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Compassionate Care Across the World: Profiles of Lt. Jesus Reyna

Jesus Reyna RN, BSN
Lieutenant Reyna’s life prepared him for his work. The child of migrant farmworkers, he and his siblings worked in the fields with their parents from a young age in eastern and western Washington.
Compassionate Care Across the World: Profiles of Lt. Jesus Reyna

Most of the time, LT. Jesus Reyna, RN, BSN works in Seattle, WA, as the Region X Minority Health Consultant for the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health (OMH). In his region, which covers Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, he works to further OMH’s stated mission, “to improve the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will eliminate health disparities.”  2014, however, brought him far from his region on two occasions. A member of the US Public Health Service, Lieutenant Reyna is a commissioned officer and, as such, is deployed to crisis situations when needed. In summer 2014, he was deployed to the US-Mexico border to assist with the care of unaccompanied immigrant children.  More recently, he was selected as part of an elite team to help combat the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. He left for Africa in late October and will serve there for an unspecified amount of time.

Lieutenant Reyna’s life prepared him for his work. The child of migrant farmworkers, he and his siblings worked in the fields with their parents from a young age in eastern and western Washington. He laughs when he recalls how he used to tease his friends on Thanksgiving Day with a picture of a family saying grace over their feast. “Thank you, Jesus, for our food,” the caption read. Lieutenant Reyna smiled and said he always told his friends that their Thanksgiving truly was about the harvest of many people bearing his name.

Lieutenant Reyna’s family settled in western Washington State. He pursued an education, wanting to serve families like the ones he knew growing up. He received his bachelor of science in nursing at the University of Washington. He has worked in both hospital and outpatient settings, and now he is able to provide nursing care through his deployments.

About two years ago, we met Lieutenant Reyna at a presentation on migrant health hosted for Americorps students and young professionals interested in this population. Health equity and the occupational safety and health of minorities are special tasks under his care at the Region X office. Lieutenant Reyna spoke articulately about the health challenges encountered by migrant populations, as well as about the workers’ resilience, and the import of strong family culture, in the face of   injustices in health care access and work site conditions.

But his reminders are always invitational. Rather than bitterness, Lieutenant Reyna exudes kindness and resolve. He is engaging, funny, and collegial. His extensive work in his region -- both as a clinician and as a volunteer-- is often recognized by colleagues.  He is invested in helping others establish a career in public health, as seen through his outreach to Americorps students and his leadership in the Public Health Service as chair of a Peer-to-Peer network that mentors new officers. As an MCN member, he has contributed to the training of community health workers, has assisted in research on family medical histories, and worked to link up MCN with others in his state who are working toward health justice.

We visited Lieutenant Reyna on his last day of work before deploying for Africa. Despite the pressures he faced, he was generous with his time and introduced us to all his colleagues. He even apologized for not being able to host a webinar while in Africa! Service-directed, compassionate, intelligent, and friendly—these traits describe Jesus Reyna, and we are honored to include him as a very special member of our exemplary 30 Clinicians.

30 CLINICIANS MAKING A DIFFERENCE is a project celebrating Migrant Clinicians Network's 30th anniversary through the life stories of 30 clinicians making a difference in migrant health. Learn more about Migrant Clinicians Network.

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