On International Nurses Day, We Celebrate the “Angels with the Stethoscope”

May 12th, 2017 by Bita Milanian - Leave a Comment

Nurses come into our lives and families at the most important and tender times. What would we do without them?


Deb O’Hara-Ruscowski, on a recent LIG Mission to the Philippines

Today, around the world, we are celebrating International Nurses Day, on the birthday of Florence Nightingale, and today in New York City, at the United Nations, our friend and inspiration, Deb O’Hara Ruscowski, a RN, lifelong volunteer, and delegate from the Malta Mission to the UN, is gathering hundreds of people in the dining room overlooking the East River to recognize thirteen inspiring nurses.

With the generous support of great organizations like RAD-AID, the Life Is Great Global Foundation, as well as Philips, the Nurses With Global Impact team is making possible the first of many annual gatherings of inspiring nurses making a difference is so many peoples’ lives.

Their theme this year is “nurses front line roles in tomorrow’s global health delivery.” Thirteen nurses are being honored, nominated by the presenting partners:

  • Barbara Moloney (Nurses with Global Impact)
  • Carma Erickson-Hurt (Project HOPE)
  • Cheryl D. Kane (Nurses with Global Impact)
  • Evangeline Baet Epper (Life is Great Foundation)
  • Irma Percinthe (Nurses with Global Impact)
  • Jacob Turmell (Philips)
  • Jahn Moeller (Project HOPE)
  • Leonora P. Gonzales, “Candy” CNM (Posthumous) (Life is Great Foundation)
  • Mary Veronica Robinson (Philips)
  • Meenakshi Verma Masoun (RAD-AID)
  • Myrna Young (Life is Great Foundation)
  • Rupinder Kaur (RAD-AID)
  • Teresa Tyson and Paula Hill (Life is Great Foundation)

Deb will be publishing individual profiles of each on her popular Journey Blog next week, which we’ll share with you on our social media channels.


Dr. Ernani Sadural, co-founder of the Life is Great Foundation

Dr. Ernani Sadural, co-founder of the Life is Great Foundation

Today attendees are hearing from two extraordinary global health innovators and speakers: Dr. Emani Sadural, LIG Global Founder and Director of Global Health at RWJBamabas Health, keynote speaker, and Dr. Daniel J. Mollura, CEO of RAD-AID who will be speaking on “The Future: High Technology Global Health and Medical Airships.”


A beautiful evening with the Life Is Great Foundation, organized by some of GENBAND’s summer interns!

A beautiful evening with the Life Is Great Foundation, organized by some of GENBAND’s summer interns!

A few years ago, I was honored to host a dinner in NYC honoring the founders of the Life is Great Foundation, and then sharing this story about the great work Ernani and his team continue to do.

It’s thrilling to see such an amazing network of medical volunteers and supporters coming together around Deb’s vision to share stories that will inspire others, while also helping nurses find quality medical volunteering opportunities.

Everybody wants to help – but often it is difficult to know how.  International Nurses Day has been celebrated for many years and becomes more and more visible and popular each year. Here is a video about International Nurses Day:

candyWhile Deb will be posting all features on her blog, there is one, in particular, I thought I’d share today, as we approach Mother’s Day this weekend. The Nurses with Global Impact Award is being given posthumously to Leonora P. “Candy” Gonzales who helped women bring many healthy children into the world.

Congratulations to Deb, the Nurses With Global Impact team, Peg Campbell, my friend at Philips who has been instrumental in supporting this great first event, and to the many volunteers who have put in so much love and effort.

And of course, congratulations and gratitude to the winners of the prize, the individuals whose lives have been and will continue to be dedicated to service.

Happy International Nurses Day and upcoming Mother’s Day weekend to all!




A loving note about Nurse Candy by Nurse Deb:

A Very Special Spirit & Recipient of the Nurses With Global Impact Award: We Honor Leonora P. Gonzales, Who Lifted Others Up Throughout Her Life

Leonora P. Gonzales (“Candy” as she was always fondly called by her friends and family) completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Iloilo Doctors’ College in March 1998 and passed the Nursing Licensure Examination in November of the same year.

She started her nursing career as a Public Health Nurse in the Iloilo City Health Office and served that institution for about 4 years. Candy provided nursing care and referred complicated patients to tertiary-level hospitals as needed. Her work included: assisting doctors in minor surgeries, administering prescribed medications, providing general and pre-natal health care, care planning and teaching.

She was also an active member of the Barangay Neighborhood Council in her village choosing to spearhead the Health Development Team in her public service. Blesses with a charismatic personality and boundless energy, she never hesitated to extend help to those people who needed it most.

In October of 2002, the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines became her new working environment. As a Senior Nurse and Chapter Field Educator, she supervised the entire nursing staff, designated their assignments, and conducted skills training and lectures.

She also took her professional career to a whole other level by passing the Midwifery Licensure Examination in 2010. Candy continued to share her knowledge and skills by educating future nurses and midwives when she became a Clinical Instructor at her very own alma mater. She spent eight years teaching and nurturing her students, especially those closest to her, by acting as their second mother. Hence, earning the beloved title of “Mommy Candy”.

In 2013, she trained in Visual Inspection under Acetic Acid (VIA) & Cryotherapy in Metro Manila and was called to serve the beneficiaries of the first-ever Cervical Cancer Prevention and Awareness Program (CECAP) in Iloilo City, Philippines. This CECAP unit is one of the major programs of The Marian Rose World Mission in partnership with the LIG Global Foundation officially launched in January 2014 at St. Paul’s Hospital in Iloilo City and later extended to a mobile platform. As the sole nurse provider, she helped over 2,000 Philippian women through counseling, screening and treatment at CECAP. She was the heart and soul of this program with only episodic help from US volunteers during medical missions.

Always known for her smile, compassionate care and passion for the underserved women in her clinic, she never stopped caring for others even while she, herself, was fighting a battle with endometrial cancer. She continued to serve in the mobile clinic throughout her treatment. Six months ago, after evaluation of a persistent cough, she was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. Instead of retreating, she volunteered with the annual medical mission held by the Marian Rose World Mission in January, 2017. Always keeping her patients and medical colleagues as her priorities, she never mentioned her illness to the other volunteers and taught VIA skills to many more healthcare volunteers from the US.

Sadly, she succumbed to her cancer and died peacefully on April 11, 2017 at the age of 41. Candy will always be remembered and held dear in the center of our hearts. It is our honor to present this award posthumously as a testament to the humanistic nursing ideals she lived by and in appreciation of her life’s service to those most vulnerable among us.

It is with great love we honor Candy’s life and good works that touched so many of her friends, family, colleagues and patients in her short but amazing life.

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