Supporting Home and Community-based Health Services for Chicago’s Medically Underserved

2002 Super Star in Community Nursing Award Winner

Maria Porras, RN, Healthy Start Project Coordinator at the Chicago Family Health Center in southeast Chicago

VNA Foundation Ad Hoc Nursing Initiatives Committee Chair Julia Muennich Cowell, PhD, RNC, FAAN (right), hands Maria Porras, RN (left), her award check.

VNA Foundation Ad Hoc Nursing Initiatives Committee Chair Julia Muennich Cowell, PhD, RNC, FAAN (right), hands Maria Porras, RN (left), her award check.

The VNA Foundation is delighted to announce that Maria Porras, RN, Healthy Start Project Coordinator at the Chicago Family Health Center in southeast Chicago, has been awarded $25,000 as the recipient of the Foundation’s first Super Star in Community Nursing Award. The Foundation’s review panel of public and community health nursing experts found Maria’s dedication, enthusiasm and resourcefulness to be inspiring, and most deserving of the award.

Numerous eligible applications were received for the award, from which six finalists were chosen. Each of the six finalists were then interviewed by the award review panel.

The award was created to recognize and honor an exceptional nurse that has made a significant contribution to his or her community. In addition, the award seeks to acknowledge the service that Public Health/Community Health nurses provide, recognize the value of nursing in the community at large – and by highlighting the accomplishments of these nurses and the vital and sustained impact they often have on their client’s lives – encourage the consideration of public health and community health nursing as a career choice.

Ms. Porras was selected for her excellence in the areas of innovation and creativity, client advocacy and clinical care. In her 10 years at the Chicago Family Health Center, her efforts have resulted in development of several new initiatives and outreach programs, as well as enhanced integration of existing services to better serve her clients.

Among her many recent accomplishments is the development and implementation of a breastfeeding peer counselor program. Her efforts on this initiative resulted in a 25% increase in breastfeeding rates and the program received an award from the Illinois Department of Human Services. Described by many as “always going the extra mile,” Porras is known as an advocate for her clients who views her relationship with them as a long-term one. She enjoys working with client families to promote healthy lifestyles, and seeks to change habits and increase awareness among other community members as well. In 2001, Porras and her team of 17 staff members participated in 300 outreach and educational events involving more than 2,700 participants.

Porras has also worked closely with her local Chamber of Commerce to successfully bring into the Center’s neighborhood a Chicago Car Safety Seat Coalition event, attracting more than 200 community members and giving away more than 100 car seats. Through the years, Porras’s interaction with patients and community members has also prompted her to establish multiple clothing and food drives and she has volunteered at a local soup kitchen, helping further establish a bond with clients and communicate the importance of establishing a healthier lifestyle.

In addition to her efforts in the Chicago area, Porras also has a strong commitment to service in impoverished communities in Mexico. She has volunteered in San Quintin Valley, Mexico, where she provided surgical support and education in a remote clinic and its surrounding service area.

Ms. Porras and her husband plan to put the $25,000 prize towards the purchase of their first new home. Please check this site in the coming weeks for additional Super Star Nurse Award information.

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