Interview with AHEC Scholar Trina Fernandes

Interview with AHEC Scholar Trina Fernandes

In January 2019 Central CO AHEC began the AHEC Scholars Program which provides health professions students with a unique learning experience.  AHEC Scholars will be nationally known as possessing a desirable set of competencies. The program provides didactic, clinical, and community-based education in 6 core topic areas:

  • Interprofessional Education
  • Behavioral Health Integration
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • Cultural Competency
  • Practice Transformation
  • Current/Emerging Issues such as Colorado’s response to the Opioid Epidemic; Marijuana; Oral Health: Access to care and primary care integration; Mental Health: Access to care; Suicide Prevention; Health Effects of Oil and Gas Extraction


Trina Fernandes is one of the AHEC Scholars in Central CO AHEC’s first cohort and the first AHEC Scholar that will be completing the program this Spring 2019 as she graduates from University of CO College of Nursing. Trina currently works as a float certified nursing assistant (CNA) at Denver Health & Hospital.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am a nursing student and will complete my program in May 2019. My family is from Pakistan and then they moved to Canada. I was born in Canada and the came to the United States when I was 12 years old and lived with my aunt, who practices Family Medicine, up until my family settled in Denver.

How did you come to decide to pursue nursing?

I never thought about nursing. I thought about pharmacy and thought that in addition to medications people needed to think about alternative therapies that may have the same effect. However, I shadowed pharmacists and decided not to pursue pharmacy due to the limited patient interaction. Even in clinical pharmacy there was not a lot of patient interaction. Based on my personal and family experiences I felt that nursing had a greater connection with patients since nurses build relationships at the bedside. I also like the continuity of care that nursing provides.

What area of nursing do you want to pursue?

Some areas of nursing practice that I am considering are intensive care unit (ICU) nursing, specifically cardiac care. At some point I would also like to see the outpatient world.

What interested you about the AHEC Scholar Program?

The AHEC Scholars program focus is on urban underserved and rural health. My paternal grandmother was considered an expert in her community, as others sought her out for advice. This is what inspired my aunt to pursue medicine, and it inspires my interest in these areas.

Can you give me an example of what your have learned in AHEC Scholars that may help you in your nursing career?

My favorite module was Integrated Behavioral Health. Integrated Behavioral Health is an area I never had the opportunity to fully explore in my nursing program. I was able to learn how to apply these principles in practice, and through AHEC Scholars made a contact for an experiential opportunity. Integrated behavioral health can improve care. For example, if a patient has concerns about their mental health, primary care providers can integrate mental health care into their practice so that the patient is not “dropped” due lack of continuity of care. We often refer patients; however, patients may need help with scheduling appointments so they might not get the care that they need. With integrated behavioral health, the goal is to avoid these problems. From an inpatient perspective the Behavioral Health Module also taught me to think about what should be stressed when providing discharge instructions in order provide continuity of care, and to help patients avoid problems leading to readmission.

Tell me more about your future nursing career plans?

Underserved, rural, and correctional care are areas of interest as well as medical-surgical, cardiac, community, and ICU nursing. I enjoy the work Denver Health does. I can use my talents to provide care to underserved populations who often need someone to talk to and listen to their concerns. Our patients trust us and are grateful for the care they receive. Eventually I plan to go back for an advanced degree, possibly a Doctorate of Nursing Practice.

AHEC Scholars has a focus on Interprofessional Education (IPE). Can you tell us about an IPE experience?

An interprofessional clinical scenarios simulation was a great learning experience. Students from pharmacy, medicine, nursing, and dentistry worked together as a team in a patient situation. We were aware of space and how patients and family perceived us, while seeing how other healthcare professions work together in teams. There are so many diseases which can have systemic effects, which require treatment from multiple disciplines, such as the lack of flossing which can contribute to bacterial endocarditis.

AHEC Scholars also has topic areas of emerging issues, for example Oil and Gas. What did you learn from these modules?

I knew little about oil and gas other than hearing about fracking. I learned that oil and gas operations can also affect the water supply and have other health effects. I learned to look at oil and gas from an environmental stance, a public health stance, and health implications perspective.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us about you?

I would like to share about my family: I live with my family: mom, dad, brother, sister, 3 cats and 2 dogs. As mentioned above, my grandma was the health guru for her community. My partner is studying counseling which provides me with a different perspective on mental health.

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