Veteran and nursing professor to serve on national committee

Eloisa Tamez, professor of nursing at UTRGV, poses at her home Saturday in San Benito. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Eloisa Tamez has served as a chief nurse under the Department of Veteran Affairs and is a professor and associate dean, but the 86-year-old veteran is ready for another role—serving in a national advisory committee.

A year ago, Tamez had applied for a committee membership under the VA’s Advisory Committee Management Office. The application process was gradual, requiring Tamez to attend a committee meeting and final approval from the Secretary of Veteran Affairs.

It was worth it.

Three weeks ago, Tamez learned she had been appointed to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation for a two-year term.

“I was just exhilarated; I was delighted,” the nursing professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley said. “It was a whole year in waiting.”

This committee advises the Secretary of Veteran Affairs on establishing and supervising a schedule to conduct reviews of the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities.

“I can’t wait to be involved with the leaders who are managing this committee to be able to participate in some relevant decisions for all of our veterans,” the University of Texas at Austin alumna said.

While this is a new position for Tamez, she has had experience working with veterans throughout her life, being one herself.

In 1973, Tamez started working for the Department of Veteran Affairs, where she served at medical centers in Puerto Rico, South Dakota and Ohio.

In Cleveland, she remained chief nurse until her retirement after 27 years in the VA.

During her nine years in Cleveland, Tamez suffered an injury, making her a veteran. Tamez and another officer had tripped over a communication wire in an annual training session.

“We both fell, and I ended up with an injury, so that qualified me to be a veteran,” she said. “I take care of veterans and [feel] very proud of that, but now I also was a veteran. It ended up that way.”

Tamez had also started taking care of veterans as a nurse in the U.S. Army Reserve.

“I said, ‘Well, why not. I have five children, the last two are in high school and ready to go to college and all that. So fine, I’ll just do it.’ I went into the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant,” she said.

For 17 years, Tamez worked for the Army Reserve and became a lieutenant colonel.

After her retirement, the Cameron County native came back home and pursued a new line of work in the medical field: academia.

In 2000, Tamez became a nursing assistant professor at the former University of Texas-Pan American. Now, she is a professor and associate dean of Student Affairs at UTRGV’s School of Nursing.

“Now I can influence the students, advocate for the students,” she said. “I want the young people to stay in school, continue on with their education goals.”

Eventually, Tamez was contacted to serve as commander for the Texas State Guard Medical Brigade of the Rio Grande Valley for five years until her promotion to colonel.

Now, Tamez wants to advocate for other veterans across the country through her newest appointment. In her previous positions, she has learned that different people have different needs, including women.

“I have been in direct service to veterans of all multiple ethnic groups and also women veterans, and women veterans have different medical conditions that need to be addressed and … given importance,” Tamez said. “Because of my diverse background in dealing with all these multiple disciplines of ethnic groups of veterans, I think that I will bring strength to that committee.”

Sharon Helsley McGinley, a clinical associate professor at UTRGV, has known Tamez for over 20 years and is always enlightened with Tamez’s belief in service and giving back.

McGinley said not only will the Valley benefit from Tamez’s membership in the advisory committee but the entire world.

“The Valley was her support and her base and her stepping-off point but what is great is the world gets to benefit from Dr. Tamez. It’s wonderful we get to benefit but the world gets to benefit from her,” the associate professor said.

Sometime in June, Tamez will attend her first committee meeting, and she is looking forward to it.

“I just love the fact that we have representation from this far south, here in South Texas. I’ve been wanting to do this forever [and] add more to the amount of work that I do,” she laughed. “I might be 86 years old, but I don’t feel it.”