Featured speakers

Andrya R. Rivera-Burciaga, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, ACHPN is an Assistant Professor at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and oversees the Doctor of Nursing Practice program.  She has over 23 years of clinical experience as a registered nurse, and 12 years as a family nurse practitioner, including nursing administration and education. For over 10 years, Dr. Rivera-Burciaga has focused her clinical practice on Hospice and Palliative Care.

She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Baylor University in May 1999. In 2010, she completed her Master of Science in Nursing, focusing on Adult Health. In May 2011, she also received her Post Masters Certificate as a Family Nurse Practitioner from the University of Texas-Pan American.

Andrya has always been passionate about advanced nursing education and her community in the Rio Grande Valley. Her focus is driving change through improving clinical outcomes and community projects to improve access to palliative and end-of-life care for Mexican Americans in the Rio Grande Valley. Her focus has been increasing Advance Care Planning among Mexican Americans and advancing primary palliative care nursing education to undergraduate and graduate nursing students. This work is challenging, and she quickly learned she needed advanced education, mentoring, and leadership development to bring about “BIG” change. In 2017, she received her Doctor of Nursing Practice from The University of Texas Health Science Center Houston – School of Nursing. She is currently a PhD in Nursing Science student at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.

In 2023, the Cambia Health Foundation awarded Andrya an esteemed opportunity to participate in the Cambia Sojourns Scholar Leadership program. This award includes a $180,000 grant focused on a proposed project, mentorship, and leadership development. The proposed project is focused on healthcare disparities among Mexican Americans living with serious illnesses.

Healthcare disparities are well documented among Hispanics; however, the literature regarding disparities in palliative and end-of-life care is sparse, especially among Mexican Americans. Cultural perspectives are critical in identifying how ethnic and racial minorities seek, use, and approach palliative and end-of-life care. The proposed project will use a community-based

approach for a qualitative study to explore the attitudes, perceptions, experiences, and needs of Mexican Americans in the Rio Grande Valley living with a serious illness. Using pláticas and pláticas intimas will allow an opportunity to gather in-depth, contextually rich data that can be analyzed to generate insights into the project’s purpose. The project’s long-term objective is to create a well-equipped network of Mexican American stakeholders, community partners, and experts in the field of hospice and palliative care to create culturally specific and appropriate resources for Mexican-Americans living with serious illnesses nationally.

With the proposed project completion, mentorship, and leadership development, I will contribute to decreasing healthcare disparities among Mexican Americans. This esteemed opportunity will give the Rio Grande Valley increased access to palliative care, such as what currently exists in other places across the country. This is what I strive to address through the Sojourns Scholar Leadership program. My goal is to gain the capacity to connect with palliative care peers and recognized experts in the field nationally to address barriers and participate in creating solutions for Mexican Americans in the Rio Grande Valley. I seek to cultivate my skills to be an influential voice for Hispanics with serious illness and want to lead positive change in addressing healthcare disparities among Hispanics, specifically among Mexican Americans. My goal is to be recognized as a valuable palliative care leader in clinical practice, research, and advocacy.

Sylvia Trent-Adams, PhD, RN, FAAN, FNAP 

Dr. Sylvia Trent-Adams is the President, of the University of North Texas Health Science Center (HSC).  As President, Dr. Trent-Adams is responsible for the overall leadership and management of all campus programs, services and activities in every area of the university, including academic affairs, administration, strategic planning, student services, financial management, external relations and fundraising.
A lifetime public servant, Dr. Trent-Adams started her career in 1987 as a nurse officer in the U.S. Army.  In 1992, she transferred to the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service and subsequently retired in 2020 after over 33 years of combined service with the rank of Rear Admiral Upper Half.

Prior to joining HSC, Dr. Trent-Adams served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health (PDASH) from January 2019 through August 2020. As the PDASH, she shared responsibility with the Assistant Secretary for Health planning, coordinating, and directing substantive program matters; policy and program development; and determining and setting legislative and program priorities covering the full range of public health activities within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health.
Throughout her career, Dr. Trent-Adams has focused on improving access to care for poor and underserved communities. As both a clinician and administrator, she has made a direct impact on building systems of care to improve public health for marginalized populations domestically and internationally. Dr. Trent-Adams continued this work during her time as the Deputy Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps from 2015 to 2018.
As Deputy Surgeon General, Dr. Trent-Adams was a trusted advisor to the Surgeon General, providing support on a variety of critical issues, including efforts to combat the opioid crisis and the operations of the Commissioned Corps.
Prior to serving as Deputy Surgeon General, Dr. Sylvia Trent-Adams was Deputy Associate Administrator for the HIV/AIDS Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration. Through this role, she helped manage the $2.3 billion Ryan White program, which funds medical care, treatment, referrals and support services for uninsured and underserved people living with HIV disease as well as training for health care professionals.
Dr. Trent-Adams’ dedicated service and leadership has been widely recognized, earning numerous accolades and awards. In 2017, Dr. Trent-Adams was awarded the International Red Cross Florence Nightingale Medal, the highest international honor bestowed upon a nurse. Additionally, Dr. Trent-Adams is the recipient of the American Nursing Credentialing Center’s HRH Princess Muna Al Hussein Award, the American Academy of Nursing’s Civitas Award, the American Association of the Colleges of Nursing’s Lois Capps Luminary Policy Award.
Dr. Trent-Adams has been elected as a fellow in several organizations, including the American Academy of Nursing (2014), National Academy of Medicine (2018) and the National Academies of Practice (2018). These many accomplishments speak to her dedicated service, including a Distinguished Service Medal for her sustained leadership, dedication and service at the highest levels while serving as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health and Deputy Surgeon General.  Dr. Trent-Adams was also awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for her leadership during the Commissioned Corps response to the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa and the Surgeon General’s Medallion for service acting Surgeon General from April 2017 to September 2017.

Sonya Renae Hardin PhD, MBA/MHA, APRN, FAAN, Dean & Professor, the Dr. Patty L. Hawken Nursing Endowed Professor

School of Nursing UT Health San Antonio. Dr. Hardin has had a distinguished career touching all aspects of academic nursing. She has broad experience in nursing school administration and patient care, as well as research, fundraising and collaboration with academia and industry to advance health in her communities.

In addition, she has experience as a critical care and advanced practice nurse on the inpatient and outpatient sides of health care.

Her proven expertise in acute- and critical-care nursing has been recognized with an appointment to the task force of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing to revise standards for educating critical-care nurses. Additionally, her authoritative research on aging and the management of chronic diseases has been supported by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Dr. Hardin is a principled leader who builds consensus while establishing priorities to help institutions achieve their strategic vision. She is recognized for building strong collaborations between academia and industry parties and by working across academic units, as well as multiple campuses, to ensure university success. She is a proponent of diversity, equity and inclusion and also a strong advocate for nursing within the institutions and communities she has served.  And

Dr. Hardin describes her approach as relational leadership. She believes a great leader develops positive relationships within the organization to bring about success, and that leaders must hold an enterprise mindset to be open to improvement for organizations to thrive.

Dr. Hardin previously held the position of tenured professor and dean of the School of Nursing at the University of Louisville. Prior to her 2018 appointment as dean of the nursing school at Louisville, Dr. Hardin served as professor and associate dean of graduate nursing programs at East Carolina University, and professor and coordinator of the nurse practitioner program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

She has also held hospital positions including chief nursing officer, membership on the University of Louisville Hospital Board and co-manager of a neurology practice. In academic health care, she served as program coordinator of a nurse practitioner program, a dual-degree program in health administration and has experience starting Psychiatric NP and nurse anesthesia programs.

Jason Berry, MPA serves as the Region VI (Dallas) Regional Administrator for the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs (IEA). HRSA IEA serves as the principal Agency lead on intergovernmental and external affairs, regional operations, and tribal partnerships.

Jason previously served as the Director of Food Safety Education in the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS) Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Education (OPACE). He also worked as a Health Insurance Specialist within the US Department of Health and Human Services, working for several years at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and HRSA’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy.

Jason holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Troy University and a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Political Science from Morehouse College.

Leah FitzGerald PhD, FNP-BC, FAAN

Dr. FitzGerald serves as the Director of Nursing and Public Health for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in the Bureau of Health Workforce (BHW).  HRSA’s BHW serves to improve the health of underserved populations by strengthening the health workforce and connecting skilled professionals to communities in need.  Prior to joining HRSA in 2023 Dr. FitzGerald held the position of Fletcher Jones Endowed Chair and Community Partnerships, tenured professor, and dean of nursing at Mount Saint Mary’s University (MSMU), Los Angeles, CA.  In her work as Endowed Chair, she received over $3 million in funding to focus on creating service-learning opportunities in medically underserved communities and high need areas by building community partnerships and strengthening interdisciplinary cooperation among health professions.

Prior to her 2015 appointment at MSMU, Dr. FitzGerald served as faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) for ten years where she ran a basic science lab and taught clinical and theory in the advanced nurse practitioner program.   With over 30 years as a nationally Family Advanced Practice Nurse, she brings a unique perspective to her role where she can pair clinical expertise with her knowledge of basic science to bridge a bench-to-bedside approach in the community.

Dr. FitzGerald has served on multiple local and national boards working to increase the diversity of the health workforce and improve the health of underserved populations.  She served two terms on the statewide board of Directors for the California Association of College of Nursing.  Dr. FitzGerald was elected as a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing and is the current president of The Roy Adaptation Association International.

Dr. FitzGerald is a diploma RN and completed a BSN and MSN at Boston College School of Nursing.  She then earned a PhD in Nursing from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and completed post-doctoral training at the UCLA Norman Cousins Center in psychoneuroimmunology (PNI).