UM-Flint nursing student champions community health

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Group of UM-Flint nursing students
A group of UM-Flint nursing students recently shared their health care journeys on the Spanish-language program, “Radio Centro Multicultural.” The group included, from left, Tessa Goslin, Perlita Irish, Selena Alvarado, Fernanda Ryan, Brooke Steingold and Isabella Pacheco. Not pictured is Samuel Gutierrez.

Patients often depend on nursing professionals to care for them on the worst days of their lives. At times like these, you want a nurse who is caring, competent, and an advocate for your needs, no matter your background. Perlita Irish, a senior Bachelor of Science in Nursing student from Grand Blanc, is prepared to be one such nurse. Set to graduate from the University of Michigan-Flint this month with plans to continue her studies in the university's nurse practitioner program, Irish has become a beacon of hope for her local Latino community. 

Perlita Irish poses in front of flowers

Irish's journey into health care was inspired by her desire to pursue community representation and further community impact, particularly for the Latino community. She cites her Mexican heritage as a part of her passion for community health nursing. "One of my favorite quotes comes from a civil rights activist of Mexican descent who co-founded the United Farm Workers Union: 'My revolution is born out of the love for my people and not the hatred for others.'" Irish's reflection emphasizes the importance of fighting for justice and equality while maintaining respect and empathy for all people.

In 2016, she joined Genesee Health Plan as a health navigator. She spearheaded the development of a Multicultural System of Care program to enhance health care accessibility for the Hispanic/Latino population, breaking down barriers such as mistrust and language constraints. 

When asked why she chose UM-Flint for her nursing education, Irish said the geographic location was pivotal, keeping her grounded and connected to the community she wishes to serve. "It allowed me to continue to serve those in need while participating in community and volunteer opportunities."

Irish applauds the unwavering support of UM-Flint faculty advisors and mentors, including Libby Bell, student success coordinator, Suzanne Lugger, assistant professor of nursing, Elizabeth Fulks, assistant professor of nursing, and Donna Fry, interim chancellor. According to Irish, they all played crucial roles in mentoring her through her academic and professional development. "They provided valuable support in various ways, offering guidance, encouragement and expertise to help me navigate my personal and professional growth," she said. 

The nursing student's positive impact extends beyond health care. At UM-Flint, Irish found a close-knit circle of friends with a similar Latino background. "These friendships will last for the rest of our lives and provide memories to pass onto our children and family," she said. These cherished bonds, likened to family, are what she considers the highlight of her college experience. On April 3, the group was featured on the Spanish radio show "Radio Centro Multicultural," where they shared their journeys into health care and the adversities they overcame due to their close bonds. "We laughed, shared dreams and fears, and supported each other through every high and low of college life," Irish said. 

Looking to the future generation of nurses, Irish advises resilience in the face of adversity. Emphasizing the power of determination, she encourages students to remain steadfast in pursuing their goals. "Never underestimate the power of your dreams. With hard work, determination, and commitment, you can achieve greatness and make a positive impact on your life, your community and the world," she said.

Outside her academic and professional life, Irish enjoys a range of hobbies with her family at the core, from cooking to travel and organizing family events. It's this familial foundation that underscores her commitment to not just her own family but to the broader community she is determined to serve.

As Irish moves toward her goal of becoming a nurse practitioner, her story is one of passion intertwined with the desire to uplift and empower those around her through compassionate health care and a deep-rooted sense of community.

To learn more about the SON Traditional BSN program, please visit the school's webpage.

Asinda is a communications specialist with the School of Nursing. She can be reached at [email protected].