Sharp ENVISIONS the Future of Extraordinary Nurses

The sharp prebys innovation and education center

Over 7,000 nurses at Sharp HealthCare touch the lives of more than 1 million San Diegans each year. In recognition of the critical role nurses play in patient-centered care, the Terrence and Barbara Caster Institute for Nursing Excellence was established to advance the nursing profession through opportunities for lifelong learning – ultimately translating to even greater patient care. With the $3 million naming gift from the Caster Family Trust, the Caster Nursing Institute has four centers of excellence, each with a unique focus: Professional Growth, Inquiry and Innovation, Education and Technology, and Community Engagement.


In 2022, Sharp awarded $228,500 in scholarships toward educating the next generation of nurses and advancing nursing education. According to Laurie Ecoff, vice president of the Caster Nursing Institute, this includes one of the newest scholarships offered through the Wiesler Center for Professional Growth: the Del Corazon First Generation Nursing Scholarship. The scholarship is available to Sharp employees and associates who are first-generation college students. The Del Corazon Scholarship was made possible by a generous $1 million gift from long-time Sharp philanthropists Willy and Alchera Ayyad.

The first $20,000 Del Corazon scholarships were recently awarded to two Sharp employees: Zuhra Sahak, a nursing assistant at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center; and Mayerlis Guerrero, a medical assistant in family medicine at Sharp Rees-Stealy Scripps Ranch.

Zuhra knew since childhood she wanted to become a nurse and says she couldn’t imagine not working in a career that helps improve the lives of others. When Zuhra learned she was a Del Corazon scholarship recipient, she says she could hardly believe her eyes upon receiving the good news.

Her parents – who immigrated from Afghanistan 25 years ago – read the email with her, realizing the opportunities they had envisioned for her were becoming a reality. It was an emotional day for her entire family and one she will not soon forget. Zuhra says she wants to pursue a career as a nurse educator and help support and advance the careers of future nurses.

Mayerlis is also extremely grateful for the Del Corazon scholarship. It will pay for her first year of nursing school and increase her future career opportunities as she works toward becoming a nurse practitioner. Mayerlis says her heart was always set on becoming a pediatric or labor and delivery nurse. Her love for working at the bedside with patients of all ages is what led her to pursue her career.

Mayerlis’ mother – a single mom – was a nurse in Nicaragua before moving with Mayerlis – then just 3 years old- to California. Now a single mom herself, Mayerlis says this scholarship has forever changed their lives.

Thanks to the generous contributions made to the ENVISION Campaign, even more exciting things are ahead for the Caster Nursing Institute, including establishing a new home and teaching center in the Sharp Prebys Innovation and Education Center. Continued philanthropic investment in the Caster Nursing Institute will help expand the knowledge and competency of Sharp nurses so that skilled and compassionate caregivers can continue to care for community members for decades to come.

Learn more about ENVISION and the Terrence and Barbara Caster Institute for Nursing Excellence at

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Esteban Villanueva