millan

Previous Undergraduate Trainees who Have Gone On to Graduate School

Cindy Millan

Current Program: Oregon Health and Science University- Family Nurse Practitioner Program/Doctor of Nursing Practice (FNP/DNP)
Year: Class of 2020
2018 Graduate of Monmouth Campus –Baccalaureate Degree
Hometown: Salem, Oregon

Goal: My goal upon completing the FNP/DNP program is to provide care to medically underserved communities. I have a special interest in working with the Latino/Hispanic population, including the migrant farmworker population. This interest has stemmed from both personal experience and exposure to current issues related to lack of diverse providers. 

Bio: I am the youngest in my family and the first to enroll in graduate school. My parents are both immigrants who although lack higher education have always understood the importance of education and pushed us to continue beyond high school. I recently completed my BSN degree at the OHSU School of Nursing, Monmouth campus, where I was awarded the HealthE STEPS grant for the duration of my undergraduate nursing education. It was with the guidance and support from this grant program that I am where I am today.

Update: Cindy became certified as a Family nurse practitioner in 2019 and is currently practicing in Family Medicine Clinic in Oregon.  She also completed her Doctor of Nursing Practice in 2020

Pathways to nursing

View two students' amazing stories about their different pathways to a nursing career:

Ireli Hernandez, nurse midwife 
Annette New Dawn Sampson, registered nurse

Flyer showing the career path for a registered nurse

Watch Annette's story

Diversity team

Joanne Noone, PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF, Project Director
(503) 494-7525

Rana Halabi Najjar, Ph.D., R.N., C.P.N.P., Project Manager, Monmouth Faculty Coordinator

Tina Talamantes, MSN, RN, Ashland Faculty Coordinator
(503) 418-6139

Diana Siltanen, BSN, RN, LaGrande Faculty Coordinator

Tito Onesto , Ashland Campus, Ashland Diversity Coordinator
(503) 418-6133

Monmouth and Portland Campuses Diversity Coordinator
Position is currently vacant. New coordinator coming soon! 

Trinidad Gonzalez, Klamath Falls Campus Diversity Coordinator
(971) 262-1252

Marilyn Gran-Moravec, MSN, RN, Klamath Falls Faculty Coordinator
(971) 262-1254