The Power of Persistence
May 18, 2023
By Laura J. Cole ’04 ’08MLS
Daniebeth Martinez Negron ’23 faced several setbacks on her journey to becoming the first person in her family to earn a college degree. But with her resolve and the flexibility of Rollins’ program for working adults, she graduates this year at the top of her class.
As we talk over the phone on the Wednesday night before graduation, Daniebeth Martinez Negron ’23 asks a few times if I don’t mind holding. She needs to ask her partner and twin 16-year-old sons to stop opening and closing the doors that cause the alarm to beep. Then to take care of her two-week old daughter as she wakes from a nap.
These are distractions Negron is used to—and cherishes. Growing up in a military family that was always on the go, she prefers having a lot going on. And being told as a teenager that she would never be able to have children, she is thankful for the blessing of having three—even if it means her dream of becoming a doctor has taken longer than she planned.
Over the 15 years it has taken her to earn a bachelor’s degree, she’s learned a lot. Like what it means to listen and why compassion should be ingrained into how health-care professionals communicate. And she’s learned how to persist. The latter is the only way she would have graduated this past Saturday as the Professional Advancement program’s Outstanding Senior with a major in health-care management and a minor in communication. From getting pregnant with triplets at 17 and suffering the loss of a child to facing her own health issues and losing her home to Hurricane Ian while enrolled in a dual-degree program at Rollins, Negron has refused to succumb to her circumstances.
“I share some of my trials and tribulations not to shine a light on what I’ve had to overcome,” she said during her commencement speech, “but rather to say that we can choose to take different detours along the way. Our future is constantly dependent on just one decision: from who we have been to who we want to become.”
Negron shares why she was determined to finish her degree and how Rollins helped her succeed.
Why did you choose Rollins? “After finishing my AA degree at Valencia, I was looking for a university that had small classes and would accommodate me as a working mom. With everything going on in my life, I needed the flexibility. I also knew that having 200 to 500 students in a class wouldn’t work for me. Anyone in my classes will tell you I’m the first to raise my hand, ask questions, and start conversations, and I wanted to be somewhere I could engage in meaningful conversations with my classmates and my professors. Rollins offered both.”
How did Rollins’ personalized learning environment benefit you as a student? “As a health-care management major, we read a lot of case studies. For example, we studied “Do Not Resuscitate” cases and discussed what to do if there’s a patient who signed a DNR but right before they went unconscious, they had a change of heart. What do you do? At what point do you involve the Ethics Committee and others? Because of our small classes, we were able to engage in those conversations, hear each other’s ideas on how to approach those situations, and receive helpful feedback from our professor. In a lecture hall with 500 students, those deeper conversations would’ve been nonexistent, and they’re so important, especially when going into health-care fields.”
What inspired you to pursue health care? Is that something you knew you always wanted to do? “Yes, actually, as far back as I can remember, I always knew I wanted to be a doctor. Even at 4 or 5 years old, I’d be the first one to help when somebody was injured. I was always fascinated with how medicine could heal the human body and knew I was going to do something in health care. That’s not to say there haven’t been setbacks. I started my family young, and we’ve faced so many medical adaptive challenges, but they also helped reinforce the idea that I was going to pursue a career in health care. I still plan on pursuing an MD or DO program.”
What do you mean by medical adaptive challenges? “A technical challenge is when you’re faced with a situation that’s black and white; you have a resolution, and you move forward. ‘Adaptive challenges’ is a term I learned from [communication professor] Rick Bommelje, and it’s when there’s more than one moving piece. For example, my original plan was to have a family and go to school to become a doctor, but I was told as a teenager I’d never be able to have children. My first year of college, I discovered I was pregnant—with triplets. I went into premature labor and lost one of them. Three months later, my twins were born—both with collapsed lungs and one with seizures. I spent three months in the neonatal ICU. My husband and I faced several challenges, and I learned firsthand how scary it can be to be a patient. I needed compassion but rarely got it. It made me think of all the families receiving horrible news without compassion, and I knew I needed to go into health care—not just for my love and passion of healing but also to incorporate love and compassion when treating patients and speaking to them and their families.”
I’m so sorry you lost your child and have had to go through so much pain. We all want to be taken care of and reassured that the people taking care of us understand how difficult and scary and alone we may feel. That often requires sharing necessary information with empathy. Is that why you chose to minor in communication? “Yes, that is why I thought it was fitting to pair the two disciplines—I feel like they go hand-in-hand. If you’re receiving heartbreaking news, you want the health-care professional who you’re putting all of your trust in to be compassionate. I’m such a believer in that ‘it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.’ Our words are so powerful.”
Why was it important to you to finish your degree? How do you see it serving your future goals? “I love this question. I’m the first in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree, and I want to see more Hispanic women making changes in important and meaningful positions, especially in health care. There’s not equal access to quality health care, especially when there’s a language barrier. I remember watching how hard it was for my parents to find a specialist—they were often brushed off or dismissed because they didn’t know the language and couldn’t advocate for themselves. I want to help remove those barriers.”
What did a typical day look like for you as a student at Rollins? “We typically started our day at 5:30 in the morning, so the boys could do whatever conditioning they needed to for their sports. Then I’d drop them off at school and head to work at Corazon Communications, where I work as an interpreter assisting non-English-speaking families who are staying at Give Kids the World through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. After work, I’d pick up my kids, drop them at their grandma’s or aunt’s house, and then head to campus on the days I had class in person. I appreciate that many classes are a mix of in-person and online, so I didn’t always have to go to campus—that was one of the biggest draws about Rollins. Between my family and my job, flexibility with my class schedule was critical.”
What do you value most about your Rollins experience? “The professors. They don’t just deliver lessons and go. They care about their students’ success, which is something I really haven’t experienced anywhere else. I had several classes with [health professor] Nancy Niles, and in all of them, she gave her phone number to her students and would text our class, encouraging us to ask questions, sending reminders about assignments, and offering to jump on a Teams call when we needed to chat. It was an eye-opening experience to watch her teach and then sit back and listen. She would always take in each point of view and apply what we were learning in the textbook to real life. She taught me a great deal about listening, to be more tolerant of others’ perspectives, and to view ethical dilemmas through different lenses. I feel blessed that I found Rollins and was able to go on this learning journey with such wise and compassionate professors. I definitely attribute a lot of my success to them.”
What’s next for you after graduation? “I’m planning to do an internship this summer, take a class with Dr. Bommelje called Self Leadership, and then start Rollins’ Master of Public Health program in the fall. I’m not a quitter, and it was heartbreaking to have to withdraw from the program after Hurricane Ian, so I want to finish that degree. Then I want to prepare to take the MCAT and apply to medical school to fulfill my lifelong dream.”
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