South alumna is inspired by high school biology teacher to pursue healthcare

When she was 15 years old, Brieanna Flowers-Joseph, a Harlingen High School South alumna decided that she wanted to pursue a career in healthcare.

At that time, she had a conversation with her biology teacher, Mark Conway, about her interest.

“I remember telling him that I was interested in healthcare, and I remember him giving me my first medical dictionary,” she said. “He really encouraged me and pushed me to pursue healthcare. In that moment, I knew that I was going to go into healthcare. That day, I went home, and I told my mom and my dad, and they were like, ‘Yes, absolutely, go for it!’ And the rest is history.”

Now, Flowers-Joseph is a pediatric nurse practitioner, a predoctoral research fellow, a graduate research assistant, and a PhD student.

“I currently work at San Antonio Pediatric Developmental Medicine as a pediatric nurse practitioner,” she said. “I also work at UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing as a predoctoral research fellow and graduate research assistant.”

In her current role at the clinic, she diagnoses, manages, treats, and monitors infants, children, and adolescents with a variety of adverse life experiences and health conditions to include premature birth, multiple gestation births, prenatal drug-exposure, genetic-chromosomal anomalies/disorders, Autism Spectrum, ADHD, child behavioral/psychological disparities, childhood trauma, child sexual/physical/emotional abuse, child neglect/abandonment and child placement in the foster care system.

“It just felt right and natural for me to specialize in pediatrics,” she said. “I have always loved children, and children have always loved me. So, it just became natural for me to work in pediatrics. Also, my mother is a retired nurse and she worked in pediatric home health for several years. She would take me to work with her and that kind of sparked it in me.”

Flowers-Joseph was born and raised in Harlingen, Texas. She attended Sam Houston Elementary, Bowie Elementary, and Coakley Middle School before graduating from Harlingen High School South in 2006.

She holds many great memories from her time in Harlingen CISD schools, but the time in her high school biology class is especially memorable.

“Mr. Conway is an amazing biology teacher,” she said. “He really made us think. He made us do our work and he made us earn our grade. I was always getting in trouble for talking in his class. He would say, ‘Brieanna, half a page on why you shouldn’t talk while I am talking in class.’ I don’t know how many half pages I wrote because I wouldn’t stop talking, but my grades were always good. Honestly, Mr. Conway really saw something in me that at the time I didn’t necessarily see in myself, and so did my mom and dad.”

After serving six years at San Antonio Pediatric Developmental Medicine, Flowers-Joseph will transition out of the clinic at the end of this year.

“My next step right now is to get through qualifying exams and dissertation,” she said. “My goal is to become a tenured professor here at UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing and to launch my own research program focusing on stimulants and the stimulant overdose crisis in addition to continuing to work with my amazing mentor/professor, Dr. Lisa Cleveland MSN, APRN, PhD, FAAN and research team that focuses on opiates and the opiate overdose crisis that is currently happening in Texas.”

To this day, Flowers-Joseph still has her first medical dictionary, the one that Mr. Conway gave her many years ago.

“He needs to keep doing exactly what he is doing in the classroom because it worked,” she said about Conway who still teaches at Harlingen High School South.

“My encouragement to all students whose goal is to reach for the stars is once you make up your mind on what you want to do in life, go for it and don’t let anyone stop you,” she said.