Dr. Fernando A. Guerra left an undeniable and indelible mark on San Antonio. He lived the life of a veteran, a healer, an educator and as a crusader for public health in his community. Before his passing in 2022, Dr. Guerra established A Fund for Public Health administered by the San Antonio Area Foundation (SAAFdn).

Dr. Fernando Guerra

Its aim was to help narrow the gap between health and social disparities in Bexar County by funding nonprofit public health initiatives and organizations. Per his wishes, the fund is changing from a Donor-Advised Fund (DAF) to a scholarship fund (Dr. Fernando A. Guerra Public Health Scholarship) and is tasked with aiding the next generation of San Antonio’s public health advocates.

“Dr. Guerra’s wish was to convert to a scholarship fund just to help with equipping our community with well-trained public health professionals,” said Jennifer Ballesteros, the Area Foundation’s Executive Director of Scholarship and Relief Programs. “[He] can be considered a pioneer in terms of public health, especially for San Antonio.”

The criteria for the scholarships speak to the core of Dr. Guerra’s beliefs. Applicants must be current Bexar County residents pursuing a public health or public service degree at a local four-year college or university. In other words, the fund helps people from the community who will one day serve it.

Dr. Fernando Guerra with the Clintons

“Dr. Guerra just embodied what it means to be a public health servant,” Ballesteros noted. “Having a scholarship that helps future leaders of this work in our community extends his passion for public health and what it means to San Antonio, and across the nation, really.”

Helping to ensure the transition to a scholarship fund has been its steering committee. Made up of some of the most respected public health servants in the community, the committee’s members have taken great care in order to honor the legacy and memory of their former colleague. Their task now is to identify deserving students in need of assistance to access higher education.

“Everybody on the committee has served in a public health capacity, either in their past or currently, or is associated to and educational institution that provides this type of work,” Ballesteros explained. “Their insight has been invaluable.” 

The current committee is comprised of: Dr. Claude Jacob, who oversees the City of San Antonio’s Metropolitan Health District, Charles Pruski, an original member of the fund with Dr. Guerra and a former assistant director at Metropolitan Health District, Dr. John Herbold, retired from the faculty of UT Health Houston and Lisa Hernandez, Director of Development for UT Health San Antonio.

The first two recipients of the Dr. Fernando A. Guerra Public Health Scholarship will be announced in the summer of 2024. Both will be awarded $5,000, divided between the fall and spring semesters.

Interested in helping the Fernando A. Guerra Scholarship grow? Click here for more information and how to donate.

Eric Moreno is a contributor to the San Antonio Area Foundation’s Storytelling Ambassador Network.