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Fernández-Sánchez to receive prestigious Sigma award

Higinio Fernández-Sánchez

Higinio Fernández-Sánchez, PhD, RN, is one of five early career nurse scientists selected for the 2024 Emerging Nurse Researcher/Scholar Award from the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. He is an assistant professor and postdoctoral research fellow at Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston.

Sigma recognizes only one nurse per global region whose work has influenced the nursing profession and the populations it serves. Fernández-Sánchez will receive the award for the Latin and South American Region at Sigma’s 35th International Nursing Research Congress in Singapore in July.

“Dr. Higinio Fernández-Sánchez embodies the spirit of the Emerging Nurse Researcher Award. His research contributions have not only advanced nursing knowledge but have also made a tangible impact on health care outcomes, especially for populations made vulnerable,” Dean Diane Santa Maria, DrPH, MSN, ACRN, PHNA-BC, FAAN, wrote in her nomination.

Also supporting Fernández-Sánchez’s nomination were faculty from Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León in Mexico and the University of Alberta in Canada, where he received his Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD). Both noted his research of migrant communities, specifically his studies of women who are left behind in Mexico when their spouses migrate.

“His research has been instrumental in raising awareness of health disparities affecting migrant communities and highlighting the challenges they face in accessing adequate health care services,” wrote Professor Joanne K. Olson, PhD, RN, FAAN, of the University of Alberta.

Already a widely published researcher, Fernández-Sánchez serves as a reviewer for a dozen scholarly journals and as associate editor for the Brazilian Nursing Journal. He is first-author on 18 peer-reviewed articles and co-author on another 22. His accolades extend across three countries. These include the esteemed Vanier Graduate Scholarship in Canada, research funding from the National Council for Science and Technology in Mexico, and a bronze 2023 Excellence in Nursing Awards bestowed by the Good Samaritan Foundation in Houston, Texas.

“Higinio’s research output reflects his deep-rooted dedication to addressing pressing issues at the intersection of migration and health,” wrote professor Raquel Benavides, PhD, RN, of Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León.

While completing his PhD, Fernández-Sánchez worked as a research nurse on Santa Maria’s federally funded studies related to HIV treatment and prevention among youth experiencing homelessness. He joined the Cizik School of Nursing faculty in August 2023.

“Receiving the Emerging Nurse Researcher Award from Sigma is a tremendous honor. It reaffirms my commitment to addressing health disparities among migrant communities and advocating for populations marginalized by systemic inequalities. I am grateful for the support of my colleagues and mentors who have guided me on this journey,” Fernández-Sánchez said.

Fernández-Sánchez was born in the Veracruz region of Mexico and moved with his family to Tyler, Texas, at the age of five. He earned an associates degree from Tyler Junior College but was denied admission to a university because he was undocumented. He then returned to Mexico for the first time since leaving in hopes of obtaining a student visa but was instead barred from returning to the U.S. for 10 years. He devoted his time there to education and activism, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from Universidad Veracruzana before moving to Canada for his doctoral studies.

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Higinio Fernández-Sánchez, PhD, RN

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