Dr. Safa'a Al-ArabiRecently, I strolled through Galveston and the UTMB campus and had the great privilege to meet one of my professors in nursing, Dr. Safa'a Al-Arabi. It brought back several memories, some dating back many years. As a young child I frequented UTMB so that my mother could get cancer treatment. Holding onto my mother’s hand, all I could hope for was that UTMB would help her get better. I remember gazing on in admiration at the nurses, doctors, and staff at UTMB. Thankfully, my mother did become well and survived her bout with cancer. I made a decision that I too wanted to help people, like one of the many UTMB personnel who helped save my mother’s life.

UTMB gave me the chance to do just that. Having completed a non-nursing bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin, I applied and was accepted into UTMB’s 12-month Bacc2 accelerated nursing program, a compressed yet comprehensive program towards a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
There were several reasons to choose UTMB over other nursing programs, including the positive interactions when accompanying my mother during her treatments. My visit back to UTMB as an adult added to that experience. Some buildings still stood, many were new but the experience remained the same. People were still welcoming, courteous and helpful.
The interviewing process at UTMB was also notable. Prior to my interview, I inquired about wearing a suit and was told that it was unnecessary since I was visiting the island. Shortly after being introduced to the interviewing committee I was told to relax and to make myself comfortable. The interview itself was akin to having a congenial conversation at a coffee house with esteemed relatives. We had a wonderful discussion about several topics and I left feeling like I was already a part of the UTMB family. I promised myself that UTMB would be my next home if given the opportunity, which gratefully did occur.
The year spent living on campus and completing the nursing program was among one of the most memorable and rewarding years of my life. So many people at UTMB made my time there special. From wonderful and smart peers, to knowledgeable and available professors, competent staff, and nursing preceptors, everyone made a difference. I especially want to acknowledge my professors, who have a passion for their work. Stepping into their offices we would converse in depth about coursework, nursing, and even life. The ease and availability to talk with my professors was astounding. It certainly was a privilege to learn from them all.
UTMB set a solid foundation for my nursing career. I found that I was well prepared to thrive in the workforce. I immediately became employed in the Cardiovascular ICU at Memorial Hermann and later became a pain management nurse, striving to offer the same loving and competent care that was given to my mother.
UTMB is an exciting place where much knowledge, experience and history is evident. I'm grateful and proud to be a part of the UTMB story. Many thanks to many wonderful people for a fantastic experience, increased opportunities and great memories!
Daniel Ayala, BSN, RN, CCRN, BC
UTMB Bacc2 Class of '07