Larry smiling

For Larry Santiago, ’97, EdD, Azusa Pacific University is where he has felt God’s presence since he was an undergraduate. When he stepped foot on Cougar Walk for the first time 32 years ago, Santiago was certain that APU was where God was calling him to navigate his nursing journey. As a professor, Santiago implements the servant leadership skills he gleaned as an undergraduate to guide his students to discover their calling as well.

Santiago grew up in El Monte, Calif., and hoped to stay local while starting college. It did not take long for him to feel at home at APU. As a nursing student, Santiago recalls his undergraduate years as both the most challenging yet transformative, as he navigated early morning classes while being a commuter, devoting himself to the intensity of a rigorous program. “What I loved most about APU’s nursing program was the way professors stressed the spiritual side of patient care,” Santiago said. He shared how empathy was a quality he learned to embrace while gaining hands-on experience inside and outside of the classroom. “Working in hospitals means treating people on what might be the scariest day of their life, so approaching them with understanding and care is vital.” Santiago also greatly values resilience.

After graduating from APU, Santiago started working on the neurological floor at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, one of the top hospitals in the country. Working in a fast paced environment required a lot of adjustment as Santiago applied the skills he had cultivated before into the start of his career. He later transitioned into pain management, and treated patients across all 44 floors at the hospital. He met his wife at Cedars-Sinai, who he will soon celebrate 21 years of marriage with.

A few years later, Santiago started doing heart monitoring at Arcadia Methodist (now USC Arcadia Hospital) in the telemetry unit. Many college students worked alongside him, and Santiago realized how much he enjoyed mentoring nursing students.

“I noticed I was feeling sad when the students finished their clinicals at the hospital, so that’s when I decided to pursue teaching.”

Santiago taught at Santa Monica College, and Citrus College, before going back to Cedars-Sinai and to be an Education Program Coordinator for seven years. In 2018, Santiago felt called to return to his alma mater, and began teaching in APU’s renowned Nursing program. “I was drawn into APU’s emphasis on quality. We continue to focus on producing great nurses, even though the program has tripled in size since the time I studied here,” he said. APU’s nursing program is unique because of the way faith integration is illustrated. “Faith goes beyond praying before class. Modeling Jesus’ behavior toward restoration allows us to be an instrument to extend His healing.”

It is important to Santiago to set an example of the servant leadership he encourages his students to embody. “I do my best to put my students’ needs above my own. Whether that’s through efficient communication or equipping them with the extra tools they need to succeed, I’ll be there for them,” he said. Santiago hopes students find fulfillment by knowing that there are multiple avenues available for them to take in the nursing field. “There’s a calling for you, and with experience God will lead you where you need to be.” He encourages students to make the most of their time at APU, and to always stay committed to learning new things.

When he’s not teaching students at APU’s Monrovia campus, Santiago spends most of his time reading. As a student in APU’s MA in English program, he hopes to continue broadening his knowledge of literature, a long-time passion of his. From true crime, to the history of baseball, Santiago loves getting lost in a book.

Santiago exhibits what it means to answer God’s vocational calling. By remaining committed to providing Christ-centered care through his actions, Santiago truly exemplifies discipleship. Students leave his class more prepared, motivated, and dedicated to offering holistic treatment to the patients they encounter.