March 15, 2013
Author: Amy Huang, UIC Med-Peds physician
Today we visited Clinica de Familia La Romana. It was hard to get up at 6am to catch the bus to La Romana, especially since none of us have completely adjusted to the noise and bunk beds. We finally arrived at Clinica a little after 8am. I was impressed the second we stepped into it.
We were greeted warmly by Luis Lewis, the volunteer coordinator. He mindfully set up a detailed agenda for our visit. We sat in on a “chalar”, an educational group discussion on importance of HIV medication adherence. We toured the clinic, observed a few physician consultations, went out on a home visit, and toured MAMI, the teenage pregnancy center. The clinic provides comprehensive HIV care from primary care to OB/gyne. They do pre-test and post-test HIV counseling, and all medical care is tied closely with social work and psychiatric services. They also have outreach programs for commercial sex workers and bateye workers. The programs are extremely innovative and include providing free rapid HIV test in the bateyes and educational sessions for commercial sex business owners. Beyond the extensive services, what makes the Clinica different is their humanistic quality and their compassionate staff.Luis is a Baltimore native who was a Peace Corps volunteer in the DR for 4 years before coming to Clinica to work. DR is his second home, and he is very invested in the Clinica and the communities it serves. Dr. Leonel is a physician from Santo Domingo. He volunteered at the Clinica in 2004 and fell in love with the place. He came back to be a permanent staff after training. He is a rare exception to the brain drain. Mina, the clinic director, is from Washington. She found a job opening on the internet for project manager at the Clinica few years ago. When the last clinic director left, she stepped into that role. Like Luis and Dr. Leo, the Clinica has become her family.
It was a really encouraging and worthwhile trip to La Romana to see the work of Clinica de Familia. They are such advocates for patients and so dedicated to the community. I hope we can continue to work with them as our project develops.