Nursing Advocate, Donor Continues Wife’s Legacy
By Salwa Choucair
From his time spent in the trenches side-by-side with military nurses to his 40-year marriage to one, retired Air Force Capt. Gary Baldwin has a keen understanding of the role nurses play in health care which is why he chose to honor his late wife’s nursing career and profession with a generous endowment and scholarship established in her name through the School of Nursing at UT Health San Antonio.
The Ruth Ann Baldwin Endowment for Nursing Education and the Ruth Ann Baldwin Endowed Nursing Scholarship were established to honor Ruth Ann’s passion for nursing. An alumna of the School of Nursing, Ruth Ann received her B.S.N. in 1979 and her M.S.N. in 1985 from UT Health and became an integral part of the faculty serving in the Clinical Skills Lab, now named the Center for Simulation Innovation (CSI), and Gary was right by her side.
Known as a no-nonsense instructor, Ruth Ann was one of 10 siblings born in Kentucky and worked her way through nursing school prior to entering the Air Force as a commissioned officer. She knew the value of hard work and perseverance, a lesson she passed along to her students by being a tough teacher. She wanted them to be confident in their nursing skills, and if they didn’t perform a skill correctly the first time, they did it over again until they got it right, explains Gary, who met Ruth Ann when they were both assigned to Wilford Hall Hospital in San Antonio in the early 1960s.
“She had a reputation for being a hardball. She had the knowledge, and she wanted to impart that knowledge to them. She worked with them to get their skills perfected. That is exactly why I care about the students today in her name and why I try to continue that desire to make sure we have nurses who are well trained and have the confidence they need when they graduate. Ultimately, Ruth Ann knew that the patient would benefit from her teaching efforts, and she loved her patients when she was working on the floor of hospitals; and she loved her students just as much when she began teaching.”
In honor of Ruth Ann’s passion for teaching and her continuing quest for the latest erudition in her field, the Ruth Ann Baldwin Endowment for Nursing Education has defrayed annual costs associated with keeping the CSI current when it comes to technology. A few of those advances include Swivl Robots and iPads to fully implement self-evaluation by undergraduate students in the “Health Assessment” course; a self-paced computer-centered cardiopulmonary resuscitation program using both adult and infant manikins which allows the CSI to offer the American Heart Association provider course; and professional development for CSI faculty and staff that is crucial in this ever-developing field of nursing.
“The students absolutely loved and respected her,” says Willie Hayek, M.S.N., RN, retired assistant professor in the School of Nursing, who served as the coordinator for nursing skills and worked with Ruth Ann. “She was very positive about their need to learn.”
While Ruth Ann enjoyed teaching and her students took center stage, her first passion for nursing came from helping patients. After resigning her commission with the Air Force, she continued to work as a civil service nurse at Wilford Hall and worked for other hospitals and surgeons after marrying and having a daughter who became her top priority.
As a two-time recipient of the Ruth Ann Baldwin Endowed Nursing Scholarship, Laura Galindo, B.S.N., RN, shares Ruth Ann’s passion for her patients and is grateful for Gary’s generosity. The scholarship has helped her pursue her goal of becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner, and she will complete her master’s degree in the FNP program from UT Health in August.
“Becoming a nurse was the best decision I ever made,” says Galindo, 25, who works at Methodist Oncology Center in the outpatient clinic. “I love what I do. I not only help my patients with their medical needs, I also spend time with them and get to make real connections with them. They become like my family.” Galindo plans to continue her education upon graduation and pursue her doctoral degree.
While Ruth Ann was the consummate nurse and instructor, she also became a patient after suffering a cerebral aneurysm which required surgery and months of rehabilitation. She summoned the same inner strength and drive she needed to become a nurse to get back to the job she loved so much. While she was never able to walk without the assistance of a cane or use her left arm and hand, she proved that she could still be a fantastic instructor in the lab with the use of only her right hand.
In 2001, Gary retired and the couple moved to New Jersey to be closer to their daughter. Ruth Ann passed away in 2009 after suffering a second aneurysm.
“Now, it is time for me to pay back what was given to me,” says Gary, who spends his retirement volunteering in his community of Ocean Township, New Jersey. “Together, Ruth Ann and I are providing for students and giving them an opportunity that they might otherwise not have, and so it continues as if she were alive today. I’m sure she watches me like a hawk, and she’s probably pleased that together we are able to do this.”