Sandra Mintz, MSN, RN, knew in high school that she wanted to be a nurse, and upon graduation, she did just that, the youngest in her class to graduate from Pasadena City College with an Associate of Science in nursing.
Not long after embarking on her career, she received a life-altering medical diagnosis of her own following a left-side hemiparesis on Dec. 19, 1997: multiple sclerosis.
It may help explain why the new ARHP president is passionate about working with pediatric rheumatology patients at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). “I can’t change the things that happen to children or change that they have a medical condition, but I can change how they live with it and adapt to it,” says Ms. Mintz. “The disease is part of who they are, but it does not have to define them.”
It may also help explain her dedication and persistence in so many facets of her life.
Ms. Mintz earned her Bachelor of Science in nursing from California State University, Dominguez Hills, in 2001, while working as a home health nurse, and later as a medical-surgical/rehabilitation nurse. She spent a decade as a single parent, raising her two older daughters (now teens) before remarrying. She is now a mother of three, with the addition of a 10-month-old baby girl that she and her husband adopted in February 2017.
The Need for Continuing Education
In December 2016, Ms. Mintz earned her Master of Science in nursing, a reflection of her commitment to education, as well as a response to the experience of nearly having a rheumatology research grant she won retracted when the chair of the awarding committee learned she did not have an advanced degree.
“It made me realize that to do some of the things I wanted long term in education and research, I had to go back and get a master’s degree and eventually, I will go back and get my doctorate in education,” Ms. Mintz says.
In 2002, Mintz was recruited into the rheumatology department at CHLA. “I have seen people grow up, move on, have careers and stay in touch after they have their own children,” she says. “It’s rewarding to be able to see these once really sick kids living their lives, going to college and being successful.”
Leveraging Personal Experiences
As a person with a chronic condition, Ms. Mintz is able to leverage her experiences to aid her patients, whether it’s coaching them through the challenges of injections or helping them make choices about new therapies. Two decades ago, Ms. Mintz was her physician’s first patient to go on a then newly approved medication, Copaxone, to treat her MS. She has been in remission ever since.
Being a patient, how people treated her because of the disease, the stigma of the illness and people’s perceptions that you can’t be successful with a potentially disabling disease are just some of the experiences that have shaped her as a person and as a nurse, Ms. Mintz says. Partially because of her own experience, she can adeptly assist her patients in navigating the complexities of health insurance.
Spreading the Wealth
Throughout her career, Ms. Mintz has involved herself in myriad efforts to help the people around her achieve success. In 2009, with a fellow and a social worker on her team, she started a support and education group called Families Learning to Live with Rheumatic Diseases. Ms. Mintz first got involved as a leader within ARHP through a small project on the technology taskforce. She later worked on the Annual Meeting Planning Subcommittee and chaired the Clinical Focus Course Task Force on Immunology and Clinical Infusion. From there, she went on to membership on the ACR Committee on Education and the Executive Committee.
As president, she hopes to recruit more members to ARHP, wholeheartedly embracing the slogan, ARHP is for ME!
“I think it’s an exciting time for ARHP … I want to continue to promote that everyone is welcome in the ACR,” Ms. Mintz says. “It’s truly an interprofessional organization where I can come together with anyone who is interested or works with our patients.”
The ACR/ARHP includes rheumatologists and well over 22 different types of rheumatology professionals from private practice and academic settings, she adds. “You don’t see that in all organizations, and I learn so much from all of these professionals.”
The Right Person at the Right Time
As one of her professional colleagues recently shared with her, Ms. Mintz steps into her presidency as “the right person at the right time.”
“It’s an honor to be leading, but in my mind I am facilitating a diverse team to help them [have a positive] impact [on] the future of our organization,” says Ms. Mintz. “I feel like that’s what I do every day.”
Kelly April Tyrrell writes about health, science and health policy. She lives in Madison, Wis.