Now stationed at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) Justin Valdez ’15, who served humanitarian missions aboard the U.S. Naval Hospital Ship Comfort, continues to rely on the training and education he received in Dominican’s nursing program.
Justin, an Academic All-American as an NCAA Division II cross country runner for the Penguins, last year was deployed to South America to perform a wide range of healthcare operations as a preoperative nurse assisting in surgical screenings and assessments. The joint operation, called “Enduring Promise,” allowed Justin to collaborate with military doctors and nurses and other medical personnel from countries such as Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Honduras, Costa Rica, Argentina, and Venezuela.
Prior to “Enduring Promise,” Justin was assigned to the USNS Comfort to provide medical relief in 2017 to victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
“My mission with the USNS Comfort has been an extremely rewarding and humbling experience,” Justin says. “Prior to beginning my career in the Navy, I have been asked many times, `Why join the Navy?’ And being tasked with missions like this is exactly the reason why I joined.”
Justin was drawn to Dominican’s School of Health and Natural Science by the reputation and tradition of its nursing program and the fact that it has a high graduation rate. The rigors of the nursing program, coupled with his participation as a student-athlete at Dominican, prepared him for the demands of being a Registered Nurse at the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in Virginia.
“Attending Dominican has challenged me in more ways than one, but it has primarily given me the tools in my toolbox to become an effective leader in the Navy,” Justin says. “Moreover, it has instilled in me the core values of study, reflection, community and service, which I implement into all that I do.”
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At Dominican, Justin was Dominican chapter president of the American Assembly for Men in Nursing and a two-time Pacific West Conference Cross Country Scholar Athlete of the Year. He spent his last semester as an assistant coach for the Penguins’ cross country team, helping coach the women’s squad to the 2015 NCAA Div. II West Region Championships where he competed in 2013.
While balancing a heavy schedule, Justin turned to his cross country coach, Teressa DiPerna, and one of his nursing professors, Luanne Linnard-Palmer, to help guide him through athletics and academics.
“They have been my two role models who have been mentoring and supporting me, even to now,” he said.
Justin also received advice from Danielle Delacruz ’14, another Dominican nursing program graduate. She applied to become a nurse corps officer and suggested Justin apply, too. Danielle is currently an RN at Naval Hospital Guam.
Being a nurse hasn’t stopped Justin from his passion for running. Upon a recommendation from a Pac West Conference coach, Justin joined the Skechers Performance Division as a sponsored athlete. And, mere weeks after joining the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in March 2016, Justin was recruited to compete on the U.S. Navy Men’s Team in the Armed Forces Marathon in Washington, D.C.
On both fronts, as a nurse and an athlete, Dominican served Justin well. He currently is focused on pursuing a Master’s degree in either Healthcare Administration or Business Administration.
“Once you hit the floor, you’re a leader. You’re a nurse and you are expected to teach others,” says Justin, who is an operating room circulating nurse at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. “You’re not just taking care of patients – veterans, active duty personnel, and their families – you are serving something greater than yourself. That’s why I chose the military. I wanted to serve.”