#375 – Transforming Tragedy into Growth with Jonathan Van Nuys

Jonathan Van Nuys Grad
Jonathan Van Nuys Doc
Jonathan Van Nuys Campaign


Jonathan Van Nuys, RN,MS, NP is a board-certified Nurse Practitioner who wishes to embody the values of service, to nurture health and wellness, to build community and to combat stigma and shame, He has used his own life experiences as a springboard to care for, inspire and nurture those living with HIV and other chronic and life threatening conditions. This past year, he fulfilled his dream of graduating with honors from the UCSF Adult Nurse Practitioner’s program with a specialty minor in HIV. He is currently working as a Nurse Practitioner in a challenging inter-disciplinary fellowship at the SFVA where he both manages his own primary care patient panel, as well as an HIV panel and an urgent care clinic.

Jonathan is also currently an infectious disease consultant specializing in blood borne pathogens at the National Clinicians’ Consultation Center where he advises medical providers from all parts of the country on testing, risk and post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV as well as Hepatitis B and C.

Jonathan is also the current president of the Association of Nurses in Aids Care, Golden Gate Chapter and an active volunteer in the SF HIV community. He is an Albert Schweitzer fellow for life, a fellowship dedicated to improving the health of vulnerable people now and for the future by developing a corps of leaders in service —professionals skilled in creating positive change with and in our communities, our health and human service systems, and our world.

For his Albert Schweitzer fellowship service project working with long term survivors living with HIV, he was awarded a meritorious service award for outstanding scholastic achievments and extensive contributions to the nursing profession. Jonathan is a long-time volunteer in the Firefly letter writing program between healthcare students and those struggling with cancer or other life threatening illnesses. Jonathan can also be seen as a current spokesperson and cast member for the Greater than AIDS campaign. He has been featured in the SF Chronicle as well as the Science of Caring journal, the book,”The Firefly Project: Conversations about what it means to be alive” and has appeared on the web, in film in print and radio promoting HIV awareness. Other volunteer work has included working with those newly diagnosed with HIV, serving on the CAB of Glide Health services, working with diabetics with mental illness and providing care at the UCSF Homeless clinic. Jonathan’s past work history includes bilingual HIV testing and work as a triage RN in both English and Spanish for many years at the Mission Neighborhood Health Center . Jonathan’s aspiration is to live up to Albert Schweitzer’s quote, “my life is my argument.”

NOTE: Our thanks to Matthew Zachary and Annie Goodman of the Stupid Cancer Show podcast. Both are cancer survivors themselves and they generously allowed Shrink Rap Radio to use about 40 minutes of their interview with Jonathan. Their podcast can be found at www.blogtalkradio.com/stupidcancershow‎

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copyright 2013: David Van Nuys, Ph.D.



  1. Gloria
    Posted November 1, 2013 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    I hesitate to use the word inspiring to describe this interview, although it was that in spades but for me the gestalt of all the interwoven stories of all the individuals involved can be summed up with one phrase ‘This is what love in action looks like and this is the effect it can have.’

    Jonathan’s humility and passion shines through in this interview and the support and warmth of the whole family also comes through as a key factor in his recovery.

    There were so many resonances for me, including my own indirect encounter with a nurse which changed the course of my own life. When my husband was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just after his 47th birthday, the doctor\’s advice was to go home and get his affairs in order. There was no treatment available apart from palliative surgery. On his discharge from the hospital a nurse sat with him and told him about an organisation called the Cancer Care Centre and gave him an information package about what they do. Long story short, he took up meditation with them, I did it along with him for moral support and had a couple of the kinds of experiences Monika Wikman talked about in her recent interview on Holotropic Breathwork and that set in motion a huge change in my own life. The work of the centre also had a very positive effect on the way my husband dealt with his illness and impending death.

    I was reminded too of a book by Elton John called \’Love is the Cure\’ which I had as an audiobook a couple of years ago. In it he gives a very graphic account of his own life changing encounter with a young boy, Ryan White, who had contracted AIDS as a result of a blood transfusion. This was back in the early days of the AIDS crisis and Elton had been deeply touched by the ostracism which Ryan and his family had met with. It was a time when he himself was living a high risk lifestyle and his encounter with Ryan made him take stock and completely turn his life around from where it was inevitably headed. He ended up setting up an AIDS foundation. The book is an extraordinary story on many counts.

    I have ordered the DVD from Amazon and already have a list of friends to share it with.

    I would have liked to hear more of Jonathan\’s story and I hope that Dad will get him to come back some day.

  2. Gloria
    Posted November 2, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    I should clarify – the dvd I have ordered is the one mentioned in the interview: ‘Nurses, If Florence Could See Us Now.’

    Also want to endorse Jonathan’s reference to Rachel Naomi Remen. Her book ‘Kitchen Table Wisdom’ had a profound effect on me at the time I came across it and I bought countless copies as gifts.

  3. Dr. Michael Ocana
    Posted November 5, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Extremely moving!

    Thank you for sharing this personal story. It must have been extremely rewarding to have successfully come through this transformative experience together… once the terrifying aspect of it was complete.

    Keep up the incredible work

  4. Rikki Bandekow
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 3:48 am | Permalink

    I was deeply moved by this very personal story and am very impressed with Jonathan’s courage. I will defintely go and watch the movie. Thank you so much for sharing this story. And it was wonderful for me to feel the love between father and son – what a blessing.

    Thank you so much for all your wonderful work!

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