It has been GREAT having Felipa López join GHF on a few of our medical outreach trips. Of course, it helps that she is fluent in Spanish and a great practitioner – but Felipa’s real strength comes from her ability to connect with the patients easily and make them feel comfortable and cared for. We are so lucky to have her! Read all about Felipa’s story with Global Healthworks Foundation below.
Spanish Speaker Felipa López Works Independently and with Compassion
An elderly woman struggles to climb onto Felipa López’s treatment table. Noticing her difficulty, Felipa asks, “¿Le puedo ayudar? (Can I help you?)” The woman nods as Felipa helps her lie down comfortably. She pulls out her blue eyeglasses and begins to read her intake paper. “Me llamo Felipa (My name is Felipa),” she tells her, removing her glasses so she can look at the woman more closely. “Estoy aquí para ayudarle hoy. (I am here to help you today.)” Before beginning her treatment, Felipa asks several clarifying questions about what is written on the woman’s intake form. As she goes to retrieve her needles, the woman smiles softly and whispers, “Gracias (Thank you).”
As a fluent Spanish speaker and experienced acupuncturist, Felipa works quickly, yet thoroughly during Global Healthworks Foundation (GHF)’s April 2015 jornada (medical mission). Independent and focused, she stops working only to ask for assistance with Spanish-K’iche’ interpretation or additional treatment supplies. “She has few needs,” says volunteer Kelly Call, who coordinates logistics during each jornada. “She’s like a self-contained machine.”
Yet, Felipa is a compassionate “machine,” who makes a concerted effort to ensure each patient feels comfortable while on her treatment table. “I try to connect through humor and care,” Felipa explains. “It can be scary for patients—getting those needles put in them. I just remember that we’re both people. I have my areas of pain, too. We all do.” Her knowledge of Spanish enables her to gain patients’ trust and “get a good grasp” of their health concerns with little difficulty. In addition to providing acupuncture and bodywork treatments, Felipa also serves as one of GHF’s go-to triage volunteers. “When I do a patient intake, I can really understand what’s happening because of my Spanish language skills,” she says. “It facilitates the patient-practitioner connection. Someone speaking to you in your own language can be very heartwarming.”
“Felipa’s real strength comes from her ability to connect with the patients easily and make them feel comfortable and cared for.”
Back home in New York, when she’s not treating patients or teaching at Tristate College of Acupuncture, Felipa can be found at Pie Corps, a sweet and savory pie shop in Brooklyn, which she co-owns with her partner—and which Oprah Winfrey has listed among her “Favorite Things.” “Felipa was already my hero before I met her in October of 2014,” Kelly says. “I went to her pie shop in New York before meeting her. When I saw her in Guatemala last year, I kind of freaked out.”
Though Felipa laughs at being called a “hero,” she compares Kelly’s “freak out” experience to her first jornada in October 2014. “I had dreamt of doing acupuncture in Central American for a long time before coming here,” she says. “All of it is so beautiful. I love treating people in Spanish. And these people are just amazing.” Treating in Guatemala, she continues, is “right on the money” for her, as she finds herself most skilled at addressing patients’ digestive and musculoskeletal concerns. “I’m up for anything—to treat anything. But I’m glad that my background treating these issues is something that’s really needed here.”
Dan Wunderlich, GHF Founder and Executive Director, says he recognized that Felipa would be a tremendous asset to the team immediately upon meeting her. “Felipa first volunteered at our New York City-based clinic,” Dan describes. “Her Spanish skills are a bonus. Her real strength comes from her ability to connect with the patients easily and make them feel comfortable and cared for. All of those things combine to create an extremely effective and therapeutic treatment!”
While the April 2015 trip is only her second jornada, it is obvious that Felipa also “fits” in Guatemala and with the GHF team. “She knows how to work hard, yet still keep a light heart,” says Norva Bennett, fellow acupuncture volunteer. “She’s funny. We need that here.” To the extent that her pie-making schedule allows, Felipa plans to continue traveling with GHF—and making patients and volunteers laugh—over the upcoming years.