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From generation to generation: A nurse’s family passes on its values

From generation to generation: A nurse’s family passes on its values
Dalisa Abdalla
Helping her family as a young girl set Dalisa Abdalla on her path to becoming a nurse and a scholarship made her nursing career possible.

With parents working low-wage jobs, Dalisa Abdalla’s family faced many economic hardships.

“I was raised in the poverty-stricken, historically Black community of Acres Homes in Houston. Only one of my parents graduated high school, but my mom and dad were hard workers and ensured their children had love, values, and good grades,” she says.

Dalisa was the first in her family to attend college, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in biology from Edward Waters University and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Western Governors University. She went on to earn a Master of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix and is now pursuing a PhD at Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston.

“I’m living the fruits of my parents’ labor, and I’m proud to be their child,” she says.

Dalisa works full time as a nurse manager for a clinical cancer trial at Houston Methodist and is a single parent to her young son, juggling the many demands on her time so she can present a positive example to her child.

“All parents want to help their children navigate the obstacles in their life, but the truth is they will have to endure trials themselves at some point,” she says. “My son sees me work hard at my job, get good grades, make sacrifices where needed, and still show up at his games. I hope that instills in him the value of education and perseverance. He’s the number one reason I do everything that I do.”

Helping her family as a young girl set Dalisa on her path to becoming a nurse. When she was eight years old, she wanted to assist her diabetic grandmother in managing her illness, so she learned how to prick a finger to check blood glucose levels and how to give insulin shots.

“My grandmother was so scared to do it alone,” Dalisa says. “Seeing the relief on her face after I did it for her influenced my decision to get into nursing.”

Dalisa has worked in pediatric and adult cancer nursing research throughout her career. When her father got cancer, she became his caregiver, developing a new focus for her research—racial disparities in cancer pain management.

“I would like to improve symptom management in minority patients with cancer who experience pain. They are sometimes overlooked, and I can be their advocate and use my research to help guide and implement change for a better quality of life,” she says.

Dalisa is grateful for the opportunity she has as a nurse to serve people when they most need help.

“Every time I have to have a hard conversation with a family about a cancer diagnosis, I treat them like I would my own family,” she says. “When you know you’ve impacted someone’s life during difficult times, that’s the greatest reward. The silent thank-yous can be the most meaningful.”

Philanthropic support has made her nursing career possible. The Karl and Lotty Gautschi Nursing Scholarship enables her to pursue her doctorate.

“Words cannot express my gratitude and appreciation for this scholarship,” Dalisa says. “As a single mom, this relieves my financial burdens. I will pay this blessing forward.”

Philanthropy can also help address a current health care challenge.

“There is a significant nursing shortage right now, and more nurses are leaving the profession. Many people don’t apply to nursing school because they cannot manage the financial burden,” she adds. “Scholarships are an incentive to attract more nurses, and we need those nurses to care for future generations.”

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