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Saving an Underserved Community: Meet Dr. Alvin Cantero

Two nursing degrees launch a new career and fuel a dedication to social change in Houston.

When February’s bitter winter storm left thousands of Houstonians without water and electricity, Walden alumnus Dr. Alvin Mena Cantero was right where he always is: on the front lines helping people in need.

Dr. Cantero, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Alvin Clinica Familiar in Houston, distributed blankets, water, food, and other life-sustaining items to help local families through perilous days. Donations from local businesses and Walden’s Center for Social Change helped Dr. Cantero purchase the vital supplies.

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Walden’s commitment to social change was one of the reasons why Dr. Cantero chose to earn two online nursing degrees from the accredited university: a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in 2015 and a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in 2017.

“I was volunteering at the Star of Hope Shelter in Houston in 2013, and I recognized the large number of homeless individuals, veterans, and families without insurance who really needed healthcare services. I stood up and promised to help and support people in underserved communities as way to repay all the opportunities Walden University and this country have provided me so far. And that’s how I started,” he says.

Dr. Cantero’s journey to healthcare began in Camaguey, Cuba, where he grew up on his family’s farm. He made his career choice at a young age. Because he had asthma, he made frequent visits to clinics and hospitals with his parents. That’s when he knew that one day, he’d become a doctor.

After earning his medical degree in Cuba, he immigrated to the United States and found a new home in Houston, Texas. Transferring an MD to the U.S. from another country can be a years-long process, and Dr. Cantero was eager to reenter the healthcare profession and earn the funds needed to bring his parents and siblings to Houston. That’s when he found Walden and decided to blaze a new career path.

“Walden University allowed me to pursue my Family Nurse Practitioner degree and then my DNP in a period of five years. Because of this, I can work as a practitioner and implement all the skills and knowledge I learned in medical school and at Walden University. The classes, the online case discussion, seminars, and practicum really helped me to strengthen my skills and build knowledge,” he says.

Today, Dr. Cantero’s Alvin Clinica Familiar provides family practice services, preventive care, and chronic disease management to underserved populations. He says the skills and knowledge he acquired at Walden are the seeds from which Alvin Clinica Familiar grew. Through his work in Houston and neighboring communities, he estimates the clinic has served 17,000 patients. Community health fairs and educational events help expand his reach.

Dr. Cantero’s work takes him across the state and around the world, responding to crises like Houston’s severe winter storm. After Hurricane Harvey, he volunteered in several Texas communities affected by the floods the storm spawned. He’s traveled to India, Mexico, Egypt, Croatia, China, India, Salvador, Morocco, and Honduras to provide healthcare services and educate local medical professionals about health promotion and disease prevention.

And during the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s providing telemedicine to 300–350 patients per week, helping out in rural communities, and offering his services where they are needed.

His contributions have not gone unnoticed. In 2019, the Point of Care Network selected Dr. Cantero to receive the America’s Top NP Award for his work in family medicine. The Houston Business Journal named him a Rising Star in 2018. He was a silver medalist for the Good Samaritan Foundation’s Excellence in Nursing award.

“But my biggest accomplishment,” Dr. Cantero says, “is gaining the trust of our patients and students and being able to practice as healthcare provider again.”

Dr. Cantero has served as a clinical mentor to 168 nurse practitioner students, some of them from Walden. “I picture this office like a place where everyone (patients and students) becomes family. I consider it like a small piece of Walden University where everyone learns with each other, supports each other, and inspires others.”

Looking ahead, Dr. Cantero would like to expand his clinic’s practice. He also has his eye on another Walden online degree, perhaps a PhD with a focus on leadership. Earning his nurse practitioner MSN degree and doctorate in nursing changed his life, and he encourages other healthcare professionals arriving in the United States to unlock the power of an advanced degree.

“It’s really important for all the professionals coming to this country to advance their careers as part of transculturation process,” he says. “I want to tell other foreign doctors and nurses that is possible to pursue your dreams with hard work and dedication, while encouraging and supporting others. I want to let them know that they are not alone and that it is always the perfect time to start your journey, get your degree, and dream big. … Because we all deserve that second opportunity.”

And for students earning an online nursing degree from Walden, he offers these tips and encouragement: “Be disciplined, focused, and engaged in all the things you do. Nothing is impossible; always ask for help from your preceptors and classmates. Inspire others and be grateful. When your hard work pays off, you need to always appreciate the people that supported you. And then you need to become a supporter of all those students enrolled in your same journey.”

Can an Online Nursing Degree Change Your Life Too?

Walden’s Doctor of Nursing Practice online degree program can help prepare you to influence and improve healthcare delivery and patient care at the highest levels. With a DNP you may choose to work in administration, management, research, and policymaking, in roles that include chief nursing officer, clinical research director, director of health policy, and more.

Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), Walden’s doctorate in nursing degree program focuses on today’s most relevant topics, including evidence-based practice, quality improvement, and systems leadership. As a DNP candidate, you’ll learn from doctorally prepared faculty members with real-world experience and insights. And while earning your doctorate degree in nursing, you can do your practicum in your community, with Walden’s field education coordinators helping you to find just the right preceptor and clinical site.

In addition to the DNP program, Walden’s College of Nursing offers online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree programs, a PhD in Nursing program, and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Nursing.

Find the online nursing degree that can lead you to your career goals and give you the skills to create positive social change in the communities you serve.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

The baccalaureate degree program in nursing (BSN), master’s degree program in nursing (MSN), and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at Walden University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (www.ccneaccreditation.org).

Officially recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a national accreditation agency, CCNE is an autonomous accrediting agency contributing to the improvement of the public's health. CCNE ensures the quality and integrity of baccalaureate, graduate, and residency programs in nursing.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org

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