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Albany Med Today

Homegrown Heroes at Albany Med

From the time she was a little girl, Cristine LaPaix, RN, dreamed of becoming a nurse. Her dolls were never her “babies,” she said. They were nurses and patients (see inset photo). Shoeboxes served as hospital beds, and she read the “Cherry Ames, Nurse” book series with relish—often out loud to her mom.

In adulthood, however, LaPaix pursued a different course, working in theater in New York City and later running her own party business. It was only through a program at Albany Med that she would eventually be able to achieve her childhood dream.

On Sept. 11, 2001, the morning of the World Trade Center attacks, LaPaix felt her early yearning to help others resurface. “Something shifted in me,” she said. “I thought, How can I help? What can I do?”

Nursing school wasn’t possible: “I couldn’t afford it,” LaPaix said. So she joined her local fire department and became an emergency medical technician.

Later, when aging parents brought the Albany native home, she interviewed for a job as a patient care associate at Albany Med. At the same time, she learned she could finally become a nurse by participating in Grow Our Own, an Albany Med program that offers financial assistance and other supports to full-time hospital employees who want to pursue careers in nursing.

After four years of taking courses at Hudson Valley Community College while working at Albany Med, LaPaix has achieved the dream of her youth.

On May 30, 2014, Albany Med honored her and 18 other new registered nurses in the Grow Our Own program. This year’s Grow Our Own grads, like LaPaix, have come to nursing from widely varied backgrounds. Some are single parents. Some transitioned from other careers, like construction, massage therapy and higher education. But with Albany Med’s help, all of them are now on the way to new and fulfilling careers in nursing.