January 13, 2023

Nurse Leader Norma Martinez Rogers Receives Living Legend Award

Nurse Leader Norma Martinez Rogers Receives Living Legend Award

The Living Legend Award represents the American Academy of Nursing’s highest honor. It is awarded to remarkable visionaries who leverage innovation, science, and leadership to advance nursing. 

The 2022 Living Legend recipients include passionate nurse leader Norma Martinez Rogers, Ph.D., RN, FAAN. This accomplished nurse, also a first-generation college student, has overcome social and economic hardships to leave her mark on the profession. This past fall, Martinez Rogers was among six extraordinary nurses designated as Living Legends for their contributions to nursing practice, research, education, and policy.

“I am humbled to receive this prestigious award. Every time I think of how blessed I have been to be allowed to accomplish so much it brings tears to my eyes. I know that it is through the grace of a Higher Power that I have been able to do all that I have done. Though I grew up in a lower socio-economic family, I was privileged that my parents believed in getting a good education. I thank them for instilling in me the responsibility to help others. I did not do this alone and I sincerely thank those who helped me along my journey,” Martinez Rogers said.

Norma Martinez Rogers’ Life

Norma Martinez Rogers experienced societal inequities early on. She spent her earliest years in one of the first US housing projects, Alazán-Apache Courts in San Antonio, Texas.  

The youngest of four girls, Martinez Rogers remembers standing in long lines for food with her mother. Her father worked three jobs to pay for his children to attend Catholic school. She spoke primarily Spanish until third grade because that’s when the nuns who ran the Catholic school she attended required students to speak English.

In grade school, her father moved the family from the projects to another economically-challenged Latino and black community. In an interview with AL DÍA, she recalled, “My father and uncle built our house there, it was a very small house actually.” 

Martinez Rogers was a quiet student who always loved school. When she was in sixth grade, there was a bus strike. So Martinez Rogers walked eight miles to school — without her sisters, who chose to stay home.

With support from her parents, she was the first in her family to attend college. To pay the tuition for her last year, they took out a loan on their house. Martinez Rogers graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from a Catholic university in San Antonio and earned a master’s degree in counseling from St. Mary’s University. 

A year after college, she married a military lieutenant working on a doctorate in physics at the University of Texas. Sadly, he was killed in the Vietnam War, leaving Martinez Rogers to raise two adopted sons as a widow. 

Around this time, she went back to school. She graduated with a second master’s degree in psychiatric nursing from the University of Texas Health Science Center and went on to teach at San Antonio College. 

There, she met one of the founding members of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, Dr. Janie Menchaca Wilson, who encouraged her to pursue a Ph.D. 

Martinez Rogers’ Career

Martinez Rogers worked as a public health nurse in Austin and held Director of Nursing roles at various psychiatric facilities. However, she dedicated most of her career to advocacy and serving her community.

In 1995, Rogers Martinez earned her Ph.D. in Cultural Foundations — a combination of education, sociology, politics, and anthropology. She accepted a faculty position at the University of Texas Health Science Center Nursing School. And she didn’t stop there. Rogers Martinez completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Indiana University in Bloomington. 

As a first-generation Hispanic college graduate, she noticed that Latinos were underrepresented in higher education. “I got my bachelor’s at Incarnate Word College, and there were only three of us Latinos at that time. But when I got my Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin in 1995, I was the only Latina on stage,” said Martinez Rogers

Throughout the school’s more than 60-year history, Martinez Rogers was the first full-time tenured Latina professor. 

She has dedicated her career to advocating for underserved communities and encouraging minorities, especially Latinos, in nursing. She founded Juntos Podemos (Together We Can), a mentoring program for disadvantaged nursing students, to increase retention and graduation rates among first-generation Hispanic college students. “It’s hard,” Martinez Rogers said, “because many first-generation Latinos face economic hardships that make it harder in those final two years.”

She also co-founded Martinez Street Women’s Center to improve access to care for female minorities. As a dedicated mentor and advocate for Latinos in nursing, she founded the International Association of Latino Nurse Faculty and served as president. Her heart for helping others has inspired many. Martinez Rogers tells the students she mentors, “in order to receive, you must first give.”

On social media, Martinez Rogers has been celebrated for her achievements and even recognized as the #NurseoftheWeek. Martinez Rogers has held countless local, national and international leadership roles including, 

  • Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (commissioner)

  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health’s Movilizandonos per Nuestro Future (steering committee)

  • Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (steering committee)

  • Alliance for Nurses for Healthy Environments (steering committee)

  • Congressional Hispanic Caucus (member)

  • Committee on Jail Population and Mental Health Issues (member)

  • National Association of Hispanic Nurses (president, San Antonio Chapter)

  • William F. Connell School of Nursing at Boston College (visiting professor)

  • Pfizer Inc. (advisory board member)

  • Diversity Advisory Board (member)

  • Gannett Healthcare Group (advisory board member)

  • American Hospital Association’s Commission to End Health Disparities (board member)

  • National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurses Association (executive board member)

  • Hispanic Health Care International (reviewer)

  • National Institutes of Health/Child and Family Research, Building Sustainable Community-Linked Infrastructure to Enable Health Science (external reviewer)

The Living Legend Award

Since its inception in 1994, the American Academy of Nursing’s Living Legend Award has honored 82 nursing professionals. It recognizes those who have impacted healthcare with notable contributions to nursing practice, research, and education. 

Martinez Roger is only the second Latina to receive the Living Legend Award.

UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing Dean Sonya Renae Hardin, PhD, MBA/MHA, APRN, FAAN, said, “I cannot think of anyone more deserving of the Living Legend award. Dr. Martinez Rogers’ career speaks for itself and has played an important role in advancing diversity and inclusion in nursing education and patient care.”

Former UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing Dean Eileen T. Breslin, Ph.D., RN, FAAN added, “Dr. Martínez Rogers’ journey is filled with examples where she has demonstrated her unwavering championing for diversity and inclusion in higher education and healthcare…. Her publications reflect her journey of becoming culturally proficient and teaching others to accept diversity and the uniqueness of others. I believe she is truly deserving of an acknowledgment as an American Academy of Nursing Living Legend, given the evidence of her life’s work.”

Other Award Recipients

Five other extraordinary leaders were recognized at the 2022 Living Legends Ceremony, held in Washington at the annual Health Policy Conference.

  • William L. Holzemer, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, was honored for profound contributions and advancements in HIV/AIDS care and research that have transformed the quality of life for individuals with the disease. 

  • Jane Barnsteiner, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, was recognized for her dedication to improving the quality and safety of healthcare, particularly through establishing Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN). 

  • Jeanette Ives Erickson, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, was honored for her extensive career in improving health outcomes, mentoring nurse leaders, and advocating for patients. Dr. Ives Erickson serves as interim CEO and President of Nantucket Cottage Hospital, Chief Nurse Emerita at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and Instructor at Harvard Medical School. She also helped establish a field hospital at the Boston Convention Center early in the COVID-19 pandemic to support homeless patients. 

  • Joyce Newman Giger, EdD, APRN-BC, FAAN, was honored for her profound impact and trailblazing efforts to raise awareness of the unique health factors and outcomes impacting patients of color, investigate social determinants of health, promote health equality, and eliminate racism in nursing. She is the first African-American nurse appointed as a tenured professor at UCLA’s School of Nursing. 

  • Franklin A. Shaffer, EdD, RN, FAAN, FFNM RCSI, was recognized for his global efforts to transform the nursing workforce. Dr. Shaffer is President and Chief Executive Officer of CGFNS International, Inc. (CGFNS, formerly known as the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools), the world’s leading standards-setting and credentials evaluation organization for nursing and allied health professions. 

To be recognized as a Living Legend, the candidate must be nominated by three individuals, be a fellow in good standing with the AAN for at least 15 years, and have demonstrated extraordinary, diverse, and sustained accomplishments in the nursing profession. 

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