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First Flight Nurse of the Year Award

  • Published
  • By Major Kathy Jimenez
  • AFMS History Office

On May 5, 1968, the Aerospace Medical Association established the “Flight Nurse of the Year award.  The first recipient, Maj. Virginia M. Alena, received a trophy, a wrist watch, and a $500 honorarium from the sponsor of the award, Douglas Aircraft Company. She was recognized for her work as the task scientist on a project to improve patient care during aeromedical evacuations at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base, Texas.   


Alena’s innovative research on in-flight oxygen therapy resulted in a portable, low-pressure liquid oxygen system that eliminated logistical problems of high pressure oxygen tanks aboard an aircraft.  The following month, she was one of 25 Air Force nurses honored by San Antonio Mayor Walter W. McAllister during a breakfast at the Tower of the Americas, celebrating the 1968 World’s Fair in San Antonio, Texas.