A Miami doctor will receive the Florence Nightingale Medal, which recognizes exceptional courage and devotion to victims of armed conflict or natural disaster and exemplary service or a “pioneering spirit” in areas of public health or nursing education.
Dr. Marie Etienne showed Local 10's Calvin Hughes around the Miami Rescue Mission's Christmas in July, an annual event for the city's homeless that she has seen grow the last 11 years.
Etienne and her volunteers, who were Miami Dade College nursing students, made sure patients were screened and education about everything from diabetes to hepatitis to hypertension.
"It's rare to meet someone who has best intentions at heart," said Dan Renzi, a nursing student. "She does want to help people."
"My grandmother taught me... if the homeless comes to you and ask for a glass of water, pick up the best china and serve," said Etienne. "Everyone is equal and you have to treat people with compassion."
Etienne often takes that compassion back to her native Haiti. On a recent trip to Gonaïves, she saw more than 700 patients in two days.
"All the children were sick with lice and malnutrition," she said.
Etienne knew all her life that serving was her calling, and said it became crystal clear at the age of 8 when a nun in Port-au-Prince wiped away her tears after her grandmother scolded her for stepping in the mud.
"She told me don't cry. She said in French. I looked up at her, all in white, and I said gosh, she's so caring. Immediately, when I grow up, I want to be like her," said Etienne.
Etienne is scheduled to receive the medal at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on October 23.
"This feeling of giving back, it's part of me, it's embedded in me. I'm born to serve," she said.
The International Red Cross gives out the medal biannually.