“Es una luz. No duele,” Joanna Gutierrez Sangal, holding an otoscope, told a three-year-old girl with wary eyes and jiggling feet clad in pink Minnie Mouse shoes. It’s a light. It won’t hurt. Sangal ’07 ’18 moved the device to the girl’s ears to inspect them.
In Spanish, she asked the girl’s mother how long the child had symptoms and if anyone else in the house was sick. After feeling the child’s lymph nodes and taking other diagnostic measures, Sangal pronounced that it was nothing more serious than a cold and answered the mother’s questions about whether the girl needed a nebulizer.
Before leaving the pair in the exam room, she had one more piece of advice: The girl is old enough to be off diapers. “Pañales son muy caros,” she emphasized. Diapers are very expensive.
Encounters like these fill Sangal’s days as a family nurse practitioner at Houston’s Clinica La Salud, a primary care walk-in clinic that mostly serves children on Medicaid but also sees uninsured or underinsured adults. And they also fill her heart. “I love seeing the kids grow. That’s beautiful,” she said. “And connecting with the parents and families, talking to them and seeing how they’re doing, especially after the year that we’ve all had, is rewarding.”