CSUSM Opens Vaccine Clinic for Campus Community

Nursing student Dominique Agosta-Westley gives her dean, Deborah Kristan, her first Covid-19 vaccine.
Cal State San Marcos police officer Adam White was the first person vaccinated when the university opened a COVID-19 vaccine clinic for the campus community last week. Photo by Andrew Reed

Cal State San Marcos police officer Adam White was the first person vaccinated when the university opened a COVID-19 vaccine clinic for the campus community last week. Photo by Andrew Reed

Since he became eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as part of Phase 1B in late February, Adam White has been trying in vain to book an appointment for his first shot.

So when the Cal State San Marcos police officer got an email on March 19 informing him that he could now be vaccinated through the first clinic available exclusively to members of the campus community, he jumped at the opportunity.

At 9 a.m. last Wednesday, there was White at the front of the line that formed at the transit center off Campus View Drive as CSUSM kicked off its effort to inoculate staff, faculty and students who have not been able to secure vaccine appointments through their health care provider or San Diego County-run sites around the region. Read more…

Assistant Professor was First Inspired to Become a Nurse

Assistant Professor, Elvira D. Gomez demonstrates to students in the School of Nursing simulation labs.

March 30, 2021

By Marilyn Huerta

Assistant Professor Elvira D. Gomez a first-generation Mexican-American who works in the School of Nursing at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM), was inspired to become a health professional when she witnessed her aunt Aurora, a practicing nurse, save the life of her father.

“Wow. She just came in here like a superhero, didn’t even break a sweat and knew exactly what to do,” Gomez said. “I remember thinking how I wanted to emulate what I saw – a composed, knowledgeable, calm, and professional woman, handling an extremely stressful situation with ease. I did not know it at the time but living through that experience shaped my career goals for life.”

Gomez’ father, a field laborer suffering with health issues, spent his days off from work filing immigration documents so he could legally relocate his family from Mexico to California in the early 1970s. Although Gomez was born in the Mayfield, California, she spent a great deal of her childhood with family members in Mexico and remembers questioning her aunt about the nursing profession. 

“I remember her telling me about having a feeling of purpose and that every time she was able to help a patient in need, whether it was administering medications or something as simple as holding a patient’s hand, my aunt Aurora was teaching me about advocacy. As nurses, we have a unique and special relationship with our patients,” Gomez said.

Gomez found it hard to understand that advocacy did not come naturally for everyone. “It wasn’t automatic,” she said. “It comes from our own self-reflection.” She describes that advocacy in the nursing field asprotecting the patient and empowering them by being their voice.

Overcoming one obstacle after, Gomez continues to represent Mexican-American women in the nursing field. She has held several medical roles, obtained nursing degrees, a Ph.D. and is currently an Assistant Professor dedicated to educating others so that too can become health care professionals.

Prior to completing her doctoral studies at University San Diego in 2014, Gomez held several clinical roles including hospice nurse, research consultant, and emergency room nurse. She also worked in acute care surgical areas, such as telemetry, intensive care, pediatrics, and oncology. During her role as a hospice admissions nurse, she had the opportunity to work with nursing students and discover that she was interested in working in higher education.

Gomez poses with her parents Jose Dominguez Gastelum and Socorro Beltran Dominguez
after she defended her dissertation in 2014

“They always had the greatest questions and seemed so willing to learn more. I believe that as a nurse you never stop learning and that drive for learning is a commonplace for nursing students and it was something that I truly enjoyed being a part of,” she said.

Gomez poses for a photo after she received her first nursing license in the early 1990s.

Gomez completed her undergraduate and graduate studies at Cal State Fullerton from 2008-2013 and says that during this time she dreamt of being a health educator but it wasn’t until two CSUSM nursing students she was working with nudged her to become “their” professor. Gomez took their encouraging words to heart, applied for a clinical faculty position and was hired in 2009 by her mentor and the founder of the School of Nursing, Dr. Judy Papenhausen.

Today, Dr. Wendy Hansbrough is the Interim Director of the School of Nursing at Cal State San Marcos and when asked about Gomez, she said that “in her academic nursing role, Dr. Gomez has always kept students and their learning as her highest priority. In her experience at CSUSM, she has taught nearly all the clinical and lecture medical/surgical course. She brings innovative teaching strategies to her classroom, has high expectations of her students, and makes sure they feel supported in their nursing school journey. Prior to accepting a tenure-track position this year, she served the School of Nursing as the Assistant Director at the Temecula Campus, where she advocated for students and faculty to ensure a supportive space conducive to learning.”

Gomez Wants to Do More Research

At one point, Gomez and her aunt Aurora were the only medical professionals in the family, however she inspired four more cousins tobecome nurses alongside Aurora in Mexico. When asked what her next steps will be, Gomez said she’d like to return to researching topics such as “stress in nursing care” that she focused on during her graduate studies.

“As a practicing nurse, I noted that exposure to suffering by nurses is a common occurrence in the emergency department.  The aftermath of caring and assuming the task of consoling the affected family members may be very challenging for a nurse. Secondary Traumatic Stress has been described as a natural condition that links to the presence of stressful events or the end result of helping; in conjunction with the empathy that the caretaker (nurse) has for their patients,” she said.

Gomez is also interested in exploring a nurses’ communication pattern after they have treated patients who suffer trauma and/or associated post-traumas. This study would reflect how experiencing traumatic events in an emergency care department impairs or alters a nurses’ communication. Her plan for study is to incorporate a mixed-method design including the themes she discovered in her past qualitative studies.  She noted that some specific situations were traumatic for nurses especially when they treated pediatric traumas. Other themes that were discovered included “discomfort, maintaining emotional control, obstructed communication and deflection.”  She said that “past research suggests that there is an inherent occupational risk for providers when exposed to patients and/or families who experienced or have been victims of some form of trauma.”

Another population she would also like to explore is the impact of stress on student nurses. “There is very little research in these areas, but it can have detrimental effects on how a novice nurse moves forward into practice, the susceptibility for decreased professional quality of life and potentially attrition from the profession,” she says.

Gomez questions how many frontline providers will experience secondary trauma and compromised communication patterns during this COVID-19 pandemic. She is currently preparing grant proposals to study pandemic effects on undergraduate nursing students and it will focus on variables such as professional nursing values and ethics, the potential for moral distress and moral resiliency.

“Our nurses and students are now at the frontlines fighting for us so we must fight for them too,” she said.

MPH Program Accredited by National Body

The first cohort of Master of Public Health students is pictured at commencement in May 2018.
The MPH program was accredited in early March.

March 30, 2021

The Master of Public Health program at Cal State San Marcos has achieved accreditation by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), an independent agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit schools of public health and public health programs. Read more…

Public Health Student Helping with CSUSM’s Pandemic Response

Zach Nortz enrolled in CSUSM’s Master of Public Health program last fall, only a few months after losing his job because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Andrew Reed

March 16, 2021
By Brian Hiro

The coronavirus pandemic struck Zachary Nortz swiftly and without a care last spring.

One month, Nortz was working for an auto parts distribution business in Rancho Bernardo. The next month, he joined the legions of Americans in unemployment as the burgeoning pandemic cut a devastating swath through the U.S. economy.

He found himself suddenly biding his time at home with his wife, Rachel, a speech-language pathology lecturer at Cal State San Marcos now teaching remotely, and his infant daughter, August, whose daycare facility was shut down because of COVID-19.

“It was very difficult to deal with an abrupt situation,” Nortz said. “But I felt like, with a long-term career, if it wasn’t going to be something I was already used to, I wanted it to be new and exciting and something that would be helpful to other people.”

Nortz had always been interested in public health, and what better chance than during a pandemic to scratch that itch? After a 13-year break since he graduated from San Diego State, he returned to higher education last fall as a student in CSUSM’s Master of Public Health program.

Read the full story…

Masters at their Craft Series: Three Free Webinars on the Power of Inclusive Education

Join four Cal State San Marcos (CSUSM) affiliated international scholars and advocates of equity and excellence in education in a 3-part Spring 2021 webinar series that reveals why our teacher credential programs in general and special education may support the change agent you seek to become!

This series, free to the public, provides participants with the historical and ethical background of disability studies, teaching principles that unleash learning for every student, and real-life stories of students for whom new dawns bloomed in inclusive schools. Each session is filled with humor, real-life examples and stories, personal anecdotes that reflect the values and instructional practices of our programs, and interactive learning opportunities. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Come, be inspired, and make the choice TO BE a CSUSM beacon of light!

REGISTER for one or all three virtual events!

For more information, please visit:

Masters at their Craft Series: Three Free Webinars on the Power of Inclusive Education

The School of Education

Education Credential & Graduate Degree Programs

Marilyn Huerta
Communication Specialist II
College of Education, Health & Human Services

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