From medical degree to nursing degree, Brownsville woman shifts career paths

Denise Garza is celebrating an achievement that was only a dream for as long as she can remember, and it all became reality during the Texas Southmost College Vocational Nursing pinning ceremony recently hosted on campus.

The 44-year-old said she has grown up loving everything about health and wellness and many in her class were surprised to learn that she is already a licensed medical doctor in Mexico pursuing a second career.

“This is something I have been wanting to do for a while, but I always put it off knowing the demand of a nursing program,” said Garza. “But COVID closed down my clinic in Matamoros temporarily and I found myself with more time, so I went for it.”

At only 17, Garza said her dream of becoming a doctor in the United States was redirected by her father, who didn’t want her to move away for medical school, so she graduated from the Universidad Autonoma de Tamaulipas and for 19 years has practiced medical aesthetics and weight management.

With the goal of sitting for her medical board exams to practice medicine in the United States, she felt this was the right time to pursue a nursing degree.

“There is a big difference between medicine in Mexico and the United States, so this was a solid steppingstone for me,” she said. “This year has challenged me in new ways, but it was also an exciting time, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.”

Between COVID-19, a closed clinic in Mexico and a newborn baby, the vocational nursing program was much more demanding for the Brownsville native.

But she explains how this moment in life has defined her future.

“I know that challenges are difficult, but they are not impossible,” said Garza. “If I was able to get through this one year, then I can get through anything.”

So, upon receiving her certification and nursing pin as an official welcome into the profession, she plans on passing her National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) later this year and working in a Rio Grande Valley hospital.

And although her ultimate goal is to complete a medical residency to become a medical doctor in this country, she always has her “Plan B”- becoming a nurse practitioner.

“TSC has given me a new outlook and a newfound confidence,” she said. “TSC’s nursing program has given me every resource I needed to successfully finish, and I’ve been exposed to a lot of new training. I’m thankful for everyone who has crossed my path during this journey and I’m thankful to the instructors who got me through it.”

Garza is one of seven students who completed the Vocational Nursing program this August and were officially welcomed into the profession and honored for their dedication to learning and nursing.

Visit TSC’s Vocational Nursing program for more information.