Whittier, Calif., is more than 1,400 miles west of Salina and Kansas Wesleyan University, and for Lisa Lopez ’19, it might have been the most impactful trip she has taken.
Lopez came to KWU from Whittier and East LA College in 2016 to play soccer and earn a Nursing degree. After two years on the soccer team, which included a 2016 KCAC title and being named a 2017 NAIA Scholar-Athlete, and one year as a member of the competitive cheer squad, she returned to California to continue her career in the health services field.
Currently a full-time registered nurse at PIH Health, she began her career right down the road at Salina Regional Health Center as a post-surgical nurse. Within a year, she moved back to Whittier, spending a year as the transplant transfer coordinator with UCLA Health.
“I worked with both heart and liver transplant teams,” Lopez said. “I’d collaborate with the doctors, and we’d get an overall assessment of the patient. Then I’d present it to the board at UCLA.
“It wasn’t bedside, but I felt I contributed significantly to these people and the family,” she said. “It’s not just affecting them; it’s everyone that comes along with them.”
Growing up, Lopez always knew she wanted to be a nurse. Given the opportunity to both play soccer and pursue her dream profession via scholarships made the trip east to Salina an easy decision.
“There was truly just something about the ambience and the community, the culture of Kansas Wesleyan,” Lopez said. “Nowadays, education is hard, and I feel the biggest barrier to people receiving an education is the financial part of it. When I was presented with scholarship opportunities at Kansas Wesleyan, it attracted my attention because I saw they care about their students.”
One of the major influences during Lopez’s stay in Salina was that of Andrea Picklesimer, associate professor of Nursing Education and the advisor to Nursing transfer students.
“She truly prioritized me as a person, rather than just a student,” Lopez said. “Nothing comes easy, and honestly, Andrea Picklesimer is the reason I graduated with confidence. I graduated knowing I was supposed to be a nurse.”
“Lisa was a joy to have in class. She took the initiative to seek out every opportunity to learn in both the clinical setting and the classroom setting,” said Picklesimer, who has been at Kansas Wesleyan since 2015. “One thing I love most about teaching nursing is seeing my students become successful nurses. Lisa is a true success story and one that I am proud to have been a small part of. I can’t wait to see her continued success through the years.”
Working bedside with acute patients at PIH, she serves the greater Los Angeles community and credits much of her career now to her on-the-job training during her brief, contracted time with UCLA Health.
“I was able to work with really top transplant programs that opened up some really great doors and connections for me,” Lopez said. “I had the opportunity to not only get to know doctors and surgeons but families, too.
“I saw a different aspect of nursing and a kind of different community that people tend to overlook,” Lopez said. “These are life-changing surgeries. This is essentially the start of a new life. Without a liver there is no them.”
Story by Dan Froehlich