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HEALTH ALLOWS US TO DREAM
As part of her medical training, Angela Suarez took an internship in the delta of the Orinoco River in Venezuela, a rural area vastly different from the capital city of Caracas where she had spent most of her life. On her first day, she saw two women paddling a canoe slowly moving toward the clinic.
One of the women, Isaka, had risen in the middle of the night to paddle two hours in the opposite direction of the clinic to pick up her friend to translate her meeting with a health care provider into the Warao dialect. All told, they paddled more than four hours to the clinic for Isaka to be seen for a persistent cough and shortness of breath, which Suarez subsequently referred to the mainland to be studied further as the community had a high prevalence of tuberculosis.
“Any strategies designed to improve health disparities and clinical outcomes are more effective when community partners are involved.”
“I realized that this woman wearied herself to come all this way to a place she doesn’t know to see a doctor she doesn’t understand and who doesn’t understand her,” Suarez says.
Now living in Washington, D.C., Suarez works for La Clinica del Pueblo, a federally qualified health center which serves a Latinx community in surrounding areas. There, with community input, she evaluates and monitors interventions for a variety of medical problems, including mental health, gender-based violence prevention, and diabetes and HIV prevention. The formal training provided by the Bloomberg School in health leadership and management will help her improve these efforts to have a larger impact.
“There’s a phrase in Warao that translates into, ‘Health allows us to dream.’ I want to offer each of the individuals we serve a healthier life,” she said.
MD, Central University of Venezuela, 2012