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Salute to nurses: Meet UTHealth Houston’s honorees

Six headshots of nurses, along with a copy block that reads,
(Photos by UTHealth Houston)

Six UTHealth Houston nurses who have dedicated themselves to caring for others were named as among the best in the city in the Houston Chronicle's 2024 Salute to Nurses. 

Each spring, the Houston Chronicle receives hundreds of nominations to identify the top nurses in Greater Houston. After reviewing 1,900 submissions, the newspaper narrowed the honoree list to just 200 — including four with UT Physicians and two with Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston.

Chosen for their dedication, service, and commitment to quality care, patient outcomes, and community well-being, the nurses were honored at a recent luncheon hosted by the Chronicle and sponsored in part by UT Physicians. Here are our honorees:

Julie Angelica, nurse manager

Location: UT Physicians Family Practice - Bayshore

For Julie Angelica, RN, the decision to pursue nursing came after watching several family members go through different medical treatments.

“I just thought it was a very difficult and vulnerable time,” she said. “I wanted to help alleviate some of their stress and really empower patients.”

Her motivation was amplified after her own cancer diagnosis.

“I am also a cancer survivor,” she said. “I have a genuine desire to provide care and support for those in need. I feel I can empathize with what they are going through and help them navigate their journey.”

Angelica said the nomination from her team at the Bayshore family practice clinic as a top Houston area nurse is a rewarding tribute.

“I’m both humbled and sincerely honored to receive this award. It is very prestigious,” Angelica said.

Theresa Dancsak, nurse manager

Location: UTHealth Houston Center for Clinical & Translational Sciences

When nurse manager Theresa K. Dancsak, MSN, RN, first discovered the field of nursing, she knew she found her purpose.

“I was inspired back in 1972 when I started volunteering in a hospital in my hometown and never changed my mind,” she explained.

Dancsak now works as the nurse manager in a research center where she and her team assist patients suffering from a variety of diseases who choose to enter clinical trials.

“This is my joy, helping patients who are in clinical trials and giving them hope for their future and the future of medicine,” she said. “We might see our patients 10 times in a year, so we become very supportive of them. We know a lot about our patients and what’s going on in their lives.”

Learning that her team nominated her for the Salute to Nurses program was shocking and humbling, she said.

“It’s really been an honor to know that they think so highly of me,” Dancsak said.

Fatima Hassan, nurse practitioner

Location: UTHealth Houston Neurosciences - Headache and Pain Center

Inside UTHealth Houston Neurosciences, nurse practitioner Fatima Hassan, MSN, ACNP, works tirelessly to assist patients suffering from headaches, migraines, trigeminal neuralgia, and facial pain.

“I help patients manage their pain because pain can have such a debilitating impact on our daily lives,” she said.

Pursuing a career in nursing was a calling for Fatima, who has always felt a strong desire to make a positive impact. While following her passion, she discovered the field of neurology and became fascinated with the intricate workings of the human brain and nervous system.

“The complexity and potential for discovery in this field captivated me,” she said. “I’m driven to contribute to advancements in understanding neurological disorders and to improving patient outcomes and quality of life.”

She said being recognized by her provider, Mark Burish, MD, PhD, and honored by the Houston Chronicle is a humbling experience.

“I appreciate that other people notice the care I give,” Hassan said.

Shawna Rodgers, nurse manager

Location: UT Physicians Multispeciality - Bayshore

Shawna Rodgers, BSN, RNC, knew from a very young age that her life’s work was to care for others.

“I actually had my own neonatal ICU set up in my garage when I was about 5 or 6 using our ice chest,” she recalled.

Her intuitive passion for helping the most vulnerable patients was fulfilled shortly after graduating from nursing school, when she landed her first job in a neonatal ICU.

Now working at the Bayshore multispeciality clinic, Rodgers said building relationships with her patients elevates her standard of care.

“I care for my patients as if they’re my family,” she said. “I give them clinical and medical education, while also trying to support them as a whole person.”

Rodgers credits the many nurses who shared their wisdom and passion during her career journey with shaping her approach to patient care and her role as a nurse manager today.

Upon learning of her recognition with the Houston Chronicle and the many nominations from her colleagues and patients, she said, “This was a little bit of a shock, and I’m very proud.”

Myron H. Arnaud, assistant professor

Myron Arnaud, DNP, CRNA, and assistant professor at Cizik School of Nursing, is a long-time favorite of students in the school’s nurse anesthesia program. Graduate students have nominated him multiple times for the John P. McGovern Outstanding Teacher Award, which he received in 2017 and 2022. He also received a gold-level Excellence in Nursing Award from the Good Samaritan Foundation in 2019.

Arnaud joined UTHealth Houston in 2010 as a nurse anesthetist with the Department of Anesthesiology at Harris Health Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, where continues to maintain clinical practice. He has taught at Cizik School of Nursing since 2011 and served as the director of the nurse anesthesia program from 2016 to 2022.

He earned his DNP from Cizik School of Nursing, his Master of Science in nurse anesthesia from Baylor College of Medicine, and holds bachelor’s degrees in both nursing and political science from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Sara Lewandowski, assistant professor

Assistant Professor Sara Lewandowski, DNP, CNE, HNB-BC, NC-BC, serves as coordinator of Cizik School of Nursing’s RN to BSN track, which enables registered nurses who have associate degrees to complete the coursework needed to advance to a bachelor’s degree. She was named track coordinator last year after joining Cizik School of Nursing in 2018.

Lewandowski was honored with a bronze-level award by the Good Samaritan Foundation in 2021. With an interest in simulation and holistic health, she holds certifications as a nurse educator, holistic nurse, and nurse coach. During the pandemic, she helped lead an effort for the undergraduate department to replace traditional clinical hours with online simulation. She also provides wellness coaching and enjoys using her coaching experience to help students succeed.

Lewandowski earned a DNP from Chamberlain College of Nursing in health leadership, BSN and MSN in nursing administration from Texas Woman’s University, an associate’s degree in applied science in nursing from San Jacinto College, and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Stephen F. Austin State University.

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