Main content
Through a hurricane and pandemic, nursing school graduate kept his goals in mind
Portrait of Jovaan Velez

Jovaan Velez knew from an early age that he would work in health care. After weathering Hurricane Maria and navigating nursing school during COVID-19, he’s ready to step into his role as patient advocate.

Like many in the Class of 2022, Jovaan Velez’s path to graduation hasn’t always been easy. His family endured Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017. He and his classmates also navigated online learning and public health restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. But, through it all, he never forgot why he started his health care journey.

Q: What made you choose Emory?

A: I’ve wanted to go to Emory for a long time. It’s an opportunity for a top-notch education in an excellent community. Emory was very supportive as far as grants and giving me the opportunity to be able to get my education.

Q: What are some things you’ll remember most about your time on campus?

A: Some highlights would be becoming a resident adviser at Woodruff Hall, hosting socials for the Emory Salsa Dance Club and getting to know my peers in SGA [Student Government Association] as president for my class.

Q: What made you choose nursing?

A: Nursing provides an opportunity to help those at their most vulnerable with the resources needed to make a direct impact on their immediate and long-term well-being. And, once you start nursing school, you keep finding more and more reasons and motivations to keep going. I always knew that I would end up in health care. I started off volunteering with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. I started doing research with the Emory Spatial Cognition Laboratory as a research assistant.

Q: What do you say about the challenges your class faced during COVID-19?

A: We are going through COVID-19 together. Online learning limitations at the start of the program, such as not being able to see our peers, were difficult. But we got to see each other at clinical, which was excellent. It was also important to find the balance between work, studying, hobbies and activities which, of course, help with overall health.

Q: Being able to graduate on campus this year must be special. How would you say your class feels about it?

A: I'd say that we're all very happy to have the opportunity to graduate in person, not to mention that we were able to bond with ease when we got on campus. Once we all got together and got to see each other in person, there were just a lot of friendly smiles, and everyone was quite happy to be back on campus.

Q: What advice do you have for those entering nursing school?

A: Hold on to your initial reason for pursuing nursing. You’re going to run into challenges, but you must keep your mind on the fact that everything you do is for the patient. You’re an advocate for them. Be open to challenges and approach each clinical with the mindset you may discover a new passion for subjects such as pediatrics, mental health, maternity and much more.

Recent News