My Mission Possible: From Cuba to Cairo
Cuban refugee Alvin Mena Cantero provides healthcare for the underserved around the world
In his community in Houston and around the world, nurse practitioner Alvin Mena Cantero ’15 has provided critical healthcare to more than 6,000 low-income patients and has held 20 health and wellness clinics. But Cantero’s story begins in his native Cuba, where the seeds for his mission to heal those in need started to grow.
In 2009, Cantero was working as a licensed physician in Cuba when his application for the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program was accepted, granting him refuge in the U.S. Adapting to a new language and culture were hard, but Cantero had no idea how difficult it would be to revalidate his status as a physician in the States.
“My family depended on me to send money back to Cuba, but I was supporting myself with three part-time jobs as a server, bartender, and medical assistant,” he says. “After being denied entry to three physician assistant programs, I felt weak and defeated.”
So Cantero enrolled in the nursing program at Sacred Heart University, which he completed in 2012. While working as a nurse for Memorial Hermann and Allergy of Texas in Houston, Cantero had his first experience treating patients who were living in poverty. He wanted to do more to help—and that’s when he discovered he could advance his career at Walden.
Cantero earned his Master of Science in Nursing in 2015. Just three months later, he enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program so he could provide an even higher level of care to patients in need.
In June 2016, Cantero opened Alvin Clinic Familiar, which he has been running while working on his doctorate. The urgent care and walk-in clinic provides cost-effective healthcare for patients in Houston’s Hispanic and African-American communities.
“Our impact on the community has grown by distributing information on vaccinations, risk factor management, and the importance of early detection of chronic diseases,” Cantero says. “We publish in English and Spanish through La Nota Houston, letting families know the importance of proper primary healthcare and prevention.”
Through traveling clinics, Cantero is expanding his clinic’s impact worldwide, from providing home health visits in rural Texas towns affected by flooding to sponsoring a community clinic in Cairo, and meeting with local health providers to educate them on risk factor management for the poorest populations. In October 2017, Cantero will travel to Haiti to provide wellness checks to populations affected by the 2010 earthquake.
As a preceptor at his clinic, Cantero is also serving the next generation of nurses from Walden, South University, and Chamberlain College of Nursing. After completing his DNP, Cantero intends to re-enroll with Walden. He believes a PhD in Management with a specialization in Leadership and Organizational Change will advance his skills in running his clinic and making larger strides toward his mission.
“Walden’s social change mission influenced me to adopt a global vision and encourage my students to take their vision, skills, and knowledge to parts of the world where people need us,” he says. “I’m determined to spread Walden’s values around the world by providing health services to vulnerable populations. Walden not only gave me an opportunity to become the healthcare professional I always wanted to be but also a leader capable of engaging students and organizations to create global impact in healthcare.”