Nurses Make a Difference

Nurses Make a Difference

The Philippine Nurses Association of America Western Region meets on Maui.

Alfredo G. Evangelista | Assistant Editor

There are 4.4 million registered nurses in the United States. And yes, without a doubt, Nurses Make A Difference. When we celebrate National Nurses Month in May, “You Make A Difference” will be the theme, as selected by the American Nurses Association (ANA). In announcing the theme, the ANA spoke to all nurses “The impact you make on health care is unparalleled. You truly make a difference by influencing and shaping health policy decisions that ensure all Americans have access to high-quality, affordable healthcare coverage.” The ANA explained the theme was to honor the “varying nursing roles as well as the positive impact you have on everyone’s lives.”

Philippine Nurses Association of Maui, Hawai‘i
Photo: Maria Demarest

“Nurses are the pillars and backbone of the healthcare system in the U.S.A. and the world,” states Gloria Lamela Beriones, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, the 2022–2024 president of the Philippine Nurses Association of America (PNAA). “Filipino nurses are the largest internationally educated nurses in the U.S.A. and renowned for their excellent work ethics and compassionate care to patients and families.”


From April 20 through April 23, Maui will host the PNAA’s biennial Western Region Conference. “What a great honor for the Philippine Nurses Association of Maui, Hawai‘i (PNAMHi) to host for the first time in the history of Maui the Western Region Conference,” shares Angelina Agustin Saiki, BSN, RN, the 2022-2024 president of PNAMHi. “A large professional event is truly a remarkable experience, filled with many hours of hard work, yet an incredible and worthwhile journey of experiences of professional bonding.”

PNAA is divided into four regions: Eastern, North Central, South Central and Western, according to Col. (Ret). Bob Gahol, MBA, MPA, MMAS, MSS, BSN, RN, who serves as the PNAA Western Region Vice President. “The Western Region consists of thirteen chapters from Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawai‘i, Oregon and Washington State, with almost nine hundred members,” explains Gahol. “I personally sought PNAMHi to host this conference because I was very impressed with how they conducted their event when I attended their induction of officers in May 2022. It was very organized and well-attended by community leaders. I knew they were ready to host our regional conference.”

Philippine Nurses Association of Central California.
Photo courtesy PNA Central Calif.

“Everyone is expecting warm and top-notch Hawaiian hospitality from the PNAMHi colleagues and the people of Maui, Hawai‘i,” Beriones says. “The conference will not only offer continuing education but will also build and strengthen relationships and networking among the PNAA members and partners.”

Gahol amplifies: “This conference aims to deliver an educational experience that exemplifies excellence in leadership and exceptional practice. Our speakers are well-known leaders, subject matter experts and industry executives. The event will also highlight the need for contemporary, evidence-based knowledge and high-impact practices in order to advance advocacy, collaboration and excellence.”

Philippine Nurses Association of San Diego.
Photo courtesy PNA San Diego

Established in 1979, PNAA has a 501(c)(6) tax exempt status from the IRS. PNAA is a “non-profit professional nursing organization representing 55 chapters with over 5,000++ members. Our mission is to uphold and foster the positive image and welfare of Filipino-American nurses, promote professional excellence and contribute to significant outcomes to healthcare and society through education, research, and clinical practice,” according to PNAA’s website.


Saiki puts PNAA’s mission in perspective: “All of us front line heroes never gave up during the global pandemic which influenced the nursing profession in so many ways. PNAA’s mantra: WE CARE, Our United Voices remain strong to each and every one of us in all aspects of our nursing profession including social and educational needs.”


The Conference’s theme is Lōkahi (United), WE CARE, which embraces Dr. Beriones’ mantra of “Our United Voices, We CARE (Wisdom, Excellence, Collaboration, Advocacy, Respect and Equity,” according to Gahol. “We chose the Hawaiian word Lōkahi because of its significant meaning of unity and harmony with the world around us.”

The Conference’s Leadership Speakers include Dr. Marlon Sario, the Director of Nursing Professional Practice and Nurse Scientist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California; Dr. Dino Doliente, Vice President of Quality and Innovation at Rockport Healthcare Services in Los Angeles, California; Lourdes Moldre, a Nurse Executive Patient Care Director at UCSF Health Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco, California; and Gahol, who previously served as a Commanding Officer, Chief Nursing Officer and Senior Nurse Executive in the U.S. Army.

Philippine Nurses Association of Southern California.
Photo courtesy PNA Southern Calif.

The Conference’s Education Speakers include Dr. Carl Hill, the chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer for the Alzheimer’s Association; Dr. Guilietta Swenson, a Psychologist with Maui Memorial Medical Center; Dr. Elizabeth Berry, a Nurse Educator for Hawai‘i Pacific Health; Dr. Leo-Felix Jurado, the Founding Dean for the College of Health Professions at the Commonwealth University of Pennsylvania; and Dr. Rose Hata, the Director of Queen Emma Nursing Institute and the Magnet Program Director at The Queen’s Medical Center.

The Leadership component is to provide “chapter leaders’ continuous leadership training” while the Education component “will provide relevant and up-to-date topics for PNAA members to stay focused and get involved to campaign for action of the Future of Nursing 2020–2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity,” explains Beriones.

“This is the first time we on Maui will be hosting this conference,” affirms Jeny Bisell, president-elect of PNAMHi. “The conference attendees will gain tools and skills in the best learning environment that will promote collaborative partnerships infused with the Aloha and kababayan spirit between nurse and patient.”


The Conference is a huge undertaking for PNAMHi and Beriones is keenly aware of the challenging work involved. “My sincere appreciation to Ms. Angelina Saiki, PNAMHi President; Ms. Jeny Bissell, President-Elect; and PNAMHi Executive Board and members for hosting the 21st PNAA Western Region Conference,” declares Beriones. “Thank you very much to Retired Colonel Bob Gahol, VP, Western Region and all the PNAA and PNAMHi planners for their dedication and sacrifices to make this conference meaningful and one of a kind to cherish in a lifetime. My heartfelt gratitude to all the donors, vendors, sponsors, and supporters for their loving kindness and generosity in supporting the 21st PNAA Western Region Conference. Aloha and Mahalo!”

Philippine Nurses Association of Maui, Hawai‘i.
Photo courtesy PNAMHi

The list of financial supporters for the Conference is an impressive one and includes Diamond Sponsors LabMinds Staffing & Recruiting, ACP Health Care Resources, Ohana Pacific Health/Hale Makua Health Services, and Guam Regional Medical City; Gold Sponsor Queens Health Systems; and Silver Sponsors Alzheimer’s Association, Mauliola Pharmacy and US Renal Care. “Thank you for your generous donations of your time, treasures and talents,” expresses Saiki.

As with all conferences, there is always time for networking and fellowship. The networking event—a Hawaiian Lū‘au—will be on Friday, April 21 at Maui Beach Hotel. (Guests are welcome at the cost of $65). The Gala Night with the theme “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” will be on Saturday, April 22, also at Maui Beach Hotel. (Guests are welcome at the cost of $75). “The Gala Night is the celebration of Western Region WE CARE (Wisdom. Excellence. Collaboration. Advocacy. Respect. Equity) Awards,” relates Beriones. And yes, sometime during the Gala Night, the PNAA theme song “Shine PNAA Shine” will be sung. [See box below for lyrics.]

With such support and the opportunity to learn as well as engage in networking and fellowship, the Conference will undoubtedly be a success, with hats off to Saiki, Gahol, Beriones, and the rest of PNAA and PNAMHi.

But beyond hosting a Conference and beyond being our frontline heroes, Hawai‘i’s Filipino nurses are making headlines. In August 2021, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa announced the renaming of the School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene to the Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing (NAWSON). Atmospera-Walch, who was born in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Philippines received her AS, BS, MPH and DNP from UH Mānoa.

“Nursing is my passion and I have been dreaming on how I could make my passion to remain forever and continue to make a positive impact to the future generations, even when I am gone in this world,” explains Atmospera-Walch. “How could I motivate, influence, and inspire others to advance the Nursing Profession? Nurses are the largest members of the workforce in the healthcare industry and without nursing, the health of the community would be in jeopardy. Can you imagine being in the hospital without nurses?”

In remarks during the naming ceremonies, Patricia Lee, the former Chair of the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents said to Atmospera-Walch: “It is an incredible honor to have the Nursing School of our beloved alma mater, UH, named after you! That is such a testament to all you have accomplished in the past and your tremendous commitment to ensuring that Hawai‘i’s future health and nursing care will make forward positive strides.”

Atmospera-Walch states her mantra is “Dream Big but you must Act on your dream to make it a reality and that I do! I want to ensure my passion in nursing will remain forever and what is a better way to do it than supporting nursing education? Yes, supporting the school which made my dream come true.”


In late March 2023, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing named Dr. Clementina D. Ceria-Ulep as permanent dean. Ceria-Ulep served as acting Dean for three months and then Interim Dean for five months. A faculty member of the nursing school since 1993, Ceria-Ulep received her BSN and MSN from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and her PhD from the Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University.

“I am the first Filipina selected as Dean for this position at UH Mānoa (UHM),” observes Ceria-Ulep. “Nancy is the first Filipina to give a transformative gift to the UH. This signifies to me that Filipinos have arrived and that we’ve shattered the glass ceiling. It’s about time. After all Filipino nurses have been in the U.S. at least six decades. Their story is one of duty and sacrifice—they leave their family, mother land, and culture to provide a better life for their family. Being a nurse is their passport to the United States. It’s been reported that four percent of the nurses in the U.S. are Filipinos; yet 26 percent of nurses who died of COVID-19 and related complications were Filipino. What a disparity! I would like to think that my success/accomplishment and Nancy’s as well would signal to my Filipino nurses/colleagues that their sacrifices have not been for nought. At UHM Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing (NAWSON) sometimes our undergraduate cohort are 30–35 percent Filipinos. I believe Nancy and I could serve as role models to Filipinos aspiring to be nurses; and who are nurses. That it’s possible to reach this level of achievement.”

Nancy Atmospera-Walch proudly stands in front of the wall at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing immediately after the naming ceremonies.”
Photo: Kuhio Walch

The appointment of Ceria-Ulep as Dean of the School of Nursing named after Atmospera-Walch is truly a historic one, breaking multiple glass ceilings. What’s significant is Ceria-Ulep’s research focused on the Filipino community of which she has long standing relationships. “I have a collaborative relationship with Filipino nurses. For example, through partnerships with Nurses’ Advocates & Mentors, Inc. (NAMI) as a volunteer. NAMI provides review classes for a nominal fee to RN foreign graduates who are predominantly Filipinos for over 20-plus years,” notes Ceria-Ulep. “I also collaborate with the Philippine Nurses Association of Hawai‘i (PNAH), an affiliate of the Philippine Nurses Association of America (PNAA) as well as the Filipino Nurses of Hawai‘i (FNOH). For the Filipino community, I want to continue to address our health issues. Filipinos have one of the worst health statuses in Hawai‘i, I believe through our lifestyle which can be modified. A UHM NAWSON colleague and I received a National Institute of Health funding to increase physical activity (exercise) and decrease sedentary time in Filipino older adults who are leaders from Filipino Catholic Clubs in Hawai‘i. Further, one of UHM NAWSON’s research focus is to address the health disparity of Filipinos due to our poor health status. To this end, I will strengthen the research infrastructure of NAWSON by appointing an Associate Dean for Research, establish an office and staff to support our research effort, and recruit stellar nurse scientists to conduct research affecting our state’s health issues including Filipinos.”

As the consummate professional, Ceria-Ulep has identified her goals. “As Dean of UH Mānoa (UHM), flagship campus of the UH system, we have an obligation to address the workforce shortages in nursing—both nurses and nursing faculty. Plans are underway to address such through collaborations with faculty, staff across the UH system and without; and with our health centers’ leadership as well as our Legislature.” But she is not afraid to admit to the emotional side of her appointment. “I welcome this opportunity with gratitude, excitement and joy!” she exclaims. “I am honored and privileged, and at the same time humbled to be selected as the permanent dean of the UH Mānoa Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing. I appreciate the confidence and trust placed in me by faculty, staff, students, colleagues and administration. From teaching at all levels and serving as department chair, associate dean, acting and interim dean, I have grown so much personally and professionally at NAWSON. I will use lessons learned and experiences gained to take NAWSON to greater heights with everyone’s support and collaboration to benefit the school, university, state and beyond!”

At the Atmospera-Walch naming ceremonies, Lee observed: “What an absolute source of pride it is not only for the Filipino Community but for Asians, for minorities, for people of color, and for women! How you have been able to make such a difference in one lifetime for the benefit of so many in our community is amazing and laudable!”

But perhaps Ceria-Ulep said it best. “My personal motto is to make a difference in the world. I would like to think that after I am gone, the world is a better place because I have been in it.”

Yes, Dr. Ceria-Ulep, you and the 4.4 million registered nurses in the United States are indeed making a difference or in a jazzier vein, Nurses Rock!

Alfredo G. Evangelista is a graduate of Maui High School (1976), the University of Southern California (1980), and the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law (1983). He is a sole practitioner at Law Offices of Alfredo Evangelista, A Limited Liability Law Company, concentrating in estate planning, business counseling, and nonprofit corporations. He has been practicing law for 39 years (since 1983) and returned home in 2010 to be with his family and to marry his high school sweetheart, the former Basilia Tumacder Idica.
His niece Sannah Kelly Evangelista is an RN and his grand nephew Isaiah Torres will be entering the nursing school at UHMC this fall.