Health and Medicine People and Community

Finding her life’s calling

Casey Medina decided to enroll in the School of Nursing and Health Studies Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program after working for the school since 2019.
Casey Medina
Casey Medina

Before she was a University of Miami student, Casey Medina worked as a recruiter for the School of Nursing and Health Studies. There she had a vivid way of explaining what the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) program was like for potential students. 

I would tell them, ‘You’re not doing a marathon, you’re doing Usain Bolt in a 100-meter run,’” laughed Medina, referring to the Jamaican sprinter and world record holder. 

Within a few years, she decided she was ready for the 12-month race of her own life. She left her job in student services and began the Accelerated B.S.N. program. This May she sprints across the finish line as a new graduate in nursing.

Taking risks was nothing new to Medina. She had struck out on her own when she was just 17 to seek her true life’s purpose. After earning a biology degree in Canada, she taught high school in her native Belize. Then, after several other twists and turns along her journey, she returned to Miami at age 29, still seeking her mission in life. A couple of years later she found a position at the School of Nursing and Health Studies, where she discovered her calling as a nurse. 

Where are you from originally?

I was born and raised in Belize with my sister and two brothers. My dad’s sisters lived in Miami since the early 1980s, so as a child I used to come to Miami every summer. 

What attracted you to the University?

I attended UM as an undergraduate many, many years ago while I was living in Belize. I always had an interest to complete my studies here at the University of Miami. I remember I applied to different jobs at UM and eventually got called in for an interview at the School of Nursing and Health Studies. I started working at the school in 2019. I thought that was really funny because I’ve always been interested in health care.

How did you get interested in nursing?

Years ago, I was premed and wanted to be a doctor, but then I realized it was not the lifestyle I wanted. I didn’t have that much information about other health care fields. As time went on, people kept telling me to think about nursing. But I had this one-track mind of what nursing was. I thought that wasn’t for me. I immensely enjoyed my work when I worked in the Office of Student Services (OSS). I was challenged every day, but eventually felt I was conquering all my challenges. I’ve always believed God puts certain signs in your life. After being a recruiter for the program, I thought, hmmm, maybe this is God saying nursing is for me. I’d been asking questions about nursing for years and God is literally surrounding me with a community of people who have gone down very different roads with their nursing degrees. Look at our dean. She had a nursing degree and now leads a prestigious school. I was like, “OK, Casey, this is a big decision.” But God knocked on my door heavily. Of all the places I applied, this is where I was hired, and it was the most positive work environment I was ever in.

How did the University help you identify a career choice or path?

Working at the OSS, I started meeting nursing faculty like Dr. Mary Hooshmand, Dr. Nichole Crenshaw, and Dr. Juan M. Gonzalez, and I just found them so inspiring. I learned a phrase here that I eventually used as a recruiter for OSS: “Nursing education is a golden key that can open many different pathways to you.” Nursing is not just bedside care. Hooshmand would say, “you can be a chief nursing officer, you can be a director of the board of nursing, you can do research.” I would attend nursing conferences for recruiting purposes where I learned nurses can be at the CDC, we can be at the NIH. There are multiple hats you can wear. 

What kept you here?

My parents were like, “You know what, Case, we believe in you, we trust you, we’re going to support you.” So, I am utterly, totally grateful to my parents. They’ve been completely supportive of me. Every time I go into a test they do a prayer circle. My entire family sent supportive words. Without my family, I wouldn’t be here. Being surrounded by very positive people in my class was also very helpful. I’ve enjoyed the majority of my professors, and the knowledge they’ve imparted on me. I feel passionate about my program. 

What are some memorable experiences?

I never thought I liked peds (pediatrics) and then I had my peds clinical rotation, and I completely loved it. I want to do more for the kids. This semester I was in clinical rotation in Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department, and I loved it. I didn’t expect this to happen. I’m always on the go, and I’m always helping somebody. I like the challenge and the constant action. I saw a cardiac arrest come in and was awed by the level of organization between the doctors and nurses and techs of making that all go seamlessly.

Who or what made a great impact on your collegiate career at the University?

Dr. Crenshaw, associate professor of clinical and associate dean of undergraduate nursing, really inspired me as a woman of color of what your capabilities can be and what you can accomplish, and Dr. Hooshmand, then-associate dean for clinical graduate studies, was an excellent mentor in terms of how she would share information, how she did things, how she handled things. 

What are you most proud of?

The accelerated program has truly tested my character. It has truly tested my intelligence, my commitment. And I feel I have gained back the confidence I lost many years ago. The program is very challenging. It’s very rigorous. But now that I’m at the end and I can see the light, I feel like I’ve conquered something very major in my life, like I’ve conquered Mount Kilimanjaro. I feel immense pride in myself. As Snoop Dogg says, “I’d like to thank me!” A lot of hard work was put in here.

What’s next?

I want to pursue my nurse practitioner degree eventually. I’m the first nurse in the family, and I am already thinking like, wow, what if I create a whole generation of nurses or people who are interested in health care. I’ve found my calling finally.