JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — May is national nurses’ month – it’s when we all recognize everything that our nurses do to help promote health, prevent diseases and aid sick patients.

Today Action News Jax got to meet two local nurses who are being celebrated for their contributions to the medical field by a global non-profit they volunteer with.


Rodney and Mary Jose or “MJ” Kapunan have been married nearly 20 years and share 3 beautiful kids. They met in Bristol, a city in England where MJ says a friend from church introduced them to one another. They stayed friends for 5 years before marrying one another on June 11, 2004.

“We’re here to save lives,” MJ said.

MJ is a registered nurse working in the cardiovascular operating room at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville. Rodney is a charge nurse at HCA Florida Atlantic Emergency. Both have been in the medical field for over 30 years – almost 20 of those years they have worked in Jax.

Read: ‘Glad to be alive:’ Downtown Jacksonville buzzing ahead of annual Jazz Festival

Both MJ and Rodney the best part about their profession saving lives, the hardest part is coping with the loss of a patient. They say it’s hard to not form an emotional bond.

MJ says her decision to get in the medical field was heavily dependent on her family urging her to help people. For Rodney, he describes himself as being a caring individual who was fascinated with science. When he thought about ways to combine the two, he realized that the world of medicine was for him.

But for the month of May, which is national nurses’ month, the couple is being celebrated by Operation Smile. It’s a global non-profit that for the last 40 years has given free cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries to almost 13,000 patients who live in areas with poor healthcare.

Read: AAA predicting record travel this Memorial Day Weekend

“A lot of respiratory problems because their palette is open,” Rodney Kapunan said.

Mr. and Mrs. Kapunan got involved with Operation Smile because of Rodney’s cousin.

“Her cleft was from here to here,” Kapunan said .

Rodney says his cousin went through more than 5 surgeries to fix her lip.

Read: Photos: Ponte Vedra home sells for $16.25 million

A cleft lip similar to another patient who the Kapunan’s helped treat while in the Philippines. To date, both Rodney and MJ have served a combined 38 missions to impoverished countries helping people with cleft conditions. Or gaps in the upper lip or roof of the mouth, everywhere from the Philippines, to Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico and even Abu Dhabi.

The Kapunan’s say that the best part about Operation Smile is that you don’t have to work in medicine to volunteer. For example, speech pathologists are also needed. You can learn more on how to volunteer by visiting the following web link.

[DOWNLOAD: Free Action News Jax app for alerts as news breaks]

[SIGN UP: Action News Jax Daily Headlines Newsletter]

Click here to download the free Action News Jax news and weather apps, click here to download the Action News Jax Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Action News Jax live.

mobile apps

Everything you love about wokv.com and more! Tap on any of the buttons below to download our app.

amazon alexa

Enable our Skill today to listen live at home on your Alexa Devices!