Callen-Lorde Medical Provider & Puerto Rico Relief Worker

When I decided to attend Columbia University in 2008 to pursue medicine, I made sure that for my community rotation included Callen-Lorde. Being an immigrant Dominican Latino gay man, I vividly recall feeling disenfranchised and isolated in Brooklyn as a teenager. I’ve been a nurse practitioner at Callen-Lorde since 2011 – which allows me to help young people through our Health Outreach to Teens (HOTT) program.

When the opportunity to go to Puerto Rico post-Hurricane María presented itself, I immediately felt driven to do the most I could to help, and felt immense pride that Callen-Lorde was quickly and energetically able to participate in the medical relief efforts. Having grown up in the Dominican Republic, its close neighbor, I recalled the occasions when my own island went through these natural disasters.

Since my return from the Puerto Rico relief medical mission, I keep echoing the same hope. There is a great courage in the Puerto Rican people, in spite of terribly dire situations. My experience can be encompassed by feelings of sadness, frustration, hope, anger, warmth, confusion, but also pride and gratitude. After infuriating days of red tape, I had the opportunity to help a 76 year-old diabetic hypertensive woman who had developed a lung condition a week after the hurricane. Her town, Utuado, was one of the hardest hit and the roads had crumbled and slid with hurricane mudslides. I’m proud to say that after our visit, she left able to breathe with ease, and was prepared with the necessary prophylactic antibiotics to prevent her near impossible hospitalization.

It’s a privilege to do some of this much needed repair work, in Puerto Rico and back here at home. I stand up by creating comfort and trust in the medical systems that unfortunately often neglect or outright discriminate my communities.