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Two Countries, One Community

Updated: Jun 16, 2023

Nursing Students Help Vaccinate More Than 4,000 Mexican Workers

Dozens of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso students journeyed to the Tornillo Port of Entry in July to join the county’s effort to vaccinate both sides of the border.

“I hope each vaccine is one step closer to us getting back to normal,” said third-semester nursing student Abigail Balbuena. “Vaccinating our neighbors in Juárez helps everyone in El Paso because of how we’re intertwined. We’re one community with a lot of love on both sides.”

On July 15, Hunt School of Nursing students helped El Paso County Emergency Services and constables administer 4,200 COVID-19 vaccines to maquiladora workers from Ciudad Juárez. On average, they vaccinated about 150 workers within minutes.

Community service – most recently during the COVID-19 pandemic – prepares Hunt School of Nursing students to work in border communities and provide patient care in the more than 100 West Texas counties served by TTUHSC El Paso.

“This is where we take what we learn in the classroom and in simulations and apply it to patient care,” said Rhonda Sparr, D.N.P., R.N., clinical professor at the Hunt School of Nursing. “Perhaps the most important lesson taught is the moral obligation to help the community, and that includes both sides of the border.”

Also volunteering were individuals from the Foster School of Medicine and TTUHSC El Paso’s El Paso Health Education Awareness Team (EP-HEAT), led by Jessica Chacon, Ph.D., an assistant professor of immunology and microbiology.

Victor Lopez, a third-semester student, said part of the reason he chose the Hunt School of Nursing was for opportunities to help the community. That type of volunteerism is synonymous with TTUHSC El Paso and its mission to improve health care in an underserved region.

“This pandemic has been affecting us for a while now. A lot of people are missing their families. I have family over there and am missing them as well. This is one step closer to seeing them.” Abigail Balbuena Hunt School of Nursing student

“We want to remind our neighbors in Juárez how much we care about them – that’s why we’re here today,” Lopez said.

Third-semester nursing student Julianne Herrera said she was happy to travel to Tornillo, a small border town east of El Paso city limits, to make a difference.

“I think it’s amazing to help our neighbors in Mexico, not only because they’re over there working through the pandemic, but also because it’ll encourage others to get vaccinated and have a positive impact on both sides of the border,” Herrera said.

The US/Mexico/Canada Strategic Alliance helped organize workers on the Mexican side of the border. Cecilia Ochoa Levine, the organization’s president, said it was exciting to see El Paso’s future health care heroes in action.

“We saw the students come into the trenches with us. The buses come in quickly, but they’re vaccinating the workers without any problems,” Levine said. “It’s amazing to see them at work.”



At TTUHSC El Paso, we are committed to growing our own health care heroes and changing the state of health care in our Borderplex. For more information about how you can help, please contact or or visit

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