Alberto Villamiel, CRNA, DNP
Alberto Villamiel came to America was he was eleven years old. “November 7, 1996. I still remember that day.” His mom was a single mom, working hard to support a family of four. Even then, Alberto knew she wouldn’t be able to fund college when he got older. “But she always told me education was a treasure that no one could take from you. She embedded that idea in me.” Alberto’s first year adjusting to a new language was a challenge. “In 5th grade they had us read The Giver. I did not understand anything about The Giver.”
By high school, Alberto was taking advanced classes. He attended Prosser Career Academy, near his home in Northwest Chicago, and studied in their honors program. “I had really close relationships with my teachers. I always stayed after school and got extra help.” While maintaining his grades, Alberto participated in volleyball, swim team, chess team, student council, National Honor Society, and various cultural clubs. He also spent many afternoons helping out at home, watching his sister after school while his mother worked. As Alberto looked to the future, he knew he would need some outside help. “When I got the Wentcher scholarship, honestly it gave me hope, that I could do this. I’d be able to go to college. There were people out there like Mr. Wetcher. People that had big hearts.”
In 2004, Alberto enrolled at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, his top choice college. He started off as a pre-med student, but given his family’s finances, decided to change course. “It just wasn’t logical for me to be in school for twelve years. I decided to go into nursing instead.” At first, the decision was a practical one: “I thought of it as stable, as a good source of income.” But as he began studying under the school’s nursing program, he quickly “fell in love” with the profession. “I found a purpose. And that purpose was serving others.”
In 2008, Alberto graduated with a bachelor's degree in nursing. He went on to work at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in the transplant and surgical intensive care units. At the same time, he also worked as a part-time RN at Lutheran General Hospital, practicing physical rehab nursing. After practicing nursing for five years, Alberto was accepted into a Doctorate program for Nursing Practice at the University of Minnesota, a degree he completed recently. His specialty is in nurse anesthesia. “There is a difference between nurse anesthesia and being an anesthesiologist,” he explained. “We are with our patients from start to finish of surgery. It is our responsibility to insure patients' safety and comfort. That’s part of the reason why I chose this specialty. I wanted to stay at bedside. We’re given the opportunity to care for our patients intimately. We advocate for them. They trust us with their lives during their vulnerable moments.”
Looking back at his long and extensive education, Alberto told us it was Mr. Wentcher who “really started the ball rolling.” By investing in Alberto’s education, “He did something great. He gave me a foundation. Mr. Wentcher kind of stands as a hero to all of us. To all of us and our families.” We at the Foundation are proud to call Alberto a Wentcher Scholar. And likewise, we are certain Mr. Wentcher would be very proud.