‘My role is to serve others’

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

By: Ashmar Mandou

During the height of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we became increasingly aware of the incredible contributions nurses have made to save lives, advance health equity, and protect communities across the county. This Hispanic Heritage Month celebration we honor the leadership and commitment to nurses across Chicago who have remained on the frontlines to ensure a safe and healthy community, beginning with Chief Nurse, RN Maria Gaytan of Alivio Medical Center, who for nearly 20 years has dedicated her life to serving a community she calls home.

I fell in love with the act of service from a very young age. I remember being very young, around eight or nine years old and accompanying my parents to the doctor’s office. My parents didn’t speak English so I served as their translator and I witnessed firsthand the importance of sharing the correct information, how to be sensitive and how to be caring. Imagine being a young child with this tremendous responsibility to my parents, to my family and I thought about those in similar situations. When I think about it, those moments with my parents had a profound impact in my life and truly the reason why I decided to go into medicine.

Like everyone else, we were scared of the unknown, of the uncertainty. It was heartbreaking time when we could no longer see our patients in-person during the height of the pandemic. Growing up in Pilsen and working for Alivio Medical Center, an organization that is at the root of serving the underserved, there is a strong sense of community, a sense of family. It was a scary time and continues to be a time of uncertainty, a time where we have just as many questions as we did before, yet we forge ahead. We continue moving forward, we continue adapting because what is at stake is our community. It is important that we continue to do the work of Carmen Velásquez, who founded Alivio Medical Center many years ago. A true warrior of closing the health disparities, of making sure the marginalized were seen and received quality care, myself and my colleagues take a page from her book and truly are committed to ensuring our community is healthy and safe.

Being a nurse is a gratifying role, not one I think of as heroic. I don’t see myself as a hero, I see myself as someone who is doing a job I committed myself to doing, which is to help my community. Teach my community. Be here when they need someone to count on. The best part of my job is to see the faces of my patients when they recover, when we have worked together on a solution. That is rewarding to me. My role is to serve others.

As we are in the midst of Hispanic Heritage Month, this truly is a time when we reflect on our contributions and achievements in medicine, especially. During the pandemic we all witnessed the endless hours our medical professionals worked to save the lives of many across the country, in Chicago. We witnessed countless Latinos on the frontlines risking their lives to save lives. This is wonderful time to be a Latino, to take advantage of every opportunity to do something great that will inspire the next generation.

My message for those who want to become a nurse I say to them go for it. No matter your obstacles, no matter the naysayers, no matter how difficult you think it is, just go for it. Follow your dream.

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