Wallena Gould, EdD, CRNA, FAAN

Founder & CEO 
Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia
Mentorship Program 

Hello Everyone,

Typically, on the Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentorship Program Facebook page, I post pictures from those who recently was accepted into or graduated from a nurse anesthesia program, defended a dissertation defense or doctoral scholarly project, celebrating newly hired positions Chief CRNAs or Clinical Coordinators, honoring those who are in uniform for our country, and so many more successful endeavors.

But, today, I will share with you a story of something that happened with a nurse anesthesia student of color years ago that changed both of us as a result.

In 2008, I received a phone call from a graduating student whom I known from the time he applied to a prestigious nurse anesthesia program. This particular student was the only student of color in his cohort and he revealed to me that he was told he can graduate with his cohort but had to stay in clinical for a little longer afterwards. To make matters worse, his clinical rotation would be extended for three months. This once humbled man in almost tears told me he would first quit than to let that happen while his classmates take boards and able to work as newly credentialed Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists. I allowed him to continue to speak with his heart pouring out to me uninterrupted for almost an hour. It was sad as his spirit for continuing graduate nurse anesthesia education was almost shattered to pieces.

There was a long pause on the phone as I was trying to process this life-changing matter. So, I told him this almost verbatim. First, I asked if he invited his mother who had to travel extensively to the graduation? This student on the cusp of quitting the program told me he in fact invited his mother and had reservations to a restaurant afterwards of which he was prepared to cancel because of this devastating news.

Then, I told him, “Well, this graduation is not for you any way. It’s for your momma so she can go back to tell her neighbors and church members how proud she is of her son graduating from a nurse anesthesia program”. And, it included him making sure I sit next to his mother at the graduation ceremony to encourage him quietly and privately. I proceeded to tell him that I rather him continue to do the extended three months of anesthesia at the clinical site than start over in a new program with increased and mounting debt. Trust me, he was fighting back with me on the phone. But I was serious and finally said, I will come after work when he was done with clinical and sit in the library literally across from him so he can continue with studying CRNA boards.

He agreed, finally. Some of these studying days’ lead to the library on beautiful sun-filled Saturdays in the summer. Sitting across from him, I was working on the paperwork for submitting for non-profit status (501 c – 3 ) status for the Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentorship Program and planning activities for the following year. So, we both had a lot of work ahead of us to do to progress in our future.

This proud Black man finished his obligatory and extended clinical rotation and scheduled his board exam. After passing it on the first attempt he called me first to let me know about the results. A long pause was on the phone. I guess we both knew what that meant, to be honest. So, I want to thank my dear CRNA colleague for making me a better person and to find my true calling. And, exceptionally proud how he managed to get through his darkest moment. Quite often, I share his experience with others as they find their way to the light.

This experience made into a better advocate for nurse anesthesia students who are in some sort of distress. I will never forget how another nurse anesthesia student from the South was not doing well in a pediatric anesthesia rotation. So, I enlisted a CRNA from a Philadelphia Children’s Hospital and another CRNA from California who taught pediatric anesthesia in a program to help this student go from almost failing to passing with no clinical deficiencies and strong academic success.

Thank God …I know what is worth fighting for in my life.


Jamare Reed

The University of Southern Mississippi Nurse Anesthesia Program

“Past 10 years I have been working very hard to get to this moment. I finally accomplished a great milestone in my life. Here I come CRNA School. My vision used to be blurry but now I’m able to see. Thank you God for shining on me. I thank everyone who has supported and
encourage me”.

I grew up on food stamps and lived in the hood before taking away from my mom. Grew up in a group home. My teacher told me I was gonna end up dead or in jail. I grew up without a father figure in my life. I wore most of the same clothes from middle school till I graduated. Those are circumstances that I did not let dictate my life. I did not become a product of my environment. Never forget where I come from.”

#diversitycrna #crnamygoal #futurednp #srna #crna #butgod 🙏🙏🙏🙏

Gabriel Vazquez-Lopez

University of Puerto Rico Nurse Anesthesia Program

When tropical storm winds started to hit our island last September, the residents of Puerto Rico never imagine the monster that was slowly making its way to us. After all, we live in the Caribbean, we are used to this, or so we thought. The night of September 19th, 2017 was like no other. Hurricane María, a nearly Category-5 tropical cyclone, hit our beautiful island with such force it left surreal devastation. Hundreds of thousands lost everything, there was no communication of any sort, no water, the already crippled power infrastructure was all on the ground, food was scarce, long lines for $5 worth of gasoline, families separated by destruction, and those in the mainland United States emotionally devastated for not being able to reach their loved ones.

There are dozens of Student Registered Nurse Anesthetists studying at the three accredited programs on the island. Many of us were barely starting our program when the ordeal happened. If there is something all CRNAs know for sure, it is how challenging those first months of anesthesia school can be. Add to that, the fact of trying to study surrounded by devastation and human pain. In the aftermath of Hurricane María, we did not resume school for about a month. Many of us, whose families and properties are in areas out of the capital could not even get to metropolitan San Juan as streets were obstructed or destroyed. READ MORE

Many of us went from studying the anesthesia machine and the foundations of airway management to be in the dark, making lines to buy a few bottles of waters, and trying to console one another. Our usual academic activities were substituted by a day-to-day survival effort. It was a new reality. A new way to operate.

Once my peers and I were able to go back to the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus, we took our school as a shelter. We did not sleep there but spent most of our days in our studying room. It was a safe place. It was a place of comfort. It was place separated from the desolation that was happening out of campus. Being physically there was the only way to directly communicate with professors and try to do our work. Getting through the semester seemed like mission impossible. Since our campus is part of Puerto Rico’s biggest medical center with about five hospitals in the same area, we took advantage of the frail electricity restored but, many times, we were left in the dark as power continuously went out. Every time that happened, we were evacuated from campus and classes were cancelled. Frustration is too small a word to describe our feelings at the moment. I remember clearly one day when we refused to leave campus and told one of our professors we were there to learn and were going to have class even if it meant to do so under a tree. Our professors were doing everything to make it all work while dealing with their own personal struggles. At the school, we were given snacks and bottles of water to bring back home. We knew we have to get academic work done at school because there was no time for it once we get home. Going back home in the late afternoon hours meant time to help our families to get food, get water, find a place to shower, try to get candles and other important items to get through the dark nights. It was the same exhausting routine day after day.

Many SRNAs usually live on limited budgets during school years. Hurricane María hit us not only physically and emotionally, but also financially. At the moment, our money was not just for school and living related expenses. It also had to be redirected toward getting basic survival items that, in many places, were overpriced. It is unbelievable to go back and remember the struggle to find and being able to buy a bag of ice! Our minds were all over the place. We were trying to do well in a rigorous graduate program while adapting to the disaster that was unfolding. The hurricane was not the tragedy. The tragedy was what it left behind.
Not everything has been bad, however. Since the moment of the disaster, there have been multiple uplifting moments. We have gotten to experience precious moments of human compassion and empathy. Help has come from many, mostly, ordinary citizens. The many thoughts and prayers that have been sent our way have also been felt. The AANA Foundation provided us financial assistance through their Emergency Grant. Dr. Lena Gould, CRNA, FAAN was always on our side to help us during the process. The Illinois State Association of Nurse Anesthetists made a fund raiser and made a donation to SRNAs in our program. Those are some of the many acts of kindness during the past months.

Puerto Rico is still in a recovery process. We cannot forget that, up to this day, there are still people without power. One thing is certain: this beautiful island is blessed in so many aspects. The spirit of my people is so strong not even hurricane winds make it go down. My colleagues in the nurse anesthesia program are some of the strongest people I have ever known. We are here; we continue stronger than ever. We still look back and reflect on the tragedy, but we also look forward with great optimism. Not a day goes by without being thankful for what we have. We will become CRNAs and will serve our communities with commitment, empathy, and passion.

Safa Ahmed Soliman

Accepted into University of Maryland Nurse Anesthesia Program

This past week, I was accepted into the University of Maryland’s Doctorate of Nurse Anesthesia program. I doubt I would be celebrating my acceptance with my family and friends if it was not for the Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentorship program.

As a nursing student in 2015, I attended my first Diversity CRNA Information & Airway Simulation Lab Workshop at the University of Maryland. It was there that I was able to network with various ICU nurses, SRNAs, and CRNAs. I was able to learn about the rigors of anesthesia school both in the classroom and clinical from SRNAs and program directors and the best ways to prepare. I also had the invaluable opportunity to learn how to intubate mannequins using laryngoscopes, how to insert central lines, spinals, epidurals, how to identify the brachial plexus on an ultrasound to do a neuromuscular block, and perform a cricothyroidotomy. All of which I was able to speak to in my essay.

It was there that I also met two University of Maryland SRNAs, Jahnavi Jaladanki and Irene Tavakoli (now CRNAs). They advised me over the last two years on how to make the most of my ICU experience, set myself apart on my application, and how to prepare for my interview. I also met Terry English, CRNA who became a beloved mentor. He gave me the opportunity to shadow multiple times over the last few years and even wrote me a recommendation letter when I applied.

In July of this year, I decided to attend another Diversity CRNA Information & Airway Simulation Lab Workshop at Samuel Merritt University now that I had become an experienced ICU nurse. It was there that I reconnected with Israel Akpadiaha, PhD, CRNA who encouraged me to apply this year and not wait another year. In front of everyone, he told me that he expected my essay in his inbox by that Friday.

I also listened to him and Mohammed Deen, SRNA talk about how we should get involved in our local AANA chapter as advocacy would become an important aspect of our future profession. I then attended the Maryland Association of Nurse Anesthetist Fall Meeting this October and introduced myself to some of the faculty at UMD and John Bing, CRNA who then spent an hour on the phone with me the following week helping me prepare for my interview.

During my interview, the program director Dr. Pellegrini had a slide describing how diverse their program was and how they had held a few Diversity CRNA events. It was then that he asked if I had attended one because he felt like he recognized me, I pointed to his slide and said “I’m in the picture – in the back! You taught me how to use the ultrasound”. Now I’ll have the opportunity to have him and the other faculty teach me so much more.

These are just a few ways the Diversity CRNA Mentorship program has impacted me, but there are countless more. I’ve been working towards this since I was 15 years old and to see it come to fruition is a dream come true. The road would have been 10x harder had the mentorship program not existed. For that reason, I’m so incredibly grateful for Dr. Lena Gould, CRNA, FAAN and all the work she has done. I plan to pay it forward as both an SRNA and CRNA in the future through both mentorship and advocacy for the profession. Thank you, truly…

Ryan Davis

Columbia University Nurse Anesthesia Program

Testimonial after Diversity CRNA Event 2016:
Hello, Dr. Gould. This is Ryan Magalong-Davis. I would like to thank you so much for the information you have provided at the Diversity CRNA workshop in Pittsburg. You have given me so much information that I feel ready applying this year. I am so inspired by your story and the others as well.

Testimonial after being accepted into a Columbia University Nurse Anesthesia Program:
I am emailing to thank you for the help you have given me during my CRNA application process. I wanted to let you know that I have been accepted to Columbia University’s Anesthesia Program. Thank You so much! I hope that I can be part of Diversity CRNA in the near future.

One year after enrolled in Columbia University Nurse Anesthesia Program:
Ryan will serve as an airway simulation lab preceptor at the Diversity CRNA Information Session & Airway Simulation Lab Workshop at Columbia University (May 2018).

Diane Dy


Hi Good Evening! My name is Diane Dy. I am a junior SRNA from Villanova University’s program. First off, I want to thank Lena for this opportunity to speak tonight. Dr Gould & all my mentors from the Diversity organization is the reason why I stand before you today as a SRNA. Three years ago, my friend and former co-worker James Lewis invited me to a Diversity luncheon in Maryland & little did I know it would change my life. I never really thought I would be where I am today. I moved to Baltimore, MD from the Philippines in 2006. I knew then I wanted to be a CRNA, but the task in front of me—the whole application process, going to school full time…just seems so enormous especially when you are at a place where you do not have a lot of support. But since I attended the Diversity luncheon, to this day, that is exactly what the Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentorship Program gave me—a strong support system. It is full of people passionate about anesthesia, empowering others to be excited, & to do great things. READ MORE

Words cannot express the amount of inspiration Dr. Gould has given me. Through her words, her very own struggles, her life story. This past year, a lot has happened for me—I started Anesthesia school, I moved to a new state knowing nobody (as I am sure a lot of you can relate), & I learned how to intubate! Reflecting back, not only have I gained a lot of knowledge about giving anesthesia, but I have also grown as a person. So, I would like to express my greatest gratitude to Dr Gould, John Bing, Chris Scott, Dr. Lukeythia Bastardi, Chris Scott, James Lewis, Israel Akpadiaha, Anthony Chikendu and the rest of the team whom I may have failed to mention, for those inspiring words which gave me great strength to pursue this wonderful profession. In two weeks, I will officially be a senior SRNA!!! Cheers everybody!!!

Quentin Smith

University of Pittsburgh Nurse Anesthesia Program

This is what excellence looks like after spending considerable time in the University of Pittsburgh WISER Simulation Lab for readiness in the operating room as a nurse anesthesia provider.

There are unfortunate situations in anesthesia when you may come across a patient who you cannot intubate and ventilate.
In this event, Anesthesia providers are asked to follow a difficult airway algorithm which may require a more invasive approach to securing airway access. At the University of Pittsburgh, we undergo a number simulation scenarios to prepare us for this event. In this picture, I am performing the necessary steps for a percutaneous cricothyrotomy.

Now, show this picture to diverse male students in junior and senior high school…the future of anesthesia is upon us.

Joseph Ortega

(Graduating SRNA from the University of Miami NAP)

Diversity Nurse Anesthesia has gotten so big! The AANA president-elect, Dennis Bless, CRNA, MS heard your voice and felt your presence and is now making it a priority of his and AANA to reach out to people of color and make anesthesia more diverse. You are doing great work and you are an inspiration to all of us! I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you suggested the University of Miami. They truly do value students of color and Miami itself has many Anesthetists (MD&CRNA) from very diverse backgrounds.

Devon Locust

(Graduate of Wayne State University NAP)

I was not raised in a nuclear family, I came from a broken home in inner city Detroit. As a child, I experienced hardships and poverty early, as my parents were plagued by consuming drug and alcohol addictions. I was shuffled around foster homes, and it may have seemed that I’d become another statistic, but the good Lord had a different plan for me. Key influential people were placed in my life’s path that taught me the importance of hard work, dedication, and faith. This truly changed the trajectory of my life journey. Dr. Wallena Gould was one of those individuals. While I was still in nursing school in 2008, our paths crossed and she invited me, a perfect stranger, into her home as if I were family. It was there that I was introduced to this thing called the Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentorship Program. Now, 5 years later, I’m finally a CRNA. It’s a dream come true! The entire program, and so many of the people involved in it have been instrumental in my success. Thank God for Dr. Gould, and thank God for the Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Program.

Francis Bicol

SRNA (Union University NAP)

I was in this March info session, grasping every bit of information. Blessed to have been interviewed by Union Univ NAP April 5th and got my acceptance call 5 days later. I wouldn’t have made it through one school application without my mentors and this program.