Instructor by day, nurse by night for 35 years

BY Amanda Sotelo

Over the past 35 years, Surgical Technology Program Director Robert Sanchez has inspired learning and growth among his students and colleagues at Texas State Technical College.

It is for this devotion and dedication that he was recently given a Service Award during TSTC’s Employee Appreciation Day.

“My time at TSTC has been excellent,” he said. “I love seeing young adults find success and grow within the medical profession.”

With nearly 50 years of experience in his field, the Rio Grande City native has enjoyed sharing his know-how with his students since 1981.

But before this, Sanchez was a student himself. He graduated in 1969 from one of only two surgical technology classes hosted by Valley Baptist Medical Center and became a certified surgical technologist in 1970.

He went on to receive his associate degree in nursing from Texas Southmost College in 1978 and received a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from the University of Texas-Pan American in 1989.

“The field has definitely changed and seen lots of advancements over the years,” said Sanchez. “I’ve had to adapt to be the best instructor I can be for each generation of students.”

Sanchez, who is also an Army Reserve veteran, has seen these changes firsthand as an operating room attendant, a surgical technologist, a registered nurse and an instructor.

For the last three and a half decades, Sanchez has been an instructor at TSTC by day and a nurse in the operating room by night at Valley Baptist Medical Center, where he is pro re nata or PRN, meaning he works as needed.

“The surgical environment is in my blood,” said Sanchez. “I love knowing that I can help make a difference in someone’s life and get them back on their feet and back to good health.”

So, as one can imagine, Sanchez was nervous making the transition to the classroom as an instructor. But according to one former student and current colleague, it was the best decision he could have made.

Former Surgical Technology student and TSTC Surgical Technology Senior Instructor Anna San Pedro said she calls Sanchez her teacher, boss and big brother. She also said she considers him one of her best friends.

“As an instructor, he was challenging and always demanded the best from me and my peers,” she recalled. “He always made sure that we were prepared and focused or we would be sent home until we were ready to learn.”

She added that it was his discipline and strict ways that influenced her success in a large way.

“He has been the greatest influence in my studies and profession. He sets the bar high for everybody,” said San Pedro. “It’s been great having a teacher and a boss who is engaging, makes work fun and allows me to grow. I tell him he can never retire.”

Sanchez said sooner or later he will retire to do some traveling and spend time with his children and grandkids, but he will take with him the most rewarding part of his job, and that is seeing his students, like San Pedro, succeed.

“TSTC is a great place to work. It has given me the opportunity to help shape lives,” he said. “From supportive administrators to colleagues that become family, it has all been possible and that’s because this was the best career move for me.”