Pilar De La Cruz Samoulian has been a registered nurse for more than 50 years. She has served as director of the Central California Center for Excellence in Nursing, at Fresno State, and in 2015 was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to serve as a member of the California Board of Registered Nursing. Before joining the panel at a Zócalo/the California Wellness Foundation event titled “How Are Immigrants Changing the Way Health Care Is Practiced?” at the RedZone at Gensler in Los Angeles, she spoke in the green room about the town of Reedley, movie nurses, and her Fresno State Bulldogs.
What’s your favorite thing about living in Fresno?
The availability of fresh fruit. And it’s a family community.
What’s your go-to Fresno taco place?
I have a favorite restaurant, La Haciendita, which also makes the best chile rellenos I’ve ever tasted.
You’ve done a lot of work and outreach via mobile health units. What’s the hardest thing about working in such a unit?
Finding the locations where you can best serve the people. And helping people understand, when you find something abnormal when checking their health, the importance of seeking a follow-up. We had a lady at one of our events with a blood sugar of over 600. She was sitting there and we couldn’t get her to understand how important it was for her to get to a doctor.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about nurses?
They sometimes portray as those nurses in the movies, when we’re always flirting with the doctors or not paying our attention to the patients. In reality, we take our jobs very seriously.
You grew up in the town of Reedley, which calls itself “The World's Fruit Basket". Which fruits would be in your ideal fruit basket?
I live in Sanger now. So grapes, nectarines, peaches, and bananas, though we don’t grow bananas here.
What was the most fun you ever had practicing medicine?
When I opened up a respiratory intensive care unit. The reason why that happened was I was working on a floor, and a doctor came on the floor and complained the nurses don’t know how to take care of patients. He was a pulmonologist. I said to him, what you need is a unit where you can train the nurses. And the next thing I know I was getting a call from the director of nurses, and she says, I hear you want to start a respiratory intensive care unit. This was at San Francisco General—the old San Francisco General. And while I had to go back and take specialty courses, I was able to start the unit, and I loved doing it.
What immigrant to America, living or dead, would you most want to meet and have a drink with?
Frida Kahlo, because she endured so much and yet she made such an impact on the art world. Probably her and Diego Rivera.
Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu?
I don’t stream. I watch a lot of regular television—ABC mostly.
What’s your biggest indulgence?
I love going to Fresno State football games and cheering my head off. That’s big entertainment to us, because we don’t have a professional team. Fresno State is the closest thing to it.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
I can be impatient. Working with someone who is very slow can get my goat. I don’t know where I was when God passed out patience.
Who is your favorite TV or film nurse?
Julia, the nurse played by Diahann Carroll on the [titular] series way back in the 1970s. She demonstrated a lot of the characteristics of a professional nurse.
Where would we find you on a Sunday afternoon?
Probably at the movies.
What’s your coffee order?
Tall caramel macchiato, decaf, with light whip.
What’s your favorite book?
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. I attended an event where author John Maxwell was speaking at Fresno Pacific University and bought his book there. I found it to be so practical and easy to understand. I use a lot of his comments and theories in my own practice.