KU School of Nursing graduate draws on family heritage to emerge as a leader
May 11, 2018
By Kristi Birch
Jeffrey John Javier has many titles at the University of Kansas Medical Center: nursing student, senator, committee chair, mentor, and soon, a graduate. When Javier walks across the stage at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence during the University of Kansas Commencement on May 13, he will be the first person in his family to receive a degree in the United States.
The son of Filipino immigrants, Javier will be taking a step toward his future when he is handed his Bachelor of Science in Nursing diploma, while part of him will be paying homage to his parents' homeland as he honors his mother and father, Nancy and Wilfredo. All through his time growing up in Topeka, Javier's family stressed the importance of service and giving back to the community.
"My parents constantly reminded me of my heritage and how Filipinos are hard-working, able-bodied, caring individuals," said Javier, whose parent came to America in search of opportunities and to support their family back home. "So I took the challenge to live up to that."
Becoming a nurse
In high school, Javier was starting to develop as a leader. He had leadership positions in the band, drama department and for a brief time on student council. His godparents, meanwhile, encouraged him to start volunteering to do community projects with the Topeka Filipino Society.
Meanwhile, Javier had been toying with the notion of becoming a lawyer, but he realized early on that he wasn't good at arguments, and he probably wouldn't make a good attorney. So he started volunteering at Stormont Vail Hospital, where part of his job was helping nurses in the digestive health clinic.
That was the turning point.
"All health professionals help people, but nursing stood out to me primarily because of the patient contact," he said. "Nurses are the ones who know the patient, educate the patient, advocate for the patient, and provide the physical and emotional support as well as nursing interventions.
"When I saw those nurses helping people, I knew what I wanted to do."
A leader emerges
After spending his first two undergraduate years in Lawrence, Javier arrived at the KU School of Nursing and quickly people started to notice. "Jeff has a passion for helping people that drives him to do the hard, dirty work of nursing," said Jessica Gay, MSN, RNC-MNN, clinical assistant professor in the School of Nursing. "And he has the uncanny knack of juggling multiple responsibilities without compromising the quality of any one task. This is something experienced nurses must do every day, but I have rarely seen a student so skilled at it."
Javier's multitasking skills have extended to many leadership roles in the School of Nursing and KU Medical Center, all while maintaining a 3.5 grade point average. In March, he became the first School of Nursing student to receive the Dorothy Knoll Outstanding Leader Award in the award's 20-year history. Named for the first dean of students at KU Medical Center, the award recognizes a student who has demonstrated exceptional leadership skills, community involvement and the ability to interact with a variety of students and organizations.
Because nursing students are on campus for only two years, it can be difficult for them to leave a mark, but you wouldn't know it from Javier's resume. He is treasurer of KU's Student Nurses' Association, senator for the Association of Undergraduates in Nursing, a student ambassador for the School of Nursing, a member of the Student Governing Council, chair of the Daisy-in-Training award committee, member of the Professional Integrity Systems Committee, social engagement chair for the Hinch Academic Nursing Society, and a member of the finance committee for the KU Medical Center Dance Marathon.
"I guess you could say I'm insane to do so much, but I love being involved, so I can advocate for my peers, grow as a leader and expand my professional skills," he said. "I strive to leave an impression. It is an honor to be part of a story and leave a piece of myself in history."
"Jeff is one of the most passionate student leaders I have met in many years," Cyndie Majher, M.Ed., undergraduate program consultant and advisor in the School of Nursing, wrote in a letter nominating him for the award. "He is one of the first students to volunteer whenever I need a nursing student to help me with a recruiting event, whether it's for KU specifically or for the nursing profession."
The next chapter
This summer, Javier will enter the Doctor of Nursing Practice program at KU. His goal is to be a family nurse practitioner, which will expand his role in maintaining patients' health and enable him to diagnose and prescribe.
"I like the idea of working with families, and I want to be able to follow patients throughout their lives," he said. "And with the DNP, I also hope to be able to further advocate for the nursing profession."
"The DNP will help him to have respect from the community and other healthcare professions that will strengthen his voice and give him a seat at the table," said Gay. "I see Jeff as a mover of the profession, of healthcare as a whole. He is the kind of person who will advance nursing, as an advocate for patients and for our profession. I have no idea which 'crusade' Jeff will choose in his career - perhaps many. But you can be sure there will be one. He a difference maker."