Leticia Rios, now in her second year as a PhD student in Adelphi's College of Nursing and Public Health (CNPH), was named Working Mother of the Year in September, in conjunction with the magazine's naming NYU Langone Health among its 100 Best Companies for working mothers in 2020.

Leticia Rios, now in her second year as a PhD student in Adelphi’s College of Nursing and Public Health (CNPH), was named Working Mother of the Year in September, in conjunction with the magazine’s naming NYU Langone Health among its 100 Best Companies for working mothers in 2020.

Rios has been working at NYU Langone’s NYU Winthrop Hospital as a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurse educator for two and a half years. She educates more than 120 nurses on how to improve patient outcomes.

When CNPH Dean Elaine L. Smith ’78, MS ’88, EdD, congratulated Rios on LinkedIn—“So glad you are continuing your education at Adelphi! We need clinically strong and educationally well-prepared educators to lead the next generation forward.”—Rios responded, “I love Adelphi!! I rave about Adelphi to everyone I know.”

Asked why Adelphi chose Rios, Patricia Donohue-Porter, MS ’78, PhD ’87, director of the PhD program at CNPH and Rios’ academic adviser, said she “recognized her strengths” during the rigorous PhD admission process. Rios, she said, had “advanced clinical expertise in the specialty area of maternal-child nursing, a dedication to refining and expanding her leadership skills in nursing education and a commitment to exploring the role of health disparities and social justice in the area of maternal morbidity, especially among underserved populations.”

As for why she chose Adelphi’s CNPH PhD program, Rios said, “From my initial meeting with Dr. Porter, I felt the magnitude of the support I would receive to support my success, and it was a no-brainer.” Indicating that her experiences at Adelphi only confirmed she made the right decision, she alluded to Adelphi’s increased efforts toward diversity, equity and inclusion. “As a student, I’ve witnessed many efforts of the University toward inclusion and diversity that I have never seen [elsewhere] and it makes me feel safe and accepted and celebrated as a woman of color.”

Rios, who graduated with an RN and a master’s in nursing education in 2007 and 2018, respectively, from Long Island University, is the daughter of immigrants: “My parents are from Panama (mom) and Guyana (dad),” she noted.

Balancing Work and School

In this complicated COVID-19 era, Rios is among those young parents juggling her work schedule and PhD course schedule with her five-year-old daughter Jordyn’s Zoom school classes. “All of my classes are virtual at the moment,” Rios said. “It’s going OK—still trying to get into a rhythm of balance with my competing priorities.”

The CNPH PhD students are “continuing to meet in real time in synchronous format all day Friday to sustain our executive format,” Dr. Donohue-Porter said, adding that Rios “had to face the challenges of remote teaching of her own young daughter and continuing her studies as a PhD student and her responsibilities as a graduate research assistant. She has succeeded in demonstrating resilience and creativity in each of these roles.”

Helping Other Mothers

Having had difficulty receiving support to exclusively breastfeed her daughter and knowing that breastfeeding can lower maternal and infant morbidity and mortality, Rios became an international board-certified lactation consultant. She volunteers for Birth Justice Warriors, a Long Island organization seeking to bolster maternal-infant health outcomes in underserved communities, educate staff in physicians’ offices on becoming breastfeeding-friendly and connect mothers with home visiting services and midwives. She also facilitates the Brownsville Baby Café, now also conducted through Zoom due to the pandemic, to provide breastfeeding support to underserved women; she also addresses their food-access issues.

Summing up her life and career, Rios observed, “Helping women succeed at breastfeeding has always been a passion of mine as a neonatal nurse. Helping Black mothers succeed at breastfeeding became a passion after my own experience.”

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