This reflection is part of an ongoing series highlighting notable 2012 University of San Diego graduates. Martha Suarez is one of the first graduates of the Family/Lifespan Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program offered through the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science. Her story of how she got to the program is a testament to her resilience and drive to succeed in the face of irreplaceable loss. As a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, Martha hopes to help military families as they adjust to loss and grief related to their military experiences.
As one in the first cohort of Family/Lifespan Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner students in the University of San Diego’s Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, our faculty advisors informed us we were “champions” as we forged through never before taught classes, initiated new relationships, liaisoned new clinical experiences, and remained flexible as the hiccups and bugs were smoothed out so that future students would reap the benefits of our “championing.” As the saying goes, “It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times…” although it really was not the worst of times. The worst of times occurred several years earlier.
My life was irrevocably changed on November 6, 2005, when my Navy son Luke was killed. We mourned his death and celebrated his life before God and several hundred friends and family in USD’s beautiful Immaculata. I vividly remember the pain of my broken heart, thinking my own life ended with his death. Over the next few years, I learned how to integrate his loss into my life. Through my volunteer work I realized I had a calling and passion I could not ignore — I wanted to help others find hope and meaning despite suffering significant losses. I especially wanted to help our military families as they adjusted to unfathomable loss and grief related to their military experiences.
In early May 2010, I learned about the new Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing program being offered at the USD. I was accepted into the program, hoping at age 52, I was not “too old” to learn new tricks. It was wonderful being back in school, amidst like-minded professional peers, many of who were my age and older. It was energizing being around the younger students — and much to my husband’s dismay, I discovered shoes and purses all over again.
Graduating with Honors on May 26, I have the confidence my education coupled with my life experiences will allow me to make a real difference one person at a time. I can find no better way to honor my Marine Corps twin sister, Irene (1958-1988), my Russian mother (1926-1995) and father (1912-1996) who survived the atrocities of World War II, my Navy son Luke (1985-2005) and my uniformed public health physician sister Helen (1959-2008), then to humbly serve our military families past, present and future in the capacity of a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.
– Martha Suarez
Photos by Nick Abadilla