Alumni Profile: Michelle Ortiz, Class of 1996

Michelle Ortiz

When did you attend Henderson and in what activities did you participate?

I attended Henderson State University from Fall 1992 to Spring 1996. During my time, I was a member of the Red & Grey Line and was the first student in the history of the school to establish a scholarship while actively enrolled in classes. I was then and am now a huge fan of all Reddie sports, and participated in all homecoming celebrations… and especially loved the beating of the drum.

What was your major? What prompted you to pursue your particular degree?

I am a proud graduate from the School of Nursing. I am a third generation nurse. Prior to coming to Henderson, I was stationed in London, England, with the U.S. Navy, and my grandmother was at the end of her life back in the U.S. I was so impressed with how well she was cared for by her nurses and how I felt about them, and I wanted to pay that forward.

Why did you choose Henderson?

It was close to home (Ashdown/Texarkana) and I’d been overseas for eight years. I wanted to be close enough to visit, but not live at home. I wanted to embrace campus life, and knew they had a great Nursing program … and made lifelong friends in the process. I’d always heard that Henderson was a fun, warm, welcoming environment … and it didn’t disappoint!

What is your hometown? From what high school did you graduate and in what year?

My hometown is Ashdown, Arkansas. I graduated in 1984, and left immediately for the Navy. I lived in London, England, Guam, and New Delhi, India, and then returned home to Ashdown.

What is your current occupation and your primary focus?

My specialty in Forensic Nursing is Sexual Assault and Strangulation. I perform examinations on victims of sexual and interpersonal violence, as well as those suspected of inflicting those acts. I also consult on child abuse cases and refer for further evaluation. I testify all over the world for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard in courts martial proceedings; and also have my own company for consulting with civilian attorneys on criminal and civil matters of interpersonal violence, rape, and injury. I teach, I train, and I testify.

Please “chart” your education and career progression since you graduated Henderson.

  • 1996: Graduated from HSU with my BSN; joined the Navy
  • 2007: Graduated from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA with my Masters of Science in Nursing, Forensic Science and Law track
  • 2009: Personally requested by Virginia Lynch, pioneer of forensic nursing specialty, to co-author chapter on Military Forensic Nursing in her textbook entitled, "Forensic Nursing Science", released August 2, 2010 by Elsevier. Textbook is considered the definitive guide for the specialty.
  • 2010: Regarded by Virginia Lynch as one of three U.S. Navy Nurses responsible for promoting the specialty within the Department of Defense and Veterans' Affairs.
  • 2011: Appointed as Forensic Healthcare Coordinator, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, by Rear Admiral Alton Stocks. This marks the first military facility in the U.S. Navy with a full time Forensic Nurse Examiner to oversee the program.
  • 2013: In Oct 2013, one of only 32 Advanced Forensic Nurses - Board Certified nurses credentialed world-wide by ANCC.
  • 2014: Personally requested by Graduate School of Nursing, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, to create lectures for military graduate nursing students; additionally, collaborating with Dr. Ann W. Burgess, renowned author and forensic expert, to utilize these lectures for her nursing classes at Boston University. This curriculum was presented by USUHS faculty at the NATO Human Factors & Medicine Panel Symposium in Paris, France October 13th, 2015.

How has your degree benefited you in your career progression?

My BSN set my foundation for future success. I was given a foundation rooted in science, holistic care, and excellence. Henderson taught us to look beyond the disease process and see the person. I have tried to carry that trait with me throughout my career.

What aspect of your degree/career most interests you and what do you enjoy most about your profession?

I love knowing that what I do makes a difference every day to someone. My work truly impacts lives, and families forever. I like the challenge of coming into someone’s life on their worst day, their darkest hour … and bringing them into the light.

What’s the best thing that’s happened to you related to your degree since you graduated from Henderson?

Finding my niche – Forensic Nursing. I literally stumbled across the specialty while deployed to Djibouti, Africa, and thought – this is it. This is where I fit. And I have never looked back.

If someone asked you to describe yourself, what would you say? Could you share something that most people don’t know about you?

I am perpetually optimistic about life and curious about everything. Something most people don’t know about me is, when I was living in New Delhi, India, I was able to track down Harrison Ford at a local hotel. I left my name and number with the manager, and said I wanted to meet him – and about 10 minutes later, Harrison Ford called me back on my phone, and I got to meet him in person.

What other degree did you consider pursuing?

I’ve always wanted to pursue studies in Forensic Psychology – get into people’s minds. One of my early mentors was Roy Hazelwood, who passed in April 2016. Roy was one of the renowned FBI criminal profilers, and has interviewed almost every serial killer you can name. I love profiling, and he taught me so much about how to profile and perform my work better

Please list any awards or honors.

Military awards: Navy Achievement Medal, Volunteer Service Award, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Award, Global War on Terrorism

2015: Recognized as Naval Medical Center Portsmouth "Master Clinician". The Master Clinician Program facilitates official recognition of NMCP's Clinical Staff who consistently demonstrate exemplary patient care, participation in Graduate Education, scholarly activity/research, and professionalism. This program is designed as a Peer-Acknowledgement Program; peers recognizing other peers for their outstanding patient care.

2018: Awarded Virginia Lynch Pioneer Award by International Association of Forensic Nursing. This is the highest award bestowed by the organization to recognize significant contributions to the field of Forensic Nursing.

Finally, feel free to add any additional comments.

My greatest accomplishment, far above anything having to do with nursing, was picking a wonderful man with whom to share my life. Tony and I just celebrated 18 years of marriage, and have been blessed with two amazing children: Alistair and Alexandra. We are also the proud parents of two unappreciative Old English Bulldogs: Iron Mike “Tyson” and Sophia “Sophie” Loren.