Hadja Diallo doesn’t know which colleague nominated her for the Good Samaritan’s Excellence in Nursing award. She got home and saw the email on her computer and thought it was a scam until she confirmed it wasn’t.
"I cried,” the registered nurse for the Houston Health Department said. “The fact that the work I do, which I consider to be normal and standard, is being recognized and appreciated by someone is great. I’m grateful.”
Whoever orchestrated this is still a mystery but judging from her vibrant personality and career-long devotion to public health - in different environments with varying numbers of resources - it’s clear why her colleagues have elevated her to recognition as an astute medical professional.
The Good Samaritan Foundation of Texas, an organization aimed at equipping the Lone Star state with highly qualified nurses, has released the names of the 2023 Excellence in Nursing recipients and Diallo earned a bronze medal. She will attend the 19th annual luncheon Dec. 8 where she will be formally honored.
The acknowledgment came as a shock to Diallo, but all the paths she took in life led her here. Hailing from Guinea, West Africa, working in healthcare was always the goal. She earned a bachelor’s degree in medicine while studying in Cuba and soon started working as a community provider.
Doctors didn’t make much money according to her and her uncle, who also is a doctor, encouraged her to move away from Guinea if she wanted to earn more. After marrying, she moved to Houston.
"I knew I didn’t want to give up healthcare, so I went to nursing school in Puerto Rico because I was more fluent in Spanish than English,” Diallo said. “I trained there while still studying for the English exam. Then I passed the boards and got started.”
Diallo began working in hospice care in 2018 in Houston. She then at MD Anderson Cancer Center while still making time to volunteer on the palliative floor to care for the most vulnerable.
She then decided to work in public health full-time, tending to those who may not have the resources or income for traditional hospital visits. She graduated from Tulane University with her master's degree before joining HHD.
"It was a huge accomplishment for me,” Diallo said. “It was always a goal of mine to work in public health and HHD reminds me of the work I was doing in Cuba. Like in Cuba, people can’t afford all kinds of health care, so we help for a free or reduced cost. It's the essence of public health.”
Diallo is a one-man band as an HHD nurse. She assists with the training staff, works in the lab, conducts audits and administrative work, ensures new hires stay on the right track and plenty more. Staffing issues at HHD can prove irritable for patients, but this is where Diallo shines.
She stays after hours when she can, informing patients of their medical needs, flitting in and out of departments to aid as needed and even taking on cleaning duties. She takes the extra effort because she understands what it takes for someone to make it to the doctor’s office.
"You don’t know what they had to do come here today, and I always tell my coworkers we can’t turn them away just because it’s nearing the end of the day,” Diallo said. “My father passed from ketoacidosis, something that could have been prevented. If I had someone that advocated for my dad, maybe things could have been different.”
Diallo was recently promoted to chief nurse and her leadership skills and training will only take her up from her because she leads with the promise she’s made as a healthcare provider.
“Excellence in healthcare means you are doing what you swear to do as a medical professional,” Diallo said. “It's not just the clinical parts for me, there’s an emotional side that’s just as important. Nursing can be painful; it takes time and a lot of energy. It’s all-around care.”
Diallo said she plans to continue absorbing all she’s learning as a registered nurse and use it to help Guinea. Though they may not have the technological advances in the health industry as Houston does, it doesn’t have to prevent doctors from saving lives.
“This award proves to me that I am on the right path,” Diallo said. “I am doing something I am passionate about, and this proves that I am doing it right.”