Miguel De La Mora, BSN, RN, and Andrea Ancer Leal, BSN, RN, LMSW, are a husband-and-wife team determined to pay it forward.
The couple is enrolled in Cizik School of Nursing UTHealth Houston’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program on their way to becoming psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioners. They recently signed a financial commitment to provide a $1,000 scholarship per semester to a deserving Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) student also looking to work in the mental health field.
“Both of us were fortunate to receive scholarships and assistance to realize our dreams of going into the nursing profession, but we realize that many students don’t have access to the same type of resources as we did,” said Ancer Leal. “We hope that the scholarship program will inspire more nursing students to go into mental health – an area that desperately needs more providers.”
Husband and wife witnessed this need firsthand while working as nurses at Harris Health’s Ben Taub Hospital after earning their BSNs. They observed that many patients hospitalized there for physical conditions also had underlying mental health issues.
“As a society, we are contending with the continuing ripple effects of a global pandemic as well as school shootings, a climate crisis, and many other traumas,” said De La Mora. “It is evident that we will need more mental health professionals as we continue to grapple with these current events.”
Ancer Leal and De La Mora are on track to graduate from the DNP program in August 2023. However, they were adamant about putting a mechanism in place now to help deserving students instead of waiting until later.
“I think many people have the mindset that philanthropy and giving back is something you do later in life – after you retire. But why wait if you can help someone now? If there is anything the last two and a half years have taught us, tomorrow is not guaranteed,” said De La Mora.
The powerful pair envision growing the scholarship program annually to introduce more students to the mental health field, allowing more of them to pursue their aspirations. Eventually, the idea is for the scholarship program to go under the brand name of Dual Essence, the company they hope to begin one day. They have already launched a podcast on their website.
Interested nursing students can apply now for the scholarship; a link is available on the Cizik School of Nursing website. To apply, students must write a response to the following prompt Ancer Leal and De La Mora selected:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has established recommendations for the prevention of chronic diseases that include 150 minutes of weekly physical activity, dietary guidelines that emphasize eating more whole and less processed foods, smoking cessation, and limiting alcohol. However, there aren’t any official guidelines for preventing mental illness. What would you include in your program if you could create a mental wellness program to prevent poor mental health and the onset of mental illness?
“We look forward to reading the submissions and seeing what creative solutions nursing students have in solving the mental health crisis we are currently experiencing. It will be rewarding to be a part of this process in lending a helping hand to those who have the potential to impact the lives of others significantly,” said Ancer Leal.
“I think many people have the mindset that philanthropy and giving back is something you do later in life – after you retire. But why wait if you can help someone now?" - Miguel De La Mora