By Angelica Gutierrez, Operation Access Program Manager East Bay
As a first generation immigrant, raised in San Francisco’s Mission District, my family left our home in Nicaragua because of a violent revolution. Growing up, I maintained a great sense of pride in my community, the Latino community. Although I initially chose a career in Global Business and Finance, I realized I needed to work with people instead of numbers. I returned to school and earned certifications as a Community Health Worker and Medical Interpreter. With this training, I found my passion: giving the Latino community a voice. Working at Operation Access (OA) gives me a platform for expressing my passion by serving the health needs of Latinos otherwise abandoned by the U.S. healthcare system.
Having access to basic and specialty health care is vital to the overall well-being and quality of life of any individual. Operation Access allows me to directly help the undocumented Latino community in the East Bay (Contra Costa and Alameda County) through the coordination of specialty outpatient and diagnostic procedures, as well as interpreting for them during medical appointments. Contra Costa County has an especially urgent need for our program because the county provides no health safety net for its undocumented people.
Community clinics in Contra Costa and Alameda counties refer clients to OA who need specialty care and surgical procedures. We are experiencing an increasing demand for our services—Contra Costa referrals have increased by over 40 percent in 2016 compared to 2015. In 2016 alone, OA staff and volunteers have provided over 400 donated services to undocumented individuals in the East Bay, most of whom are Latino. Typical services include colonoscopies that diagnose or prevent colon cancer and corrective surgical interventions that avert more complicated, emergent medical conditions, reducing long-term harm and suffering. Our program improves quality of life and livelihood for people with limited access to specialty care.
I call on fellow Latinos because we have the power to help heal our community. OA needs funding for our program, and we urge you to donate what you are able. We also need volunteers. If you are a nurse, doctor, or other medical professional, we invite you to join our team of medical volunteers. If you’re fluent in Spanish, we ask you to consider joining us for an interpreter training to provide this vital service for OA in doctor’s offices. And, if you have administrative skills, we welcome your assistance in our office. Please contact me at 415-733-0080 or at email@example.com if you can join our team and help our clients in need.