Bronx nurse on front lines of COVID-19 wins $100K to help pay down student debt

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Jose Perpignan Jr., a Bronx nurse at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in NYC, has won $100K to pay off his student loan debt.
Photos courtesy of Jose Perpignan Jr.

Jose Perpignan Jr. has dedicated his life to helping others and recently, the Soundview resident was nationally recognized for his hard work in the health care field.

On Oct. 7, the nurse was named the winner of “Live with Kelly and Ryan’s” Healthcare Hero $100K Giveaway in partnership with online personal finance company SoFi.

Perpignan is a husband, a father of toddlers and a nurse at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. The millennial worked grueling 12-hour shifts during the peak of COVID-19 and witnessed the some of the darkest days in his life and the city .

“Being on “Live with Kelly and Ryan,” that was amazing,” he said. “I really have to thank SoFi. It basically cleared out most of my student debt loans, which I’m so grateful for. You pray for something like that.”

The contest called for viewers to nominate a doctor or nurse who has made a difference in their lives or community during the global pandemic. Nominees would be eligible for a prize of up to $100,000 to help them pay down their student loan debt.

Perpignan, a SoFi member, has a total of $130,000 in student loan debt and was nominated by his friend Erika for demonstrating “an extraordinary commitment to his community during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“As a husband and father, Jose never thought twice about putting his health at risk to serve his patients and his community,” Erika said.

Perpignan grew up in Brooklyn and moved to the Bronx four years ago. Since he was young, he always wanted to be in the medical field. His father Jose Sr. was an EMT and while attending college at Binghamton University, Perpignan wanted to follow in dad’s footsteps.

He works in the cardiothoracic department at New York-Presbyterian but helped in the ER and ICU during the height of the pandemic.

“COVID was something I’ve never experienced,” he said to the Bronx Times. “I couldn’t prepare for something so traumatic.”

As visitors were not permitted in the hospital, Perpignan sat with patients through their pain and when they called family members on iPads or phones.

“Knowing their loved one is dying alone, that was the toughest one for me,” he explained.

From the end of February to early June, he and his colleagues did not go home after work. Instead, they stayed at a hotel in the city so they would not expose their families to the coronavirus.

He missed his wife and kids very much and it was hard to be away.

“My wife Tiara, she was scared,” he recalled. “It was very tough emotionally.”

One person who stood out to him was a nurse who came out of retirement to help fight COVID-19. While working, he contracted the virus and died.

“I couldn’t imagine how his family and friends felt,” Perpignan said. “Watching him pass and be there and grieve through an iPad, I will never forget that. He put work in the field for years.”

Throughout the pandemic, Perpignan not only helped  people at New York-Presbyterian, but also his neighbors in Soundview.

He checked in on homebound seniors and immunocompromised residents, grocery shopped for them, picked up their medication and provided information on PPE and health tips.

“The elderly, they were scared to go out,” he said.

In 2017, Perpignan also co-founded the Greater New York City Black Nurses Association to provide resources for underserved communities. Since then, he has spoken to youth groups about his experience as a nurse and the impact of COVID-19 and co-led virtual town halls to demand health care access for underserved communities and PPE for healthcare workers.

Since receiving the $100,000, he is on cloud nine. With that money, Perpignan was able to refinance his remaining balance with SoFi at a lower rate.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity and I’m grateful to be a winner and recognized,” he said.

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